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Have You Driven A Diesel Lately? If So, You're In The Minority

 
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2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI

2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI

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If you've been considering diesel power for your next car, you can count yourself among a small proportion of Americans who have.

Unlike Europe, where half of all vehicles sold are diesels and at least one diesel is on most consumers' shopping lists, the U.S. market still reels from repuations of awful diesels of the 70s and 80s--and it means very few consumers have ever tried a modern diesel.

In fact, says The Detroit News quoting an survey by Harris Interactive on behalf of Honeywell Turbo Technologies, the figure for those who have is just three in every ten drivers. The figure is high for Millennials too--a full three quarters of the popular under-30s pigeonhole have never sat behind the wheel of a diesel car or truck.

And like electric cars and even hybrid vehicles, inexperience with the fuel means many won't even consider a diesel as their next vehicle--whether it suits their needs or not.

Younger buyers the key?

Those Millennial buyers could be the people to push diesel sales in the U.S. Most are too young to remember the smokey, slow diesels sold to their parents, so their preconceptions of diesel are more favorable.

That should come as little surprise: the diesel cars sold today are almost unrecognizable from their counterparts of a decade or more ago. Volkswagen, a long-time diesel seller in the U.S. even when it was less popular than it is today, has made some of the biggest strides--offering Beetles, Golfs, Jettas and Passats that promise plenty of performance with excellent highway-cruising economy and low noise.

2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel

2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel

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Other automakers have joined the bandwagon in recent years, and it's now possible to get a diesel from each of the German premium marques, while even the U.S. makes have cottoned on to the diesel market--Chevrolet's Cruze Diesel is a recent player attracting plaudits.

VW is still selling the most diesels, though--almost a quarter of its sales through August 2013 were diesel models.

Diesel downsides

Diesel does have some disadvantages, of course. While they're around 30 percent more fuel efficient than gasoline vehicles, the fuel is often more expensive and cancels some of that benefit out. It's also harder to find--it's only available at just over half the retail sites of gasoline.

Greenhouse gas emissions aren't as favorable as they might seem, either. As The Detroit News points out, the higher carbon content of diesel means CO2 emissions are only reduced by 7-20 percent compared to gasoline cars, despite them being almost a third more fuel-efficient.

Modern diesel cars are also more expensive--partly down to strict emissions legislation mandating expensive technology like urea injection to reduce oxides of nitrogen, and particulate filters to stop harmful microscopic particles.

Have you considered a diesel vehicle as your next green car? If so, what has attracted you to them? Leave your comments below.

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