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2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI (Volkswagen)
2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI (Volkswagen)

What Car?

What's your favourite diesel vehicle? Add to ...

Vaughan and Cato:

You probably get this question all the time: What's your favourite diesel?

I'm talking about the diesels for sale in Canada. I get it that we don't have a lot of diesel options here, but of the handful we do get, which is your top pick?

Harvey

Cato: Harv, my man, that's easy: the BMW 335d, followed by the Audi A3 TDI and the Audi Q7 utility vehicle.

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Vaughan: As usual, Cato's champagne tastes dominate his preferences and stand in sharp contrast to his beer budget. The BMW 3-Series diesel - nearly $50,000. The Q7 diesel starts at nearly $58,000.

Cato: But the A3 TDI diesel has a base price of $35,300.

Vaughan: Yes, but you can buy a Golf TDI for less than $27,000, which means it's the best buy in a diesel in Canada and therefore my favourite.

Cato: Spoken like a man from Planet Frugal.

Vaughan: Cato, one of the most important considerations for anyone contemplating a diesel is economy - fuel economy and the savings that come with it. Diesel engines offer up to 30 per cent better fuel economy when compared to similar gas engines.

In Canada, diesel fuel is about the same price as gas, so when you buy a diesel you cut your fuel bill by 30 per cent or more. Hybrids - gasoline-electric hybrids - still get more buzz, but diesels are gaining favour with car buyers. If you ignore or overlook the economic dimension, you do a disservice to our boy Harvey and everyone else.

Cato: Whoa! Hang on here. Save the ponderous lecture. Look, I'm not discounting the economics of the thing. Heck, the economic story goes way beyond fuel economy.

Diesel engines also outlast gas engines by a wide margin, all things being equal. Anyone buying a diesel today will, if he or she holds on long enough, see the entire car disintegrate around the engine. While the fenders are falling off, the diesel under the hood will continue to percolate along for hundreds of thousands of kilometres.

Vaughan: Enlightened as you are, my dear Cato, you've still named three fairly expensive diesels, while ignoring the very affordable Golf TDI.

Cato: Not ignoring; just not putting it in my top three.

Look, let's move along here and consider the big picture for a moment. We both know that the German auto makers - Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volkswagen and Audi - are, ah, cautiously optimistic about the future of this new breed of clean-diesel cars, crossovers and SUVs they've introduced. More diesels are on the way, too.

For instance, Mazda announced recently that it will start selling its advanced diesel car in North America by 2012. But the options available for the diesel buyer are thin and not likely to expand dramatically in the next few years.

Vaughan: The rest of the Japanese car makers may also one day sell diesels here and in the States, but they do not appear to be in a hurry. Hybrids are the order of the day for Toyota, Nissan is putting its weight behind the LEAF electric car, Honda is also pushing hybrids ahead of diesels. That leaves the Germans.

Cato: Volkswagen has the most mainstream array of diesel offerings. The Jetta sedan, Golf hatchback and Touareg crossover all play to middle-class buyers, though the Touareg - starting at almost $50,000 - isn't exactly cheap.

Vaughan: As you might recall, Cato, you can get a Golf diesel for half that.

Cato: But it won't tow my boat.

Vaughan: Neither will the 3-Series diesel, at least not well.

Cato: The A3 TDI is not a tow vehicle, either, but plenty of fun to drive. On the other hand, the Q7 TDI is ideal for yanking a trailer. There must be a lot of that going around, too. I am told that something approaching half of all Q7 sales in Canada and the U.S. combined are diesels.

Vaughan: Mercedes-Benz has done remarkably well with its diesels. The ML-Class SUVs are very well-suited to a diesel engine, as is the R-Class crossover and the GL-Class SUVs.

Cato: There is also a new clean-diesel version of the E-Class sedan coming very soon.

Speaking of sedans, I think BMW's 335d is just a splendid car - massive amounts of torque and, I might add, fuel economy to suit a miserly fellow like you. BMW offers a diesel version of the X5 crossover, but somehow I found it disappointing - and fairly pricey, starting at $62,800.

Vaughan: Harvey, my lad, the Golf TDI diesel embodies everything, absolutely everything a good diesel car should offer: strong engine performance, excellent fuel economy and most of all a price that's affordable for the masses. I know Cato likes to live in his own rarefied world, but you and I and so many others look after our money, correct?

Cato: What nonsense. Harv didn't ask about the best diesel for the money; no, he asked us to name our favourites. So of the diesels sold in Canada, which one have I enjoyed driving most? The Bimmer. But I could happily live with that A3 TDI as my grocery-getter, and the Q7 diesel pulls a big rig like a champ.

Vaughan: You'll never get rich with those tastes, Cato.





2010 BMW 335d

2010 VW Golf TDI 2.0 Comfortline

2010 AUDI A3 FWD 2.0 TDI

Wheelbase (mm)

2,760

2,578

2,578

Length (mm)

4,531

4,201

4,292

Width (mm)

1,817

1,786

1,765

Height (mm)

1,421

1,480

1,423

Engine

3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel

2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel

2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel

Output (hp)

(torque)

265 hp

425 lb-ft

140 hp

236 lb-ft

140 hp

236 lb-ft

Drive system

Rear-wheel

Front-wheel

Front-wheel

Transmission

Six-speed automatic

Six-speed manual

Six-speed auto-shift manual

Curb weight (kg)

1,735

1,358

1,505

Fuel economy

(litres/100 km)

9.0 city

5.4 highway

6.7 city

4.7 highway

6.7 city

4.6 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$49,900

$26,340

$35,300

SOURCE: CAR MANUFACTURERS

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 2 p.m. on CTV.

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

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