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10 Diesel Cars With the Highest MPG

(Credit: © BMW)

Car Buying Advice

10 Diesel Cars With the Highest MPG

While diesel-powered cars remain rather slow-selling in the U.S., they are in huge supply in Europe and sell well. Many Americans still view diesel cars as miniature school busses that rap-tap down the road at a lumbering pace.

Thanks to recent advancements in sound insulation and exhaust tuning, the sound of a diesel engine is now nothing like it was years ago. Additionally, recent turbocharging technology and other performance-enhancing upgrades have led to some impressively powerful and responsive diesel engines. On top of their increased performance capabilities and reduced noise, modern clean-diesel engines are also easier on the environment and get hybrid-like fuel-economy numbers.

To help you better realize just what diesel power has to offer, we have compiled a list of the 10 most fuel-efficient diesel cars on the market today.

2015 Audi A6 3.0 TDI

2015 Audi A6 3.0 TDI (Credit: © Audi USA)

10. 2015 Audi A6 3.0 TDI Quattro

Starting out our list of the top-10 most fuel efficient cars is a large luxury rig from Audi. The 2015 A6 3.0 TDI quattro checks in with EPA-estimated ratings of 24 mpg city, 38 mpg highway and 29 mpg city. In the world of super-efficient hybrids, these numbers may seem sub-par, but in a midsize luxury car, these ratings are rather impressive.

The 3.0-liter TDI engine powering this luxo-rig is far from a rap-tapping school bus engine too, as it produces 240 horsepower between 3,500 and 3,750 rpm, and 428 pound-feet of torque between 1,750 and 2,250 rpm. This power travels through an eight-sped Tiptronic transmission on its way to all four wheels, via Audi’s quattro AWD system. This drivetrain affords this fuel-efficient luxury sedan a 0-to-60-mph sprint of just 5.5 seconds and a top speed of 130 mph.

As one can expect, the 2015 Audi A6 3.0 TDI quattro is not a cheap car, as it bases at $58,700 for the Premium Plus trim, while the Prestige trim bases at $62,500.

2015 BMW 535d

2015 BMW 535d (Credit: © BMW)

9. 2015 BMW 535d

Midsize sedans are typically not touted for fuel economy, especially luxury models, but toss in a diesel engine and even the BMW 5 Series becomes a fuel-efficient machine. The 2015 BMW 535d checks in with fuel economy ratings of 26 mpg city, 38 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined in its base format, while xDrive AWD drops the highway rating to 37 mpg. This relatively awesome fuel economy is thanks to a 3.0-liter Twin Power Turbo Diesel engine.

Fuel efficiency isn’t the engine’s only strong suit either, as it is also fairly powerful with an output of 255 horsepower at 4,000 rpm and 413 pound-feet of torque between 1,500 and 3,000 rpm. The engine mates to an eight-speed STEPTRONIC transmission. In its base setup, the powertrain combination allows the 535d to hit 60 mph in just 5.8 seconds, while the 535d xDrive does the same 60-mph sprint in just 5.7 seconds.

The 535d may be easy on fuel, but it is far from easy on your wallet, as it bases at $56,850 and the xDrive model raises the base price to $59,150.

2015 BMW X3 xDrive28d

2015 BMW X3 xDrive28d (Credit: &cop; BMW)

8. 2015 BMW X3 xDrive28d

Yes, there actually is an SUV in the top-10 list of most fuel-efficient diesel cars, and it hails from Germany, of course. This is the 2015 BMW X3 xDrive28d, and it gets a rather impressive 27 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined from its 2.0-liter Twin Power Turbo Diesel engine.

The 2.0-liter diesel engine isn’t immensely powerful, as it only produces 180 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, but it is enough to get the X3 to 60 mph in just 7.8 seconds and up to 127 mph. This diesel four-pot mates to an eight-speed STEPTRONIC transmission.

As with all BMWs, the X3 xDrive28d is fully loaded from its base model all the way to the top. Along with all that equipment comes a hefty price tag that starts from $41,900 and swells to beyond $55,000 with added options and packages.

2015 Chevrolet Cruze  Diesel

2015 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel (Credit: © General Motors)

7. 2015 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel

Crammed between all of these German models is a single American car, the Chevy Cruze. For 2014, Chevy decided to enter the diesel market with its compact sedan, in an attempt to get a head start on the competition. For the 2015 model year, the Cruze diesel delivers decent fuel economy at 27 mpg city, 46 mpg highway and 33 mpg combined.

