The diesel-powered 2017 Cruze hatchback — Chevrolet’s first hatchback available in North America — could be become the first non-hybrid car to achieve 50 mpg on the highway.

Its optional 1.6-liter tubrocharged diesel engine borrowed from the UK’s Vauxhall Astra will be paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual.

Several European magazines have tested the Astra diesel and achieved 55 mpg with a six-speed manual transmission.

According to Automotive News, the coming nine-speed automatic might be enough to push the car to 50 mpg, giving GM the title of most fuel efficient non-hybrid car and helping the company to win over VW’s former diesel customers.

How it fares in the city however, will not match what electric-motor enabled hybrids do, which typically trounce internal combustion only vehicles in the slower speed realm.

As a reference, the 2015 Cruze diesel sedan was EPA rated 44 mpg highway, but its city number was just 27 mpg. By contrast, a 2015 Prius was rated only 2 mpg more on the highway wih 46 mpg, but its city number was 50 mpg.

In any event, a high mpg highway car could fill the bill for some buyers. AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan thinks GM would be happy with 47 or 48 mpg.

“If the Cruze diesel can hit 47 or 48 mpg, it should be a success in closing the gap with hybrids for highway driving efficiency,” Sullivan said. “Keep in mind that the Malibu Hybrid gets 46 mpg on the highway.”

SEE ALSO: Surprise: 2018 Chevrolet Equinox Offers Turbocharged Diesel

During a media event yesterday, a gasoline powered 2017 Chevy Cruze hatch equipped with a nine-speed automatic achieved 42.3 mpg in mostly highway driving, according to the car’s fuel economy data.

The EPA has yet to rate the diesel-powered Cruze, but David Poniatowski, program manager for the Cruze said, “We expect it to do better than that (40 mpg highway with the gas version) but we can’t talk numbers yet,’

The standard Cruze hatchback is arriving at dealers now with a base price of $23,065, including shipping.

The diesel version is expected early next year and prices will be announced closer to its debut.

Automotive News