Spray and combustion characteristics of diesel fuel were investigated in order to get a better understanding of the evaporation and combustion behavior under simulated cold-start conditions of a diesel engine. The experiment was conducted in a constant volume combustion chamber and the target ambient conditions were selected as the engine cranking. Mie scattering and shadowgraph techniques were conducted to visualize the liquid and vapor phase of the fuel under non-combustion condition (O2 concentration=0%). In-chamber pressure and direct flame visualization were acquired for spray combustion condition (O2 concentration=21%). The fuel was injected with an injection pressure of 30MPa, which is a typical value during cranking period. The liquid penetration of the fuel was increased at 573K of ambient temperature compared to that at 663K due to the poor evaporation characteristic and the increased fuel viscosity from the lower fuel temperature. The vapor penetration of the fuel was also slightly increased at 573K. However, the vapor area was reduced by about 30% at 573K compared to that at 663K likely due to the poor spray atomization and the lower ambient temperature. In the spray combustion condition, only part of the diesel spray was ignited under the low ambient temperature. However, all spray was successfully ignited under the higher ambient temperature. The ignition delay was increased at 573K due to the increased injection delay, the poor atomization and evaporation of the fuel. The heat release from premixed combustion was reduced at 573K despite the increased ignition delay. This can be explained by the formation of the rich fuel-air mixture, which was found in the lower vapor phase area. The heat release from mixing-controlled combustion was also reduced, which resulted in the lower in-chamber pressure rise due to the spray combustion.