In terms of output, the Cruze Diesel is decent, as its 2.0-liter turbo-diesel engine produces 151 horsepower and 264 pound-feet of torque. This powerplant mates to a six-speed auto transmission, and though it has yet to be officially tested, the Cruze should hit 60 mph in around eight seconds.

Pricing for the 2015 Cruze Diesel is not yet available, but it shouldn’t stray too far from the 2014 model’s $25,810 base price. Look for the 2015 Cruze Diesel to hit dealers in late 2014.

2014 E250 BlueTEC

2014 E250 BlueTEC

6. 2014 Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC

Mercedes-Benz chimes in on our list of most fuel-efficient diesel cars with its 2014 E250 BlueTEC. Not only is it supremely luxurious, but the 2.1-liter, twin-turbo diesel engine under its hood is delivers 28 mpg city, 42 mpg highway and 33 mpg combined ratings. These ratings fall to 27 mpg city, 38 mpg highway and 31 mpg combined when the engine mates to the optional 4MATIC AWD system. Unfortunately, Mercedes has yet to grace America with an E250 BlueTEC Coupe or Wagon, so buyers can only get this thrifty diesel in the sedan model.

For a Mercedes, the 2.1-liter engine is slightly underpowered, as it only produces 195 horsepower at 3,800 rpm, but its 369 pound-feet of torque is plenty to get the sedan to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds in its base setup — 8.2 seconds with 4MATIC.

Being a Mercedes E-Class means a monstrous MSRP, as the E250 BlueTEC bases from $51,400.

2015 VW Beetle 2.0 TDI

2015 VW Beetle 2.0 TDI (Credit: © Volkswagen)

5. 2015 VW Beetle 2.0 TDI

As if the Beetle wasn’t already an icon in the industry, VW went and upped the ante by installing its 2.0-liter, turbo-diesel engine under its hood. This engine delivers great mpg performance of 31 mpg city, 41 mpg highway and 34 mpg combined, regardless of the transmission. Buyers can also opt for a convertible model that delivers 30 mpg city, 40 mpg highway and 34 mpg combined.

In the new Beetle, this 2.0 TDI engine produces 150 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. The clean diesel mates to either a six-speed manual of a six-speed, dual clutch transmission and delivers power to the front wheels. The 2015 Beetle has yet to undergo a full battery of testing, but its 0-to-60-mph time should be in the eight-second range.

The Beetle TDI starts from $24,795 and rises to $27,710 in its top trim level.

2015 VW Golf 2.0 TDI

2015 VW Golf 2.0 TDI (Credit: © Volkswagen)

4. 2015 VW Golf 2.0 TDI

The Golf 2.0 TDI is a cult icon among VW lovers, thanks to its useful hatchback design, compact footprint and lively handling. What’s more, it gains a completely new design for the 2015 model year.

Being a part of the VW group, it uses the same 2.0-liter, turbo-diesel engine as other VW products. In Golf, this engine delivers 30 mpg city, 45 mpg highway and 36 mpg combined with the six-cog manual, while the six-speed DSG transmission drops the highway rating to 43 mpg, but bumps the city rating to 31 mpg.

The 2.0-liter, diesel engine develops a tidy 150 horsepower at 3,500 rpm and 236 pound-feet of torque at 1,750 rpm. The Golf TDI isn’t a car that anyone would call “fast,” but it acceptable at 8.6 seconds to 60 mph. Unfortunately, the Golf TDI is only available in the four-door hatchback body style, while other members of the Golf lineup also have two-door variants. The Golf TDI starts at $21,995 for the S trim level and peaks at $27,995 for the SEL trim.

2015 Audi A3

2015 Audi A3 (Credit: © Audi USA)

3. 2015 Audi A3 2.0 TDI

Another model from the Volkswagen Auto Group shows up here in the form of the Audi A3, and it bears the same 2.0-liter, turbo-diesel engine as some of the others. The Audi A3 2.0 TDI comes in with respectable mpg ratings of 31 in the city, 43 on the highway and 36 combined. Unlike others in this competition, the A3 is available only in a sedan model, so you cannot get the added benefit of a wagon’s large cargo area.

