Which Diesel Car Will Sell Best Next Year: Chevy, Jeep, Or VW?

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2015 Volkswagen Golf - image: Volkswagen of America

2015 Volkswagen Golf - image: Volkswagen of America

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Diesel has taken quite some time to catch on in the U.S, but several manufacturers are finally seeing the potential of compression ignition--and the range of available cars is increasing.

That's good news for buyers wanting to eke out the most miles to every gallon, particularly on long, steady trips.

But who will win the diesel war over the next year, now that significant models have started to hit the market?

The first of the challengers has to be Chevy, not least because its Cruze Diesel has bumped Volkswagen off its perch by offering the highest-mpg diesel available.

Its 46 mpg EPA highway rating puts the Cruze 4 mpg above the Volkswagen Jetta TDI on that particular metric--while offering an automatic transmission as standard.

Even the manual Jetta, traditionally the best way to get maximum mpg, doesn't reach the Chevy's figures. Though it has to be said, Jetta drivers seem to have little trouble beating that car's EPA estimates, and there's a chance Chevy drivers will do likewise.

Don't forget the Volkswagen Beetle TDI either--same engine as the Jetta, but in a more carefree package. It drops only 1 mpg on the highway to its more conventional cousins.

Between coupe and convertible, is the Beetle the most stylish way to get high gas mileage on the market?

The Volkswagen group does have an ace up its sleeve, however. In fact, two aces--both based on the same platform. The 2015 Volkswagen Golf and 2015 Audi A3 sedan will both offer diesel options, and both utilize an all-new unit that should best the current versions of each.

All those diesel sedans are worthy contenders, but Chrysler could also have a sales success on its hands when the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Ecodiesel arrives.

The headline figures here are 28 mpg highway--comfortably better than typical gasoline equivalents--and 420 pounds-feet of torque from the 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel engine. Will it take the SUV market by storm?

Ah, but there's one diesel contender we haven't yet mentioned. A dark horse, if you will.

Due on sale shortly, the 2014 Mazda 6 diesel, with its 2.2-liter diesel engine, should develop upwards of 170 horsepower and return a highway figure in the 40s.

And if Mazda's recent products are anything to go on, it should be fun to drive too.

So which of the diesel contenders listed above are you most excited about? And are there any others you're eager to try?


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Comments (23)
  1. I have a strange feeling that GM may be trying to kill a "new" segment to be able to focus their development resources to electric and hybrids. They outsourced the diesel and dropped it in one of their cheaper cars. They killed the marked with their Oldsmobiles back in the 70's. Why thin their resources to compete in an unproven market?

  2. @Randall: So, ummmmm, GM is trying to "kill" diesel cars by spending the money to adapt one for the U.S. market and putting it on sale?

    Can you explain under what possible logic that would follow?

  3. GM killed the market in the U.S. back in the 70s with a car that still lingers in people's minds (GCR did an article on it a while ago). Diesel engines require quite a bit of capital and commitment to build a viable product. The Germans sell diesels over here because the infrastructure and customer base for them are well established. They refine their product for the U.S. market. If GM makes a diesel that is crappy, it will kill the market and remove competitive technology. The status-quo of diesels being a German niche will be restored. If GM sees the future as being dominated by hybrids, then they could nip the U.S. diesel market in the bud with one noisy clunker. Why not?

  4. Just so you know the Diesel Engines GM is using are made in Germany. You really don't know what your talking about do you? Do you really believe the Germans would produce a "noisy cluncker"?

  5. You do realize that I am questioning GM's motives. I have great faith in Germany's engineering prowess. I don't know much about the Cruze, but I do know GM has a propensity to screw things up.

  6. "They outsourced the diesel and dropped it in one of their cheaper cars." - that is what I said

  7. I presume you mean the wildly overrated EV1, the most overrated vehicle of all time. Yes, years ahead of its time, but still a terrible vehicle. There's nothing more amusing than reading idiots claiming that GM "killed the EV" and claiming that it was far better than it really was.

    I'll help you out since you're clearly oblivious here. It cost about $90,000 to make, had a real world range of about 50-60 miles and consumers were not ready for it. You know, kind of like now, thirty years later. But with technology 1/10 as good. 288 sales that first year says it all. Hard to believe GM didn't keep going, right? And nobody else tried for how many years? GM's fault?

    GM deserves a lot of criticism in some areas, the EV1 is not one of them.

