Last week we started a series of the Five Best Used Green Cars To Buy.
We've already looked at two of the best-known green cars, the 2004-2009 Toyota Prius and the 2006-2011 Honda Civic Hybrid. Now it's the turn of a car known for its fuel, rather than its drivetrain--the Volkswagen Jetta TDI.
Where hybrids major on low emissions, the assistance of electric motors and high city MPG, diesels tackle fuel efficiency in a different way. Higher energy density of the fuel and more thermal efficiency in combustion means you can essentially do more, with less fuel. That means plenty of torque, and great economy--two reasons for the Jetta TDI's popularity.
Volkswagen has sold several generations of Jetta in the U.S, and TDI diesel models have become increasingly popular throughout that time.
While the Jetta TDI briefly disappeared from the market in 2007 and 2008 due to emissions regulations, a redesign for 2009 cleaned up its act and the model has been popular ever since.
The Jetta TDI uses a 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder, and puts 140 horsepower to the front wheels. More significantly, it also puts 236 pounds-feet of torque through the wheels--and it's this torque that TDI owners have come to love.
Driving experience, economy
2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Street EditionEnlarge Photo
The Jetta TDI is different. With strong torque available from low revs thanks to the turbocharged diesel engine, it really punches through the gears, and even at freeway speeds it has plenty of shove for quick overtaking. It's also a lot more fun when you get to the corners, so even without considering economy the Jetta TDI has plenty of merits.
When you aren't using all the available power, keeping the revs low to save fuel and relying on all that low-down torque means some impressive economy figures are possible--more than the EPA figures suggest.
While the manual Jetta TDI is rated 30 mpg city, 41 mpg highway by the EPA for an average of 34 mpg, many owners are achieving comfortably more--an average of 43.5 mpg, on the fueleconomy.gov site, based on 16 vehicles. Some owners are even getting as much as 52 mpg.
Unlike hybrids, which excel in the city, the Jetta TDI is at its best on the highway. Here, it's punchy, quiet--no traditional diesel "rattle" here--and very fuel-efficient indeed.
For fans of automatics, the Jetta TDI is also available with Volkswagen's excellent dual-clutch DSG transmission. It's slick, easy to use and adds 1 mpg to the car's highway rating.