The introduction of ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuels to the U.S. market in 2007 paved the way for American drivers to take advantage of the fuel European drivers had enjoyed for decades.
Diesel had been a mainstream fuel in Europe for a number of years, as the high price of petroleum products over there quickly led to the recognition of the benefits of diesel fuel. A diesel engine typically returns up to 40 percent better fuel economy than a comparably sized gasoline fueled engine.
Ultra-low sulfur content in diesel fuel enables the usage of advanced emission control technologies on diesel vehicles. The combination of ULSD with these advanced emission control technologies is sometimes called "clean diesel." A recently developed process—which involves injecting a chemical called Urea into the catalytic converter—makes ULSD fuels burn cleaner than gasoline.
The vast majority of clean diesel models on sale in the U.S. are German. In fact Volkswagen, Germany’s volume manufacturer, dominates the list of the best clean diesel cars in America with six of the nine models for 2013.
With the Audi A3 TDI, drivers get a good looking, fun to drive wagon with a tidy size, more than adequate power, and a level of fit and finish unrivalled by other cars in its class. The Audi A3 TDI proves a car can be both sporty and fuel-efficient—without resorting to hybrid technology. It is also one of the best clean diesel cars for 2013.
Standard equipment on the diesel-powered Audi A3 model includes dual-zone automatic climate control, alloy wheels, leather, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, fog lights, cruise control, and a 10-speaker sound system fed by a CD player, satellite radio, and an auxiliary audio input jack.
The 2012 Audi A3 TDI features a 140 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder diesel producing 236 ft.-lbs. of torque. Audi’s automated manual direct shift gearbox transmission (S tronic in Audi-speak) feeds the front wheels.
Fuel economy is 30 miles per gallon in the city/42-mpg hwy/34-combined.
For years, GM labored desperately to build a competitive compact sedan. With the global introduction of the Chevrolet Cruze in 2008, the General finally got the formula correct. Cruze had already become a respected model all around the world when it was introduced to the U.S. in 2010. Attractive exterior styling is joined by a very pleasant interior and good road manners.
A clean diesel-powered variant of the Chevrolet will be offered here starting in 2013.
Standard features for the base model Chevrolet Cruze include; OnStar, keyless entry, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, air-conditioning, a six-way manually adjustable driver’s seat, a 60/40-split rear seat, a trip computer, and power windows, mirrors and door locks. Bluetooth connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD/MP3 player, satellite radio receiver, USB port and an auxiliary audio jack complete the standard features list.
The diesel powerplant is a 161-horsepower, 2.0-liter unit currently available in other markets. The engine makes 266 ft-lbs of torque and is paired with a choice of either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.
Fuel economy is expected to be around 40 miles per gallon.
Available in sport and luxury models, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTec cars are paragons of solidity and good taste. Because the mainstream Benz ranks highly in every regard, it comes as no surprise to find the diesel model gracing the list of the best clean diesel cars for 2013.
Standard features include: alloy wheels, automatic headlights, LED running lights, a sunroof, automatic wipers, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, power adjustable front seats with memory functions, a power actuated tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, ambient interior lighting, electrochromic auto-dimming inside and driver’s-side rear view mirrors, and the COMAND system rotary-dial managed electronics interface.
Bluetooth handsfree telephone operation and streaming audio, the Mercedes-Benz mbrace telematics system, and an eight-speaker sound system with a six-disc CD changer and an auxiliary audio input are key components of the electronics package.
As we mentioned before, the Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTec can be configured as either a sport sedan or a luxury sedan. Sport models get more aggressive suspension tuning, performance-oriented styling, interior trim and wheel designs.
A 210-horsepower, 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel engine, using the Urea liquid treatment to reduce particulates in its exhaust emissions, powers the rear-drive four-door. We admit 210 horsepower sounds pretty lame, but it belies a very robust 400 ft-lbs of torque.
A seven-speed automatic transmission is standard equipment.
Fuel economy is 21-city/32-hwy/25 combined.
New to the S-Class lineup for 2012, the diesel variant of the highly vaunted Mercedes-Benz flagship is the only diesel car offered in the U.S. to feature all-wheel drive. In other words, if you’re looking for the best all-wheel drive clean diesel car for 2013, you just found it.
It literally has no peers.
Standard features include a smart air suspension system, smart bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, a power-actuated trunk lid (for opening and closing), the COMAND telematics system, Bluetooth audio streaming and telephony, navigation, voice controls, and a 15-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system. This is, of course, in addition to all of the other typical comfort and convenience features you’ll find in any contemporary luxury sedan.
A 240-horsepower, 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel engine, using the Urea liquid treatment to reduce particulates in its exhaust emissions, powers the rear-drive four-door. Yes, we’ll admit 240 horsepower sounds pretty tame in a car this size, but it belies a very robust 455 ft-lbs of torque.
A seven-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive are standard equipment.
Fuel economy is 21-city/32-hwy/25 combined.
Fresh off of a redesign for the 2012 model year, the Volkswagen Beetle arrives with a TDI engine for 2013. For those of you unfamiliar with VW’s acronyms, TDI refers to the company’s turbocharged direct injected diesel engines. Combining the Beetle’s iconic styling with the excellent fuel economy of the diesel powerplant should prove to be a compelling mix.