  8. That would be the Fiero and the Saturn line, NOT the EV1.

  9. So, ummmmm, for the year of 2014, I have seen two McLaren P1s on the road, but I have yet to see a Chevrolet Cruze Diesel. Seems like the demand for exotics has exceeded the demand for a pedestrian Chevy. Car & Driver may have offered a possible explanation as to why in a Diesel comparo, and I have to take their word for it due to the dearth of real-world examples. C&D summed up the Cruze as the car to pick if you want to know that you are driving a Diesel, i.e. it is friggin noisy. GM can sure build winners. Told you so!

  10. Just dumb comments from our favorite conspiracy theorist. That cheap car also happens to be GM's best-selling vehicle globally and already sells in decent numbers in Europe.

    The new diesel engine (be careful, there are Fiat and Daewoo diesels, depending on market) is Italian because Fiat as renowned for great diesels? Forgotten the GM-Fiat diesel work, have you, Randall? The engine is outsourced because it's a good one and already is ready for emissions from already being used in the diesel versions of the Malibu & Opel Astra in Europe.

    So, commercially, it makes great sense. Quality-wise, the same. But facts probably don't matter here, do they?

    Thanks, John V. succinct and accurate. Glad that GM is going to sell this.

  11. Was just a suspicious thought. GM has tanked great ideas before, i.e. Fiero. GM has always had bean-counter disease, and bean-counters kill great products. GM is now fighting for its life; desperate times call for desperate measures. The Cruz hasn't even come out, so put your pom-poms away and don't rah-rah it to death. I WILL be back to say "I told you so" if GM screws it up.

  12. Yeah, those profitable quarters one after another just scream fighting for its life. The #1 market share in the largest automotive industry scream the same, right?

    The Cruze diesel has been out for a while, this is just a different diesel engine from one of the world's most respected diesel engine suppliers. I'm not "rah-rah"-ing it and don't think it will sell well at all. And few consumers are dumb enough to reject all diesels because of quality problems by one. Or have people stopped buying all EVs/PHEVs because of Fisker's notorious problems? People are already buying far more diesels than before and GM simply doesn't have the influence it had thirty years ago.

  13. Aaron (see above) begs to differ on the origin of the engine of the Cruze. Maybe you two need to duke it out and decide who is the biggest know-it-all.

  14. "The engine is outsourced because it's a good one and"

    Careful now, tread lightly dear sir: the engine in the U.S. version of Cruze might very well be the Opel engine, rather than the VM Motori S.p.A. one, because it is an interference engine, something Opel is notorious for.

    Is it correct to assume you understand the very serious implications of the term "interference engine"?

  15. Clean diesel without using urea injection? I am for Mazda on this one.

  16. Most excited about the Cruze, but they need to get the price down.

    VW's will definitely sell best.

  17. Agreed completely and wish it came in a hatch, too, like it does elsewhere. I think GM is playing it safe with this first diesel (in a long time) and isn't targeting big volumes, anyway. I guess that's good, because at that price point and with limited customer trust in diesels overall, this will have limited appeal, unfortunately.

    Even at limited volumes, though, I think it's great consumers will have more diesel options.

  18. mazda6. It is the better than all of them put together.

  19. I think the 2014 RAM 1500 EcoDiesel V6 half-ton pickup might outsell any of the above diesel models. I hope diesel options become common in the half-ton and mid-size pickup classes.

    Personally I'm most interested in the next generation VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI. A bit more cargo room and a bit higher mpg compared to my 2009 JSW TDI -- sounds good.

  20. I'm with you on this one, and hoping the new Ram diesel is a huge hit

  21. VW has the history, that's a major plus. GM did it poorly a generation ago and for those who remember the broken crankshafts in their diesel Cutlass or Ninety Eight will wait until others have tried and proven the technology here. Mazda gets credit for fun to drive and Japanese quality. With Chrysler doing a diesel Grand Cherokee, it may catch on if it feels right.

    For all but VW, I'd say as much depends on a dealer being willing to put them on the lot. After all, except for Tesla, dealers determine what they want parked out front, not the manufacturer. As an example: it is seriously difficult to get a manual transmission from dealer stock at my local Chevrolet, Ford or Dodge dealer.

  22. I am waiting for the Mazda diesel, and hoping that it will become available in an AWD vehicle sooner than later. I would also love to see Mazda do a small diesel pickup truck here in the states...I think it would sell.

  23. I own a 2010 VW Jetta TDI Sportwagen - I drive 500 miles a week and have been happy with the performance. I am not thrilled with the maintenance costs, however (DSG FOR EXAMPLE). I am curious as to how Mazda's maintenance costs will compare, does anyone know? ALSO, I really believe Mazda is making a mistake by not having the wagon available.

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