Volt vs Passat TDI

Passat TDI vs Chevrolet Volt

During a conversation, an interesting comparison between a Volkswagen Passat diesel and a Chevy Volt hybrid ensued. Here's why the Passat wins.

Spurred by commentary here on Torque News in comments left on an article by Keith Griffin (see it here), I had a conversation with a Volt owner in California about her car. At the time of this writing, I have a 2012 VW Passat TDI SE Premium in my driveway as a loaned test vehicle from the manufacturer. Together, we compared notes and furthered the conversation that started in Torque News comments.

The Passat TDI SE is similar to the Volt in fittings and extras, though it does have some things that are of higher quality than the Volt such as the premium Fender sound system and powered seating. Downgrading some of those options to equalize the cars in that regard puts the MSRP for the Passat TDI at about $29,000. MSRP for the Volt is about $42,000 in comparable trim. Doing a sticker-to-sticker comparison, the Passat is obviously cheaper, but after taking in the federal tax rebate of $7,500, the Volt's price tag gets closer at $35,000. Some states have further incentives for purchasing a car like the Volt, but for this comparison, we're assuming a national average which means no state-level rebates or incentives.

Assuming a road trip, the range per vehicle on the highway is 796 miles in the VW and 379 miles for the Volt. For daily driving, numbers are more variable, but most Volt owners claim around 900 miles per tank of gasoline while my use of the Passat and a survey of Volkswagen forums shows that most TDI drivers are getting 820 miles per tank of fuel. Diesel fuel and the premium grade gasoline required for the Volt cost about the same, but tank capacities are different. So in today's fuel costs (roughly $4/gallon for diesel or premium gasoline), including a national average of $0.12 per kWh for electricity, the $60 fill up on the Passat is compared to a $42 fill-up on the Volt. For reference, I'm assuming two recharges per week from empty (80%) on the Volt's batteries, which seems fair even if it is not being depleted completely, but is being plugged in nightly.

Finally, we look at the cars themselves in terms of practicality and everyday use. The Passat is a larger car physically, with seating for five (comfortably) inside (compared to the Volt's 4), more trunk volume, etc. In safety, both cars rank about the same in IIHS tests. The VW has better handling and performance, however, with a slightly faster 0-60mph rating and a higher top speed. Riding in either car shows the Passat to have a more comfortable drive.

Warranties are the same at 36k/3 years basic. Where the Chevy Volt wins out is efficiency. It's miles per gallon combined is over 90 while the Passat TDI gets 31mpg in the city and 43mpg on the highway.

A dollar-for-dollar comparison, however, gives the Passat TDI the edge. At $6,000 cheaper off the lot and with a fuel cost of $0.07/mile (versus the Volt's $0.05), the Passat is an obvious choice. This narrows after factoring in maintenance costs - oil changes are about the same price for both vehicles, but the VW requires after-treatment be added every 10,000 miles (two oil changes) at an additional cost of about $40. The Passat TDI, however, has no spark plugs. For the Volt, this would be about $8 per plug ($32), plus another $25 for wires, all being replaced every 100,000 miles. We're assuming here that costs are for parts/fluids only.

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Using these numbers and assuming a 150,000 life span before trade-in or sale, we have a cost breakdown of: $0.03 per mile ($10,500 in fuel, $600 in after-treatment, minus $6,000 price difference) for the Passat TDI versus $0.05 per mile ($7,500 in fuel, $85 in maintenance) for the Volt.

These numbers have a big caveat: subjectivity. Those who live in the city and drive in congested urban traffic and/or heavy commuter traffic are more likely to see cost savings with the Volt than they are with a TDI. On the other hand, those who do not drive under those conditions regularly will likely find the Passat TDI a better choice for their needs. Finally, if you are one of the few who live in an area that further incentivizes the purchase of the Volt (and you can take advantage of those incentives), then the numbers will also change more towards the Volt's favor.

The numbers above, though generalized (the cost per mile is actually higher, since I did not include other vehicle service requirements, such as the cost of oil changes, tire replacement, etc.), they illustrate the cost difference in terms of operation for the two vehicles.

