CARS.COM — If you’re one of the Volkswagen diesel owners eligible for the automaker’s proposed buyback offer, what do you buy next? We asked Cars.com’s expert reviewers for recommendations on replacements for the TDI versions of the Volkswagen Jetta, Golf, Jetta/Golf SportWagen, Passat, Beetle and Audi A3 with an eye toward driving performance, fuel economy and price.
As part of a proposed settlement, Volkswagen Group announced in June that it would buy back or cancel the leases of about 475,000 diesel cars in the U.S. from the 2009 to 2015 model years; owners also could opt to get the engine fixed and keep the affected car. These VW and Audi cars have a variation of Volkswagen’s 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder diesel engine that has a “defeat device” in the emissions control system. The VW settlement, including the buyback offer, doesn’t affect 80,000 V-6 diesel cars that allegedly also have emissions problems.
For affected VW owners enticed by the buyback offer, there are plenty of alternatives to replace your TDI, though most of them are gas-powered versus with diesel fuel. Here are our recommendations for TDI alternatives (all starting prices include destination):
Replacements for the Volkswagen Jetta TDI sedan
- 2016 Honda Civic EX-T ($23,035)
- 2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco ($21,485)
- 2016 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid ($31,940)
Editors’ picks for a Jetta TDI replacement lean heavily toward the 2016 Honda Civic 1.5T (31/42/35 mpg city/highway/combined) and 2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco (32/40/35 mpg) sedans with their small, turbocharged gasoline engines that exceeded each car’s 40-plus mpg highway ratings in our testing. A bonus point goes to the Civic for its high-quality interior most similar to the Jetta’s quality levels. The Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid deserves an honorable mention with its 42/48/44 mpg city/highway/combined EPA rating that might attract buyers who haven’t been put off by the automaker amid the emission crisis. The Jetta Hybrid will provide Jetta TDI owners with an overall familiar experience, though the hybrid execution is a little rough around the edges.
Replacements for the Volkswagen Jetta/Golf SportWagen TDI
- 2016 Toyota Prius v ($27,510)
The Toyota Prius v doesn’t have the sporty, refined ride of the Jetta and Golf SportWagens, and you’ll miss that turbo whoosh of acceleration, but the Prius v is roomier and as wagonlike as they come with an also-attractive EPA rating of 44/40/42 mpg.
Replacements for the Volkswagen Golf TDI
The 2016 Toyota Prius is a hatchback like the Volkswagen Golf with similar interior space and hatchback versatility plus sky-high fuel economy ratings of 54/50/52 mpg. The Prius took a step toward the sophisticated ride of the Volkswagen Golf with its redesign and new chassis. A non-hybrid alternative is the sophisticated-riding Ford Focus hatchback with SFE package including a tiny, yet potent, 1.0-liter three-cylinder turbo engine. EPA ratings are 30/42/35 mpg with manual transmission and 28/40/32 mpg with automatic transmission.
Replacements for the Volkswagen Passat TDI
Mazda has abandoned its diesel efforts in the U.S. for the Mazda6 mid-size sedan, so high-mpg alternatives include a hybrid version of nearly every sedan in the class. The Ford Fusion Hybrid, Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid, Kia Optima Hybrid, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid are high-mpg mid-size sedans that can easily replace a Volkswagen Passat TDI. The Fusion and Accord have similar qualities to the Passat in terms of interior quality and refinement, though none come close to offering the interior room of the Passat that helped a 1.8T version win Cars.com’s 2016 Midsize Sedan Challenge.
Replacements for the Audi A3 TDI
The overwhelming response to replace the A3 TDI was the Lexus CT 200h, a hatchback based on the previous-generation Prius rated at 43/40/42 mpg. The CT 200h strays from its mundane roots with a peppy driving experience and funky looks. The sole diesel alternative to any of the TDI models is BMW’s 328d with ratings of 32/42/36 mpg for rear-wheel drive models. Volkswagen has had a hold on cheap diesels and the 328d is now one of the least-expensive new diesels available until VW certifies a fix for its new cars and they’re once again salable.
Replacements for the Volkswagen Beetle TDI
- 2016 Mini Hardtop two-door ($21,550)
The Beetle is a quirky vehicle and so is two-door Mini Hardtop. It’s available with a manual transmission like the Beetle and its highest-efficiency model is rated at 28/39/32 mpg. The Mini Hardtop is one of the closest Beetle competitors as far as nostalgic designs go and its turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine is surprisingly efficient for a car that’s also playful and fun to drive.
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