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BMW 3-Series (BMW)
BMW 3-Series (BMW)

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Buy out the BMW or lease a diesel Jetta? Add to ...

My 2009 BMW 328i is coming off lease. I am torn between buying it out or leasing a fully loaded Volkswagen Jetta TDI. My BMW has 40,000 km and has run perfectly. Mileage in the city at 14 litres/100 km is on the porcine side, but mileage on the highway at 7.8 litres/100 km is great. They both come in at the same initial cost, but I am worried about future servicing costs and about how stable the computer system will be down the road. Your comments would be welcome. - Michael in Toronto

Cato: A two-year-old 328i with 40,000 km, one you know is running as smoothly as a Sedin twin cycle in the offensive zone, is what you want, Michael. You know the car and you're going to love driving it for the next eight years. Do what you know you want to do and buy out the lease.

2011 Volkswagen Jetta

Vaughan: Like the matador with bad eyesight, Mikey finds himself on the horns of a dilemma. However, he's facing two rather pleasant options and not an angry bull. Get ready for Cato's predictable anti-Jetta diatribe but I'm saying the Jetta TDI is definitely the way to go.

Cato: And you would be wrong. Look, there is just no comparing these two. Yes, I love that TDI diesel, but not the rest of the reinvented-for-2011 Jetta.

I'll get to my own views, but I want to point out I am not alone in my criticisms of the new Jetta. David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Centre, recently called the car "unimpressive," adding that, "In an effort to bring the car's starting price down, VW cheapened the previous Jetta's interior and suspension, making it less sophisticated and compromising handling." I agree completely.

Vaughan: What's wrong with selling against Toyota Corollas and Honda Civics?

Sure VeeDub had to dumb down the Jetta a bit to appeal to Americans and hit the price point - check out the acres of cheap plastic inside and the rear drum brakes on the outside - but it has a nice, big comfortable interior and decent-enough driving dynamics.

But what it also has that seals the deal for me is that proven 2.0-litre turbo-diesel, which cranks out 140 smooth hp and a monstrous 236 lb-ft of torque ($26,655 for the TDI Highline Jetta). And now it's coupled with a manual or a six-speed double-clutch automatic. You can run the thing all day on the highway and get 4.6 litres/100 km.

Cato: But Michael is not comparing the diesel Jetta to a Corolla or a Civic. He's weighing it against a two-year-old 328i and it's no contest.

VW's product planners seem to think that as long as the new Jetta is big enough to accommodate overweight North Americans and cheap enough to be affordable, buyers will overlook the dumbing down of the Jetta.

Look, the old Jetta's independent rear suspension is gone, replaced by a very basic and very inexpensive torsion-beam design. Brakes? Not four-wheel discs, as Vaughan has noted. The old Jetta had electric power steering, but this new one has a hydraulic rack-and-pinion. The hood struts are gone, replaced by a simple prop rod. Seats? A sore back awaits you after a few hours of sitting in them. I speak from experience.

The BMW is simply a delight to drive.

Vaughan: Well I don't know which 328i our man is driving. Is it the sedan or the coupe?

But I do think all the 3-Series are terrific cars and I've always found that coupe to be particularly handsome. Cato worships at the feet of the Southern Bavarians and I, too, admire a lot of their product, but that Jetta TDI at the price is too good to pass up.

Would I be unhappy to drive around in a two- or three-year-old Bimmer? No, not if it's the coupe. But for the same money, gimme the TDI over the 3-Series sedan any day.

2010 Lexus IS 250

Cato: The Canadian Black Book's free online value estimator pegs the worth of that 2009 328i somewhere between $23,730 and $26,840. I want to throw a third option into the mix for Michael to test drive - just so he has a sense of what's out there.

Lexus has the 2011 IS250 with a starter price of $32,900. That's a few Gs higher than the TDI and the Bimmer, I know. But Michael, I just want you to get the flavour of what Lexus thinks is a rear-drive rival to the 328i.

Vaughan: Mikey, take that TDI out for a good long highway test drive. That's the only way you'll know. Your dilemma is an interesting one and either of the choices is good. Just don't let Cato lead you around to the other end of the bull.

Cato: We all know what Mike wants and it's not your sad little attempts at humour. He wants that BMW. And I say go for it.



2009 BMW 328i sedan

2011 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0 TDI Highline

2011 Lexus IS250 sedan

Wheelbase (mm)




Length (mm)




Width (mm)




Height (mm)





3.0-litre inline six-cylinder

2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel

2.5-litre V-6

Output (horsepower/torque)

230/200 lb-ft

140/236 lb-ft

204/185 lb-ft

Drive system

Rear-wheel drive

Front-wheel drive

All-wheel drive


Six-speed manual

Six-speed automatic

six-speed manual

Curb weight (kg)




Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

11.3 city/7.0 highway

6.7 city/4.6 highway

11.2 city/7.2 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$$23,730 - $26,840 (Black book estimate)



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 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

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