Update 5/23/2012: Information I did not have about the Volt not requiring oil changes per mileage (see commentary below) changes the metrics somewhat. This would raise the cost/mile of the Passat TDI by about a penny, putting the two closer together in terms of cost.

Update 5/25/2012: I have been informed by General Motors, after a VP I have spoken with previously read this article, that I will be receiving a Volt for a week long test (the same as my time with the Passat) next week. This will give me a chance to re-asses the Volt under the same conditions I tested the Passat TDI. I will write a follow up after that. My goal will be to re-asses the Volt based on the new, longer period of testing as up to this point, the longest I've spent driving one was less than an hour. This should make those of you whose only argument with my assessment here is that I "haven't driven one" happy.

Comments

43 mpg passat vs 220 mpg volt (what i am getting now). No oil changes for 2 years. 2 cents per mile vs 10 cents per mile for passat. Regenerative braking means less brake changes. Sorry...volt wins.
Aaron, A pretty good comparison and you are right that highway miles are different than urban miles. In our previous conversation you also talked about where the Diesel Fuel comes from and to me that is a sticking/selling point as well. Canada or America GREAT... OPEC not so great. Bio-Diesel COOL! Only one real nit to pic is your fuel assumptions. The TDI Fuel tank is 18.5 Gallons and the Volts fuel tank is almost exactly have the size at 9.3 Gallons. Diesel is always a little more expensive than premium where I live but for the sake of comparison let's assume that the price for a gallon of diesel and premium gas is $4.00 and the Volt Owner doesn't chintz out and buy cheap gas. Passat TDI 820/ 18.5 gallon tank = 44 MPG $74 to fill up Chevy Volt 900/9.3 = 96.77MPG $37.20 to fill up + Avg cost to charge daily 8kwh = .88 cents = $321 per year Chevy Volt = Zero Down and $369 per month Vehicle Cost for 36 Months 36,000 Miles = $13284 Fuel Cost (incl electricty) for 36 Month 36,000 miles = $2451 Total Cost = $15735 Passat TDI = $1999 Down and $209 per month Vehicle Cost for 36 Months 36,000 Miles = $9523 Fuel Cost for 36 Months 36,000 Miles = $3248.78 Added Maint for Passat for 36,000 Miles = $120 (spec oil treat) Total 3 year cost = $12891 So Passat wins that comparison to the tune of about $1000 per year. However it is important to note that everyone drives differently. Some Volt owners will come on here and say WAIT A MINUTE - I don't buy gas at all because all of my 1000 miles per month is communting less than 40 miles a day so take away 1500 dollars from our cost. Other Passat owners may come in and say I actually only get 33 MPG because I do a lot of city driving and that adds an additional $1000 to my fuel costs. Either way I think both cars are great options. Long term I think the EV technology will improve. My personal caveat; Firing OPEC and stopping our dependence on their oil is key. If everyone bought a Passat TDI today we would still be dependent on OPEC, domestic and Canadian production wouldn't be able to support us 100%. But if everyone bought a Volt we could cut our gasoline usage in half and fire them. Just my two cents.
I have been driving the VW TDI since 1997. First A 1997 Passat, then a 2002 Jetta wagon, and presently a 2004 Jetta wagon. During those 16 years My VW TDI's average 42 to 43 mpg city and 49 to 50 mpg on the highway. With my Passat I drove 900 miles between fill ups and with the Jetta I drive 550 miles between fill ups and usually add 12 to 13 gallons of diesel fuel. The worst mileage I ever got was in winter in Wisconsin using winterized fuel and then the average for a tank was 38 mpg. The only maintenance I perform is change the oil and filter about twice a year and replace tires as they wear out. An unknown with the Volt is the long term maintenance cost. What is the cost of the battery pack? On some electrics the battery pack can cost $12,000. yes I am biased toward the VW TDI clean diesel, the same that recently got 84 mpg and drove 1600 miles on one tank for diesel fuel during a test drive from Texas to Virginia.
I have been driving the VW TDI since 1997. First A 1997 Passat, then a 2002 Jetta wagon, and presently a 2004 Jetta wagon. During those 16 years My VW TDI's average 42 to 43 mpg city and 49 to 50 mpg on the highway. With my Passat I drove 900 miles between fill ups and with the Jetta I drive 550 miles between fill ups and usually add 12 to 13 gallons of diesel fuel. The worst mileage I ever got was in winter in Wisconsin using winterized fuel and then the average for a tank was 38 mpg. The only maintenance I perform is change the oil and filter about twice a year and replace tires as they wear out. An unknown with the Volt is the long term maintenance cost. What is the cost of the battery pack? On some electrics the battery pack can cost $12,000. yes I am biased toward the VW TDI clean diesel, the same that recently got 84 mpg and drove 1600 miles on one tank for diesel fuel during a test drive from Texas to Virginia.
