The Best Diesel Cars: Comparing the Most Popular Models

February 15, 2012

A comparison the 12 best diesel cars on the market by critical consensus, including models by Audi, Honda, Volvo, Mercedes, Volkswagen, BMW and more.

When it comes to the best diesel cars, there are many models out there competing for the top spot. Diesel cars are gaining popularity in the United States, and already have a strong following in Europe. They have some distinct advantages over gasoline engines, which lead to their popularity and demand.

Diesel cars are much more fuel efficient than gasoline, 33 percent more efficient as a matter of fact. This means that if you normally get 24 miles per gallon with gas, a diesel engine would provide 32 miles per gallon. This is a big difference, and provides cost savings in the long run. Diesel engines also produce more torque, meaning better acceleration, and are normally V6 engines, so they have good power. Diesel's downside is the emissions, which are dirtier than gas. Here are some of the top models.

Alfa Romeo Spyder

A long time favorite among European sports car enthusiasts, the Alfa Romeo Spyder is now available with a powerful diesel engine. This new Spider boasts a turbocharged 2.4 JTDM 20V engine that sends 200 horsepower to the rear wheels. This means that the small, open-top Alfa Romeo sport car delivers top acceleration and speed for a car in its class. In town, the diesel Alfa Spider gets 25.6 mpg and on the highway, 43.5 mpg. However, customer satisfaction is also a big part of the new Spider's success. The handling is superb as well as the stylish designs and roomy interior.

Audi A3

The A3 is another model that competes with both Volkswagens on the fuel economy list. It gets 42 miles per gallon on the highway and 30 miles per gallon in the city. It also has a TDI 2.0 liter engine. It was named the "Green Car of the Year", which is ironic due to it being a diesel car. It offers less torque and power than the Volkswagens, and also prices out a bit higher at $30,000. However, for that money, you are getting a luxury car.

Audi TT

The diesel Audi TT 2.0L sports car is not exception. This powerful quattro coupe will sprint to 65 MPH from rest in a brief 7.5 seconds and achieve a top speed of 185 MPH. The four cylinder TDI engine was updated exclusively for the TT with a new dual camshaft design. With fuel consumption a leading 45 MPG, this diesel Audi sports car is a favorite among many drivers today. When you think of a sports car, you usually think of Ferrari, or Lamborghini. However, the Audi TT will still hold its own with these exotic cars with its diesel power and good looks.

BMW 335d

BMW's top model is the 335d sedan. It is comparable to any of the regular 3 series sedans, but with a diesel engine. It can get up to 36 miles per gallon on the highway, and 23 miles per gallon in the city. Of course, with the BMW, you are paying a much higher price tag for the BMW name.

Fiat 500

The Fiat 500 was a special diesel release limited to 10,000 vehicles. It is not a powerful car by any means, with 1.2 to 1.4 liter diesel engine and minimal horsepower. Its exclusivity adds to the demand of the car. It came in special colors, has a special gearshift and logos on the car. It has a fuel economy rating of almost 50 miles per gallon.

Honda Civic Ctdi

When it comes to Honda diesel cars, the Civic is something that can always be looked at with admiration. While not available in a diesel model in America, it is wildly popular in Europe and Asia. The new Ctdi is a radically new version of the old Civic, with a new design and style. The Civic Ctdi carries with it a 204 HP, 2.0liter i-VTEC engine that can give it decent acceleration and top speeds.

Nissan Diesel

Nissan also recently came out with its own diesel sedan, in the Nissan Maxima model. The Maxima will meet all of the emissions requirements for the United States, and in turn, will be sold in all 50 states. It has not been released yet, but is slated to come out this year. The Maxima in crash tests has earned the top ratings.

VW Diesel

Volkswagen is one of the industry leaders in the diesel car market. They have two of the top three most fuel efficient models on the market. These are the Jetta TDI and the Golf. Both of these vehicles get 42 miles per gallon on the highway and 31 miles per gallon in the city. This is due to the torque allowing for smoother accelerations on the highway, which increases the fuel economy. They are not the most powerful cars, with 170 plus horsepower, but they have nearly 250 foot pounds of torque. The big draw for these cars is the fuel savings, and you can ride more than 600 miles for every fill up. The Jetta TDI also receives rave reviews from green fuel advocates, as the clean burning fuel emits 97 percent less sulfur than normal diesel vehicles. This makes it one of the cleanest running vehicles on the roads today.

The Top 4 Most Reliable Classic Diesel Cars

There are many classic diesel cars still available. A classic diesel could mean that you could get the best in both engine power and reliability, while getting the benefits of a stylish car.

Jaguar X-Models

It would be pretty rare to discuss classic cars and not mention the Jaguar. This car maker has been producing high-quality cars for many years. The classic diesel Jag can be found in many second-hand car retailers, as well as online. A secondhand diesel X-Type will still set you back thousands. However, the Jaguar is perhaps the ultimate classic car, and it is noted as reliable and easy on fuel consumption as well as the eye.

Mercedes 240

The Mercedes 240 is another classic diesel car which can be found secondhand in many local car dealers. There are many Mercedes cars which have diesel engines, dating from the 1930s right up to the '80s. The engines are typically W123 or W124, and many experts on car design consider it to be one of the best diesel engines developed.

Volkswagen Dasher

The VW Dasher or Passat models were introduced in the late 1970s, and began Volkswagen's move into the creation of light, speedy cars that successfully converted to diesel. Diesel Dashers can be bought online and in local secondhand lots. These cars can race from zero to sixty in around 20 seconds, making them very powerful little cars.

Volvo 240

The Volvo is a classic designed in the 1980s. It is available both as a car and as a pickup model. It is one of the cheaper versions of the classic car, and can come with an original diesel engine, or upgraded to a biodiesel. These are available online in places such as Craigslist, and also from local dealers.

Common Themes Found in Diesel Car Reviews from Users

There are many diesel car reviews written by users, and common themes emerge through each review. It pays to find out what these threads are.

Fuel Economy
Fuel economy is a major point mentioned in virtually every user written diesel car review. Fuel consumption is a topic close to every car owner's heart, and therefore everyone who writes reviews about their diesel vehicle will usually mention the superior miles per gallon achieved.

Handling, Power and Comfort
Car handling and comfort are other points always mentioned and are the fact that European engineering is considered the best. Also, most users will mention that a diesel car can be quite noisy and that its power band is on the narrow side.

Diesel vs. Hybrid Electric Vehicles
Most users have an opinion regarding which is better: diesel or the new hybrids. Most of them complain that the cost of a new hybrid is still too high to consider the hybrid as a worthwhile alternative to clean diesel. Given the fact that hybrids have yet to pass the test of time, diesels are still finding favor among most users.

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