Diesels are getting more popular as an affordable option for a new or used car, because they offer better fuel economy and power, and tend to hold their value better at trade-in time. Plus, the new clean diesel technology is quieter and more environmentally friendly than most of us realize. Here are five reasons your next car should be a diesel:
Fuel economy. Diesels give you 20% to 30% more miles per gallon of fuel than a comparable-size gas engine vehicle. So even when diesel is 20% to 30% more expensive than gas, the math works out. Plus, you’ll be making fewer trips to the gas station, and time is money, too. I recently test drove a full-size Audi Q7 SUV diesel more than 500 miles on a single tank. And the VW Jetta TDI is rated at 42 MPG on the highway, about the same as a smaller gasoline powered Ford Fiesta or Ford Focus.
Power. Diesels offer more oomph, or torque, at lower gears. That means more power for acceleration, which can be a margin of safety at highway entrance ramps. Many diesels are now turbo-charged, which gives you sports car-like passing power, and feels as though you are driving a larger engine. They’re fun to drive. I just test drove the new Chevrolet Cruze sedan and its new diesel sibling, and was impressed by the zippy performance and power of the diesel. The Cruze diesel is proving so popular that GM might introduce more models. As for towing power, the new Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel is rated similar to its non-diesel sibling with a larger V-8 engine and without the fuel economy.
Quiet. Yes, diesels used to be noisy. The new-generation technology makes them quieter than gasoline engines — almost as quiet as a hybrid. The bad news: You can hear the kids fighting in the back seat more easily.
Eco-friendly. Diesels used to belch smelly black smoke. The new generation is called clean diesel technology for a reason: These engines kick out fewer particulates than the same-size gasoline engine.
Cost. Diesels cost more than their gas-powered siblings. The Jetta TDI is around $1,500 more than the gasoline version, but the EPA estimates you’ll save $400 a year in fuel costs because of better fuel economy, so the payback is three or four years. Perhaps more important, diesels are worth more at trade-in time than the same model with a conventional gas engine.
Do the math. As I wrote on ecoXplorer, fuel-efficient vehicles are an alternative to hybrids and even electrics.
Although German manufacturers Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and VW continue to dominate the diesel market, consider new diesels from Hyundai, GM and Jeep.