If you test drive a volt and you have common sense, you would have a volt. I own one. And i had own a vw tdi . I now use no gas with volt. I own a prius v that gives me week in week out. Between 55mpg to 57mpg around town, 48.5 mpg at 65 mph interstate ,46 mpg at 70mph. both the volt and prius v hands down. Are better cars then the vw tdi i had.
I have been driving the VW TDI since 1997. First A 1997 Passat, then a 2002 Jetta wagon, and presently a 2004 Jetta wagon. During those 16 years My VW TDI's average 42 to 43 mpg city and 49 to 50 mpg on the highway. With my Passat I drove 900 miles between fill ups and with the Jetta I drive 550 miles between fill ups and usually add 12 to 13 gallons of diesel fuel. The worst mileage I ever got was in winter in Wisconsin using winterized fuel and then the average for a tank was 38 mpg. The only maintenance I perform is change the oil and filter about twice a year and replace tires as they wear out. An unknown with the Volt is the long term maintenance cost. What is the cost of the battery pack? On some electrics the battery pack can cost $12,000. yes I am biased toward the VW TDI clean diesel, the same that recently got 84 mpg and drove 1600 miles on one tank for diesel fuel during a test drive from Texas to Virginia.
The funny thing about your 84 mpg 1600 miles on one tank. Is there is no way they got that mpg, on a interstate at 70 miles per hour. That story does not tell you one thing on how they got that mpg in a vw passat on a 1600 mile trip.
Yeah, it's weird how people compare the Volt to other fuel efficient cars. None of them are in the same league as the Volt. Apples and oranges. If you wouldn't be driving the Volt primarily on its electric power...then why are you buying it? So...maybe for the next article...you could compare the Volt and a Vespa Scooter.....OOOH the VESPA uses less gas!!! Shocker!
I tend to agree. I have driven both and I absolutely love the Volt experience. I owned a Jetta for many years as well (2006 - 2010) and it was a solid, wonderful car. Some intangibles to consider: Both cars are built in America Volt comes with three years of OnStar included. Living in the southwest it's already hitting over 100 degrees and I can use an app on my smart phone to turn on the air conditioner remotely from anywhere via OnStar. You don't know how many of my coworkers think this feature alone is worth an additional $1000 per year. Volt can be fueled for free in many communities with public charging stations. Some people don't even plug in at home - let's see how long that goes on. Some states have additional incentives. Do this comparison in Colorado and their additonal $6000 in savings and the pendulum on the pocket book comparison clearly sways to the Volt there. Where I live I am eligible for Free Parking wherever I go. No more feeding meters. Some EV Owners get free access to Toll Roads and HOV Lanes. Being higher priced the Volt will tend to have higher registration fees and insurance costs. But EV owners are being looked at by insurance actuaries as more responsible drivers. As with any car you have to decide if the value proposition is there for you. Aesthetics, ego, looks, etc... all play into who buys what.
I believe that the writer was a tad biast in his opinion. At 220 mpg the volt is clearly a better deal plus its a chevy any problems you can drive to detriot.
I believe that you are a tad "biast" in your opinion since if your car breaks down, you cannot drive it to "detroit" either even though "its" a "chevy". The Passat is built in South Carolina, by the way.
South, yes, Carolina, no. Passat is made in Chattanooga TN.
South Carolina. Check your source.
I clearly said any problems but of course I was being fescicous about driving to detriot I was merely menvetioning the point of if the writer had gotten a volt to borrow a volt for a week instead of colaborating with another consumer you would be more persausive. The money still goes back to Germany for there latest blitzcrege device. There are no unions in South Carolina.
