By now, you should know that Volkswagen is making good on its obligation to compensate its customers who purchased TDI diesel-powered cars and SUVs.
Regardless of the offer on the table, the resolution puts VW TDI owners in a bit of a quandary. Many of them loved their cars, and aren’t too excited about the prospect of replacing them. Here’s a list of cars to consider when replacing your VW TDI.
To refresh your memory on the original issue that’s caused Volkswagen owners so much pain over the last year, a brief summary.
Beginning in 2008, Volkswagen and Audi — and many other manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz, Jeep and BMW — were required to comply with much more strict emissions requirements for their diesel-powered cars and trucks, as the United States adopted Clean Diesel technology and ultra-low diesel fuel.
Most of Volkswagen’s diesel competitors opted for urea-injection, using an additive called AdBlue contained in a separate reservoir that helps to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.
However, Volkswagen claimed that its 2.0-liter TDI engines built up to 2015 — on the Jetta TDI, Golf TDI, Beetle TDI and Passat TDI — could pass emissions requirements without the use of a urea-injection system.
In July last year, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that Volkswagen products with 2.0-liter TDI engines were supplemented with “a sophisticated software algorithm” that could detect the precise moment when your car was being tested for emissions.
When emissions tests were underway, the software would force the engine into a mode that produced the requisite amount of emissions, but under normal driving conditions, the speculation is that that fantastic torque that TDI-equipped Volkswagens are able to produce might be seriously limited. “The effectiveness of these vehicles’ pollution emissions control devices is greatly reduced during all normal driving situations,” the EPA noted.
As a result, in July of 2016, Volkswagen launched a buyback program, with all the information you need to know at www.vwcourtsettlement.com. There are many variables to the specific calculation for your TDI, but the basics of the program are as follows, quoted from the FAQ section of the site:
“For eligible owners who purchased their car prior to September 18, 2015, the Buyback formula uses the NADA Clean Trade In value from the beginning of September 2015, and adds 20% of that value, plus a fixed amount of $2,986.73.”
To reiterate: Clean trade value + 20% + $2,986.73
That’s a pretty substantial offer, and it opens up a lot of options for TDI owners. Here’s five vehicles to consider to replace your current TDI-powered Volkswagen:
Driving a VW Golf TDI? Consider a Mazda3 5-Door
The Golf TDI brought four things to the table: Outstanding fuel economy, a five-door hatch, a manual transmission and that elusive quality VW’s marketing department used to call Fahrvergnügen, or “driving enjoyment.” The Mazda3 5-Door replaces every single one of those items, and the price is comparable.
In the i Grand Touring trim, the Mazda3 5-Door sits behind a two-liter, four-cylinder engine that extracts 40 miles out of every gallon on the highway, while still delivering 155 horsepower and a six-speed manual, at just $1,000 more than the price of a 2015 VW Golf TDI. The i Touring trim drops the price to just $20, 745, but you lose the nav system, Bose audio, dual zone climate control and a six-way power driver’s seat.
You can get even more fun out of the 184-hp s Grand Touring trim, but your highway fuel mileage falls to 35 miles per gallon.
Driving a Volkswagen Jetta TDI? Consider a 2017 Toyota Prius
Oh, we can hear the groans already. A PRIUS?! Why not suggest living out our days in a monastery, consisting on a diet of gruel and warm tap water?
Here’s the thing: If you can get past the goofy exterior, the inside of a 2017 Toyota Prius is REALLY, REALLY NICE. It ripped a page right out of the Chevy Volt’s playbook. Just because people don’t want to spend money on gas doesn’t mean they want to be confined to an interior with all the aesthetic qualities of a cubicle in a hospital’s admittance office.
The seats are way nicer than before, it’s super quiet inside, and the white plastic trim gives it a Stormtrooper feel that gives you the indication that someone actually put some thought into what this hybrid should look like.
It’s also got outrageous fuel economy of 58 mpg on the highway and 53 mpg in the city. If you do any kind of in-town driving, you’ll cut your fuel bill substantially, especially now that the price of diesel is 30 cents more than gasoline.
Driving a Volkswagen Beetle TDI? Consider a Mini Cooper
If you’re driving a Volkswagen Beetle TDI, you don’t care much about rear seat space or cargo volume. You do, however, care about style, performance, fuel economy and value. The Mini Cooper has what you want, and then some.
Back to back with the Volkswagen Beetle, the Mini Cooper’s aesthetics are just about a wash. They’re both rooted in the style of the 1960s, and they both offer the German quality interiors that Volkswagen customers came to love as early as the first generation Beetle.
The Mini Cooper beats the VW hands down in performance, though, even in the base trim, with a 134-hp turbocharged four-cylinder. The TDI got to 60 miles per hour in a leisurely 10.9 seconds, while the Mini gets there in 7.3. It also shaves off more than 650 pounds – a full load of four 165 pound passengers – from the VW’s curb weight, meaning it gets within two miles per gallon of the TDI.
Driving a Volkswagen Passat TDI? Consider a Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid
There was a time when the Volkswagen Passat was super-cool, but that time passed in 2006, and then again in 2010, when the Passat was watered down into an ordinary Camry competitor. Sales skyrocketed, but it didn’t make it a better car.
The Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid is a better car. To get the full picture of how good it is, you need to spend a lot of time inside. Years ago, the Passat made its mark with quality interiors. These days, it’s the Malibu’s turn.
Returning 44 miles per gallon on the highway was pretty impressive for the Passat, but the Malibu Hybrid gets 45, plus 48 in the city, and it’s an impressive car overall.
Driving a Volkswagen Touareg TDI? Consider a Jeep Grand Cherokee
About the worst thing you can say about the Jeep Grand Cherokee with a 3.0-liter diesel is that it’s expensive. But the Volkswagen Touareg TDI was also obscenely expensive, at $63,245 MSRP. You could freight out a Grand Cherokee Overland with the $4,500 diesel and every possible option and still come in almost $7,500 cheaper than a Touareg TDI.
The Touareg TDI’s 7,716 pound towing capacity has significant allure for anyone who hauls a trailer. Properly equipped, the Grand Cherokee diesel is rated to tow 7,200 pounds, which isn’t quite as impressive, but still more than capable of hauling a good-sized travel trailer.
Fuel economy isn’t quite as good as the Touareg’s, but take a look at the EPA’s annual fuel cost. The two are within $50 per year of each other. You’d drive a Touareg for 150 years before you made up the $7,500 difference in price.