Diesel Cars: Should You Buy One? The Pros And Cons

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2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel, 2012 New York Auto Show

2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel, 2012 New York Auto Show

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Last week, we looked at the pros and cons of buying and running a hybrid vehicle.

We concluded that, provided you didn't mind paying a little more on the purchase price, that their smooth driving characteristics and great gas mileage makes them hard to beat for green-minded buyers.

Now it's the turn of diesels. With more manufacturers offering diesel than ever before, and even more on the way, should you go diesel for your next car?

Pros

Diesel is rapidly increasing in popularity, and much of that is down to manufacturers like Volkswagen and BMW, with their powerful, efficient diesel engine.

In fact, the mix of performance and high gas mileage that diesels offer is hard to beat. The 2012 Volkswagen Jetta diesel makes 140-horsepower from its four-cylinder turbodiesel, yet gets an EPA highway figure of 42 mpg. Likewise, the old 2011 BMW 335d, with 265-hp and huge reserves of torque, still managed 36 mpg highway with an automatic transmission.

Better still, the EPA's figures seem quite conservative, and it's not unknown for Jetta diesel drivers to manage figures well into the 50s. The current average on the fueleconomy.gov website is 44.6 mpg, to the EPA's combined 34 mpg.

Consider that those sort of numbers are available despite the impressive power and torque numbers on offer--which makes for a fun drive, in most modern diesels--and it's easy to see the attraction.

With modern levels of refinement and soundproofing, they're more pleasant to drive too. Most modern diesels are near inaudible at higher speeds, though some still clatter a little at idle.

2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

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Cons

While carmakers may have rid diesels of the death rattle of old, they're still--unfairly, in most cases--subject to a poor reputation for being smokey, noisy and slow.

That's no longer the case, though despite recent advancements with particulate filters and urea injection they still lag behind hybrids in terms of emissions. Those high-tech emission-reducing solutions have also added to the cost of diesels, making them--like hybrids--relatively expensive to buy at the time of purchase.

Where a 2.0-liter gasoline Jetta costs from $16,645, its diesel equivalent starts from $22,775--a significant increase. It's more powerful, quicker, more economical and vastly better to drive, but that's still quite a sum of money, and one that would get you a heck of a lot of gasoline if you weren't bothered about performance.

It would almost get you a Prius hybrid, which would cost even less to run over time. The hybrid, running on gasoline, would also cost less to fill, with diesel prices currently averaging $3.68 per gallon (as of 7/9/12), to the $3.41 per gallon of regular gasoline.

Conclusion

Diesel cars have made massive leaps over the last decade or so, and they're certainly no longer the slow, noisy and unclean beasts they once were. That's thanks to a whole lot of clever new technologies, though unfortunately these do add to the price of your average diesel vehicle.

If you spend most of your time on the highway, we can thoroughly recommend a diesel vehicle for reducing your fuel bills, though we'd suggest that if much of your driving is done in the city, hybrids are still cleaner and more efficient, and quieter too.

Any diesel owners reading? Let us know why you chose one, in the comments section below.

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