Then tell GM to give me one. I've been trying for a year. I've spoken with top-level executives and more. Not my problem they aren't willing to let some of us test them. The Germans haven't attacked anyone since WWII. Unlike US. The fact that there are no unions in SC is a good thing. The unions had a LOT to do with the bailouts and financial woes of the Big 3. BTW, most "American" cars aren't really all that American made anymore. My Toyota pickup truck has more American-sourced parts than your Ford or GM does. It's a global world. BTW, it's spelled "blitzkrieg".
You haven't even driven a Volt and you're writing a review? You're an ass!
Never said I hadn't driven one, I said I hadn't had one as a loaner as I have with the Passat TDI. I've been in a Volt on two occasions and between the two had about an hour in the seat. Next week, I will have a loaner from GM and will re-assess this comparison.
Did you mean 12 Cents per kWh?
Yes. Typo fixed. Thanks.
"oil changes are about the same price for both vehicles," Actually, since most Volts are running their engines less than 1/4 of the time, Volts are going two-years between oil changes. The same may go for spark plugs, coils, and wires.
Fixed cost per kWh typo (was $12, should have been $0.12).
Those of you claiming 2 years between oil changes for the Volt are voiding your warranties if you're doing so. The Volt's owner's manual, like every other car on the road, recommends maintenance intervals at specific mileage points and DOES NOT account for whether those miles were driven entirely electric or not. Thus oil changes are recommended every 5,000 miles using synthetic. The manual also REQUIRES that you use premium (91+ octane) gasoline, so if you "chinse out" and buy the cheaper stuff, you are also voiding your vehicle warranty. It also recommends plug/wire changes at 100,000 miles, etc. As listed in this article.
Hi Aaron - Please explain how 2-years between oil changes is voiding my Volt's warranty. Or are you intentionally trying to spread mis-information? My Volt's Owner's manual states this: "This vehicle has a computer system that indicates when to change the engine oil and filter." The "Scheduled Maintenance" section of the owner's manual states: "Every 24 months or when the CHANGE ENGINE OIL SOON message displays, change the engine oil and filter as soon as possible, within the next 1 000 km/600 mi. The engine oil and filter must be changed at least once every 24 months." I just past one year and over 11,000 miles on my Volt, and my engine oil life read "65% Oil Life" remaining.
Then you have a different owner's manual from the one that I have from GM. That's all I can say.
Hi Aaron - I actually looked at a 2011 Volt manual that I downloaded about a year ago. But when I go to the manual located at this location(www dot chevrolet dot com/assets/pdf/owners/manuals/2012/2k12volt.pdf), the wording is still the same : " Every 24 months or when the CHANGE ENGINE OIL SOON message displays, change the engine oil and filter as soon as possible, within the next 1 000 km/ 600 mi. The engine oil and filter must be changed at least once every 24 months." The above quote comes from page 371 / section 11-3 of the linked Volt owner's manual. Can I ask where you are getting your information?
The one I have was sent to me via press kit in mid-2011 shortly before a ride-and-drive event. I see the one online is worded differently. An oil change in the Passat (parts only, as with my other notes) is only about $40 ($38 without sales tax), but it does skew the cost of ownership by about a penny, putting the two cars within 1 cent of each other per mile in my analysis.
Thanks for the update Aaron. I guess you're press kit somehow had pre-production wording in it.
My Volt manual also says: "Every 24 months or when the CHANGE ENGINE OIL SOON message displays, change the engine oil and filter as soon as possible, within the next 1 000 km/600 mi. The engine oil and filter must be changed at least once every 24 months." I have 7500 miles on my Volt and the indicator says I have 85% of my oil life left.
My Volt manual also says: "Every 24 months or when the CHANGE ENGINE OIL SOON message displays, change the engine oil and filter as soon as possible, within the next 1 000 km/600 mi. The engine oil and filter must be changed at least once every 24 months." I have 7500 miles on my Volt and the indicator says I have 85% of my oil life left.
My Volt manual also says: "Every 24 months or when the CHANGE ENGINE OIL SOON message displays, change the engine oil and filter as soon as possible, within the next 1 000 km/600 mi. The engine oil and filter must be changed at least once every 24 months." I have 7500 miles on my Volt and the indicator says I have 85% of my oil life left.

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