Mileage: 30 city, 42 highway and 34 combined mpg
The fun-to-drive Volkswagen Golf TDI is the second VW on our diesel car list because VW offers more passenger-car diesel models than any other manufacturer. It is also the most affordable of our five entries; yet the cabin is well built and nicely appointed.
The listed price is for the two-door hatchback; the four-door costs $700 more.
A tight squeeze for rear-seat passengers, Golf can accommodate five. Four will be more comfortable. With the split-folding rear seat in place, there are 15 cubic feet of cargo room.
Turning the front wheels falls to a six-speed manual transmission that transfers production from a 140-horsepower, 2-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine. Substituting the six-speed, driver-shiftable, automatic tranny will add $1,100 to the bottom line with no effect on the EPA-estimated fuel-economy numbers.
Included in the base price are full power accessories, heated outboard mirrors, air conditioning, leather-wrapped, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio controls, six air bags, cruise control, trip computer, Bluetooth connectivity, and an eight-speaker audio system with an in-dash six-disc CD player, satellite radio, iPod integration and an auxiliary input jack.