Under the hood is a 2.0-liter, turbo-diesel powerplant that produces 150 horses between 3,500 and 4,000 rpm, and 236 pound-feet of torque between 1,750 and 3,000 rpm. This engine links to a six-speed, S-tronic dual-clutch transmission that delivers power to the front wheels, making it one of the few Audis without quattro AWD. This is enough power to launch the A3 to 60 mph in just 8.1 seconds and onto a top speed of 130 mph. The 2015 A3 2.0 TDI starts at $32,600 for the Premium trim and tops out at $41,050 for the Prestige trim.

2015 VW Jetta 2.0 TDI

2015 VW Jetta 2.0 TDI (Credit: © Volkswagen)

2. 2015 VW Jetta 2.0 TDI

The 2015 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0 TDI makes the list alongside plenty of other vehicles from the VW Auto Group. The Jetta 2.0 TDI comes with a 2.0-liter, turbo-diesel engine that receives EPA ratings of 31 mpg city, 46 mpg highway and 36 mpg combined with the optional six-speed manual transmission — the standard six-speed DSG transmission gets 45 mpg on the highway. With those high numbers buyers also get German engineering at an easier-to-handle price than some other German diesels. What’s more, buyers can get a SportWagen model that gets 30 mpg city, 42 mpg highway and 34 mpg combined.

The 2.0-liter TDI engine produces a respectable 150 horsepower between 3,500 and 4,000 rpm and 236 pound-feet of torque at 1,750 to 3,000 revs. In terms of raw performance, the Jetta TDI can hit 60 mph in around eight seconds, making it slightly slower than some other Germans, but its $21,295 base price makes the sacrifice in acceleration well worth it. Buyers can also opt for the fully loaded model with the Premium Package and navigation for only $26,795. The SportWagen model starts from $26,565.

2015 BMW 328d Sedan

2015 BMW 328d Sedan (Credit: © BMW)

1. 2014 BMW 328d

The BMW 328d is the king of the hill when considering diesel-powered cars with great mpg, as this luxury sedan checks in with EPA-estimated ratings of 32 mpg city, 45 mpg highway and 37 mpg combined. On top of that, there are also xDrive all-wheel-drive and wagons models available with this thrifty diesel engine. The 328d xDrive Sedan and 328d Sport Wagon received a 35 mpg combined ratings, giving you usefulness and great fuel economy in one package.

The 328d is no slouch in performance either, as its 2.0-liter, turbo-diesel engine pumps out 180 horsepower at 4,000 rpm and 280 pound-feet of torque between 1,750 and 2,750 rpm. The clean-diesel engine mates to an eight-speed, STEPTRONIC transmission that allows the base sedan to hit 60 mph in just 7.4 seconds and top out at 130 mph. With the xDrive AWD system, this sprint time falls to 7.3 seconds. The 328d’s weakness is its base price, as it starts out at $38,900.

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  1. Tom

    Sep 12, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    I think the entire Jaguar range of diesels is more economic and with a higher MPG than any of these cars!

    • Patty Brown

      Oct 2, 2014 at 3:39 pm

      Really? I’m driving a VW Jetta Sportwagen and getting over 50 mpg at 75 on level straight roads. (Quite a bit less on average, as this area’s short on level straight roads, but still, averaging high 30s overall.)

      What sort of mileage do the Jag diesels actually get? Enough better to cover the increased cost?

  2. No European Diesels

    Sep 12, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    Yup my 1996 Volkswagen Jetta TDI got 44 mpg and I loved it until the cam lifter failure caused half the engine to blow up at 82,000 miles. After paying $4000 for that repair the turbo blew up 2000 miles later. We took it in for repair and after they fixed it and were taking it for a test drive the piston blew through the engine and totaled the car. It was dead at 84,000 miles. The only car we had that was worse was a 1976 Ford pinto that only cost $3000 new. I would not recommend a European diesel car to anyone… EVER.

    • vehicle engineer

      Sep 18, 2014 at 1:02 pm

      Everyone knows that VW means a constant stream of expensive little failures and dealer parts with astronomical prices. Purchase cost is just the beginning of your expenses. VW Does not match Ford and Chrysler modern reliability numbers.

      • Patty Brown

        Oct 2, 2014 at 3:40 pm

        Where are your numbers? That has not been my personal experience.

