Somehow, small diesel powered cars are still looked upon as odd by many new car shoppers - how the Prius has earned mainstream acceptance while diesel powered VWs and Benzes have not is beyond me. The 2010 VW Golf TDI is essentially state of the art when it comes to afforable diesels. There's plenty of power, the engine is not annoyingly loud and the car's overall look and feel seems more like a $35,000 sports car rather than a $22,000 commuter car. The Toyota Prius does offer an impressive 50 mpg in all around driving but it's not really a fun car and is best suited for those who simply drive to and from work in a straight line, never thinking or even wishing for more.
The Golf TDI's 42 mpg highway estimate is close enough to most hybrids and better than many smaller cars. Cars like the Kia Forte, Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris can do about 36 mpg highway but the Golf TDI tops those cars and is MUCH more rewarding to drive. The turbo diesel provides plenty of power and the car actually looks pretty sharp too - just don't expect the space age wheels like in the pic above.
Rear seats fold down easily and the cargo bay is big enough for any daily task. The seats are comfortable even on long trips and the Dynaudio sound system sounds very good - say a 7 out of 10 for clarity and distortion.
Opt for the Golf TDI with a Direct Shift Gearbox and shift paddles then add a few options like a sunroof, Dynaudio sound system and the Xenon adaptive front lighting system and the affordable diesel Golf becomes a $27,000 car. TrueCar.com says most people are paying about $26,400 for that car. Skip the fancy transmission and get a six-speed manual instead and you're looking at about a $25,000 car.
Yes, you can get a small commuter car for less but less is less in this case. Add VW's free oil change and vehicle service for three years and the car gets pretty compelling in a hurry.