By now the Toyota Prius defines the image of the high-mileage hybrid, with more than 1 million built and a full 750,000 sold in the United States. But it's hardly the only "green" car that gives 35 miles per gallon or more.
While a lot of buyers don't realize it, the difference between, say, 35 mpg and the 50 mpg of the 2010 Toyota Prius doesn't save you a lot. You use 86 fewer gallons of gasoline over 10,000 miles, or less than $200 at current prices. (Ah, but 10 mpg to 25 mpg, on the other hand? You save 600 gallons, or $1,200!)
So we view any car with EPA mileage ratings of 30 mpg or higher as a Prius competitor. And one of the most popular is the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, a "clean diesel" mileage champ with a fan base as avid as any Prius acolyte. And it's comparably priced, in the $20,000 to $25,000 range.
Despite EPA ratings of 29 (city) / 40 (highway) miles per gallon, our colleage Colin Mathews got 41 mpg in a recent Jetta TDI drive, and 51 mpg when he worked at it. And...