      • Red Five

        Oct 5, 2014 at 3:38 pm

        I have over 200K miles on my ’01 VW, and have never had any engine problems. I did have to replace the transmission about 3.5 years ago due to a couple of design faults; the replacement resolved the faults. It currently needs a new clutch on the A/C compressor. Admittedly, the parts are expensive, but I’ve had no major reliability issues.

        My 20-year-old Taurus has ~120K miles on it, and had a nasty dual head gasket blowout (V-6 engine means 2 head gaskets) around 80K. It’s currently in need of a new transmission and power steering pump; it’s drivable, but it bucks like a bronco on left turns and sounds a bit like a muzzled banshee.

        VW consistently gets diesel efficiency numbers far better than Hollyweird’s favorite hybrid.

    • Basil Bhan

      Apr 20, 2015 at 11:36 pm

      Exceptions don’t make rules.
      87 Mercedes diesel owned 27 years – now at 286,000mi.
      No problems. Nada. Daily driver, to boot.

  3. dan1701

    Sep 14, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Of these 10 which ones have timing belts instead of timing chain or timing gears? VW has a belt and Audi uses the same engine. Since these cars are interference engines a broken rubber belt will result in major engine damage. Timing chains rarely break and timing gears even less often. The only reasons for using a rubber belt is a minor reduction in engine noise, cheaper to produce than a chain or gears, and keeps the customer returning for belt changes which can cost hundreds. These cars are too large of an investment to have it depending on a glorified rubber band. I would buy a Jetta TDI in a heartbeat if not for the belt.

    • Ab

      Sep 28, 2014 at 10:25 pm

      The VW TDI hasn’t had a belt for years. They are chain drive on the 2.0

      • George

        Sep 29, 2014 at 8:04 pm

        How many years? My 2009 has belt. Same engine in 2010. Cost over $1,000 to replace as they do water pump at the same time.

      • dan1701

        Oct 1, 2014 at 3:30 pm

        It’s a belt. Fact check.

    • Eric Haulenbeek

      Jul 31, 2015 at 11:08 am

      I just paid $1100 to have my 2006 Jetta timing belt replaced at 80,000 miles! Believe me when I tell you that that little 4-banger couldn’t have been a noisier engine, timing belt or chain. It’s one of the most reliable car’s I’ve ever owned though. In fact I just replaced it with a new Passat diesel, though the noise quotient has been seriously quieted. Yes, the new engine does have a timing chain, but I’ve never owned a more quiet diesel-powered vehicle!

  4. Pumbaa

    Sep 14, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    Investigate before buying a car with a General Motors diesel engine. Where is the engine made that is used in the Cruse? I remember when Oldsmobile and Pontiac used converted gasoline to diesel engines in their cars.

    • BFL

      Oct 4, 2014 at 12:24 am

      The Cruze diesel is by Fiat. Have one and am quite impressed with the power and torque. By the way, Fiat has a long and successful diesel history.

      • JohnC

        Oct 12, 2014 at 10:45 pm

        GM has made loads of great Diesels. The 350 gas Oldsmobile engine was one of the great engines of all time. When it was converted to a Diesel it was not. The 6.2 and 6.5 liter Diesels that replaced it were very good.

        • athlon

          Jun 18, 2015 at 7:47 pm

          Many GM diesels come from Isuzu . After WW11 each American manufacture of vehicles put in funds to restart Japans auto industry. Chrysler took a percentage of Mitsubishi, Ford ,Mazda and GM , Isuzu. Now most have bought back most of their holdings but US makers still use their services.
          Nissan is now part of the French, Peugeot / Renault conglomerate.

      • Ron Valiquette

        Oct 14, 2014 at 12:29 am

        … and now owns Chrysler/ Jeep?

        • athlon

          Jun 18, 2015 at 7:50 pm

          Fiat , who also owns Ferrari , Maserati , Alpha Romeo and others besides Chrysler.

      • athlon

        Jun 18, 2015 at 7:38 pm

        Fiat is part of the group Fiat , Allison who build large equipment and diesel engines for on and off road .

      • athlon

        Jul 7, 2015 at 12:13 pm

        Fiat Allison has a long history of building very large equipment diesels and off road units much like Caterpillar. Allison in Europe , Kubota in Asia and Caterpillar in the Americas. Those are not the only companies ,but also produce the very large land based vehicles for construction and maintenance .

