Join Date: Apr 2011
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THE ULTIMATE COMMUTER CAR SHOOTOUT
by Colum Wood
Fuel economy numbers are often little more than a lie printed on a piece of paper and stuck to a car’s window. That said, they can be terribly misleading in the hunt for a fuel-efficient commuter car.
Whether you’re motivated by ambition to save the environment or the simple desire to visit the gas pump less often, two hypermiling machines stand out above the rest, and not just for their impressive fuel economy claims either, but because unlike nearly every other car on the market, they exceed the already impressive EPA rated figures. These two cars are the Volkswagen Jetta TDI and the Toyota Prius.
Unlikely rivals in many respects, their strongest feature, that of being ultra efficient, makes them direct competitors. They’re also both compact cars (technically the Prius is classified as a mid-size) with seating for five, every day practicality and prices that, while varied, can stack up almost directly.
DIESEL VS GASOLINE-ELECTRIC
Powering the Jetta TDI is the same turbodiesel engine you’ll find in a range of VW products, from the Beetle to the Passat. Power is rated at 140 hp, while torque is an impressive 236 lb-ft at 1750 rpm.
The Prius, on the other hand, uses Toyota’s signature Hybrid Synergy Drive system, mating a gasoline engine, an electric motor and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. The numbers aren’t as easy to follow, with individual outputs for the electric and gas components, but the final number is 134 hp.
In base trim the Jetta is the more affordable option, starting at $22,775 though the car you’re going to want is $24,215 and a fully-loaded model with navigation retails for $25,345. The Prius on the other hand begins at the level of a mid-trim TDI starting at $24,000 but can escalate to $29,805.