Comparing high mileage vehicles: clean diesel, efficient gas and hybrid Car Comparisons

As I wrote a few months ago in our post "Evaluating options for an efficient clean green car" my reasons for wanting a new, efficient car are:

  1. I want to reduce my consumption of foreign oil
  2. I want to reduce the amount of money I spend on transportation
  3. I want to help improve my local air quality by reducing emissions
  4. I want to lower my greenhouse gas emissions

I also want to find a car that I look forward to driving every day.  I will drive anywhere between 25,000 and 30,000 a year, and the car is basically my office, so I need to have something that I enjoy."

While I was holding out for a plug-in hybrid like the Chevy Volt of Ford C-Max Energi, I think I'm putting those plans on hold, simply because my outside sales job requires me to put too many miles on my car and I just don't know how a car will handle that abuse and I also don't want to pay the extra money for a plug-in just to have it as my work car.

I was looking at the Lexus CT 200h, but I think that may be out of my budget.  Since my vehicle is mainly used to transfer me to customer meetings (during the week) and bike rides (during the weekend), I need something more utilitarian.  I'm currently considering a Ford Focus (efficient gasoline) or VW Jetta TDI (clean diesel). has a great tool that allows you to compare two cars side by side, and provides several metrics like MPG, Fuel Economics, and Carbon Footprint.  The picture at the top of the post is the comparison between the two cars I'm considering.  The VW gets slightly better combined fuel economy, 34 MPG compared to 33 MPG for the Ford, but the overall cost of fuel for the year will probably be higher because diesel currently costs more than gasoline.

I'm not opposed to hybrids, but there really isn't one that catches my eye in my price range. Although comparing the 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid to the Ford would save me about $400 per year in fuel costs and the hybrid is in the same price range as the Ford and the VW.

Of course, I'd have to test drive all of the cars to see if they have the punch to get me on and off the racetracks that they call interstates here in Atlanta while avoiding the big trucks that are trying to squash guys driving fuel efficient cars!

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I have a 2009 Jetta TDI 6 speed manual and we're seeing 40+ MPG in real-world conditions. Greater Chicago area, so your weather may be milder, and YMMV, as they say. Diesel has a bunch of advantages maintenance wise (spark plugs, what are those?) and learning to drive a manual is a life skill as well as a mileage improver. I can't comment on the automatic version...
Diesel engine is more robust and last longer that gas one. When testing both focus and Jetta pay attention to workmanship quality and ask yourself how the car inner and outside will look in a few years
I have 2011 Volt, have put 5600 miles on it since June. Still running on the dealer supplied tank, less than 2 gallons consumed so far, mostly just a few miles at a time. (Chevrolet website calculates that as more than 2500 MPG, not counting electricity.) Solar panels provide the electricity, so no charge there either. I expect to have to buy gas sometime in June, as the car is programmed to start using the fuel after a year so it wont get stale. Oil change ever 2-3 years, still at 85% remaining.

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