  5. SGT Rock

    Sep 18, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Oooh, wow, 31mpg city, 41 mpg highway, 34 mpg combined.
    The 2.0 TDI 140PS gets 44.8 mpg in the city, 67.3 mpg highway, 57.6 mpg combined. Problem is you can’t buy this motor here because of antiquated EPA rules, yet it is offered in England.
    If you don’t believe me, check it out for yourself at VW of England’s website. They have the information in mpg, not a conversion by me.
    Yep, we are better off here when it comes to fuel mileage.

    • marineflotsam

      Sep 22, 2014 at 9:34 pm

      The Imperial gallon is larger than the US gallon (about 20%), therefore the higher mpg.

  6. Bill Kuhn

    Sep 18, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    I wish they’d come up with something with mpg in the same league as the Prius. I’d like some variety (whether gas/diesel/ or hybrid). I’d jump at an EV if they had range AND a somewhat affordable price tag.
    As it stands, my wife and I are on Prius #s 3 and 4. We just can’t argue with 50mpg year round in an inexpensive car.

    • Patty Brown

      Oct 2, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      I regularly beat my friends’ Prius(es?) with my VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI. The Prius would beat it if we lived in a flat area, but we don’t, and the Prius mpg suffers tremendously on hills.

      • Bill Kuhn

        Oct 3, 2014 at 1:19 pm

        The Prius generally does better on hills than on flat ground. I average 50-55 mpg in Kansas (somewhat hilly in the east), but closer to 60 in the mountains in New England and Tennessee where I travel frequently.

    • roadrunner

      Jul 28, 2015 at 6:24 pm

      I run an Audi 2006 A3 2.0 TDI (170hp) Common Rail and it is right up there with the Prius. I admit the Prius has an ever so slight advantage in stop and go traffic but it doesn’t stand a chance on the highway. We’re talking 60mpg…

    • real77777

      Sep 25, 2015 at 4:49 am

      Suzuki have 4 passenger car that is 105mpg for $8000 in Japan. For environment, USA should allow 80mpg and above mileage car with less safety standard since they are much safer than a motorcycle. Things like painted yellow/orange and additional education etc.

    • F4F

      Feb 2, 2016 at 10:44 am

      I bought a used 2004 prius, uaed to get 45-47 summer/ 42-44 winter. Had to get new tires now I get 45 if I’m lucky. 50mpg year round is what sold me, but its not the full story! Now I’m wishing I had a diesel with a manual!

  7. Financial Man

    Sep 25, 2014 at 12:13 am

    I have an Audi A$ and have found it an expensive vehicle to maintain and repair. It seems that the Germans build beautiful high performance vehicles. However, they are seem to be built the same way their military hardware was during World War II when an extensive amount of effort was expended to keep the tanks, etc operational in the field. When they worked, they worked great. I have switched back to buying American brands again and am much happier with the lack to high maintenance costs. These American cars are much better made than they were back when I purchased by Audi.

  8. 25800

    Sep 26, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    When is Washington going to let Toyota put a small diesel engine in the Tacoma for the US market????

    • rscurtis

      Oct 9, 2014 at 3:24 pm

      Toyota can do it whenever they want, just like Ram did and Nissan is supposed to do.

  9. George

    Sep 29, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Also depends where you live. In CA diesel is priced like premium, not that much more than regular. In Texas, diesel is at least 50 cents more than regular. There is little or no economic advantage in that case.

  10. Supermal

    Oct 4, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    They get exactly the same mph when you convert from imperial to US gallons.

  11. Steve

    Oct 15, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    I’ve got a 2012 Jetta and average 45 mpg commuting to work. The thing I like is that it is a decent sized car that has a nice sized trunk and carries 4 people very comfortably, while the fuel economy is better than all those little mini cars.

  12. Steve

    Jun 21, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    The reason diesels don’t sell in the states, is that the price is higher to begin with on these cars, then you add the price of diesel being anywhere from 60 to 85 cents per gallon higher, it would a long time and many thousands of miles to reach the break even point.

  13. Steven G

    Jul 22, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    I have a 2009 Jetta TDI, with 80,000 miles and so far runs like a champ. I have not had any major issues and maintenance costs are very low since you only need to bring it in every 10,000 miles.

  14. jameskatt

    Aug 30, 2015 at 4:59 am

    If only the Chevrolet Cruze Diesel came in an small SUV model. I’d snap it up.

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