Standard features include alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control, heated windshield-washer nozzles, heated mirrors, heated and height-adjustable front seats, power windows, mirrors and door locks, and a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. Bluetooth telephone and audio streaming connectivity, along with an eight-speaker sound system featuring a CD player, a satellite radio receiver, an iPod interface, and an auxiliary audio input round out the package.
Motive force is delivered courtesy of a 140 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder diesel producing 236 ft-lbs of torque. Buyers can choose between either a six-speed manual transmission, or VW’s six-speed direct shift sequential manual automated transmission (DSG).
Fuel economy is 29/39/32 with the DSG and 28/41/32 with the manual.
One of the most celebrated hatchback models on the market, Volkswagen practically invented the genre of automobile with the Volkswagen Rabbit models of the mid-1970’s. Introduced in Europe as the Golf in 1974, the car came to North America as the Volkswagen Rabbit in 1975.
Designed to be the successor to the highly venerated VW Beetle, the Golf/Rabbit embodied all of the best virtues of economy cars. Today’s Golf carries on that tradition with outstanding fuel efficiency, exquisite interior detailing, fit and finish, and a fun to drive nature seldom duplicated by its rivals.
Standard features for the TDI Golf include alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, a lower ride height, foglights, heated windshield washer nozzles and ambient lighting. full power accessories, heated mirrors, keyless entry, cruise control, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, front seat adjustable lumbar, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable front center armrest, a trip computer, a cooled glovebox and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
A 140 horsepower clean diesel engine is fitted to the 2013 Volkswagen Golf TDI. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder diesel produces 236 ft-lbs of torque. Buyers can choose between either a six-speed manual transmission, or VW’s six-speed direct shift sequential manual automated transmission (DSG).
Fuel economy with either is rated at 30-city/42-hwy/34-combined.
Originally little more than a Golf sedan, the Jetta has evolved into a mainstream model in its own right. In fact, these days, the Jetta is the model most people envision when they hear the word Volkswagen, (after they picture a Beetle—of course). More spacious, more luxurious, and arguably better looking than the Golf, the Jetta is Volkswagen’s volume sedan. With the introduction of the 2011 Jetta, in an effort to back some of the cost out of the car to make it more competitive, VW went with less expensive interior materials for the Jetta. While it’s visible to eagle-eyed critics, most people don’t seem to mind at all.
Handsome, with exceptionally good road manners, the Volkswagen Jetta is a strong contender in its segment. Standard equipment on the clean diesel powered Jetta TDI includes alloy wheels, power adjustments for the heated front seats, a rear-seat center armrest, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and brake handle. Power windows, mirrors and door locks, Bluetooth telephone and audio connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system with a satellite radio receiver and an iPod interface complete the package.
VW’s 140 horsepower clean diesel engine is also fitted to the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder diesel produces 236 ft-lbs of torque. Buyers can choose between either a six-speed manual transmission, or VW’s six-speed DSG direct shift sequential manual automated transmission.
Fuel economy with either is rated at 30-city/42-hwy/34-combined.
Everything we love about the VW Jetta, combined with extra utility and carrying capacity makes the Jetta Sportwagen one of the best picks on this list of high MPG cars for 2012.
Plus, it’s fun to drive, handsome to look at, and nicely appointed.
Standard equipment for the base model Jetta SportWagen includes roof rails for a cargo rack, keyless entry, heated mirrors, heated windshield-washer nozzles, full power accessories, cruise control, air-conditioning, heated front seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a split-folding rear seat, a trip computer, Bluetooth, and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The VW Jetta SportWagen TDI is powered by a 140-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder making 236 ft.-lbs. of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard equipment; a six-speed direct shift gearbox automated manual transmission (known as DSG in VW-speak) is available as an option.
Fuel economy is 30-city/42-hwy/34-combined.
Volkswagen has a knack for making mainstream, that which most people consider extraordinary. Consider for a moment the Volkswagen Passat, a finely bred European (better still—a German) four-door sedan of the highest order. Designed to run with the big dogs on the unlimited speed autobahn, well crafted with a premium look and feel, the Passat is also one of the best diesel cars in America.
What’s more, the Passat is actually built in the U.S.A (near Chattanooga, Tenn. to be exact) specifically for the American market. Thus, the car is exceptionally roomy, delivers great low-end torque because we Americans like our cars to accelerate briskly away from traffic signals, and for those of us who covet fuel economy, there’s the Passat TDI.
Standard features on the base model Passat TDI include automatic headlights, keyless entry, power-operated windows, mirrors and door locks; air-conditioning, audio controls on the steering wheel, cruise control, and a trip computer. Bluetooth telephone connectivity and streaming audio complement the six-speaker sound system’s CD player and auxiliary input for portable audio devices.
The 2013 VW Passat TDI is powered by a 140-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder making 236 ft.-lbs. of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard equipment; a six-speed direct shift gearbox automated manual transmission (known as DSG in VW-speak) is available as an option.
Fuel economy is 31/43/35 for the manual and 30/40/34 with the DSG.