2013 Jetta Hybrid bests Jetta TDI Diesel in cost of ownership comparison
The Volkswagen Jetta now comes with 5 different engines and Torque News evaluated each of the options to determine which offers the best fuel economy value. In our analysis we used the Volkswagen configurator to create cars as close in trim as possible, and we selected the DSG automatic transmissions for each of our candidates because that is the only way the Hybrid Jetta comes. Our goal is to determine which Jetta would cost the least to drive over 100,000 miles in a ten year period. We will take into account tax incentives, fuel prices, and trade in value to determine which Jetta provides a driver with the lowest cost to cover that span. Given that the Jetta’s we compared are very similar from trim to trim, we feel that this is a fair analogy for all comparisons of vehicles with gasoline, diesel, and gas hybrid engines.
The Jetta Line
Jetta comes 5 ways. There is the legendary diesel engine, which makes just 140 hp, but has good torque and is a favorite among enthusiasts who think green. There is also a new 2.5 liter 170 hp gasoline engine that is generally considered an acceptable engine for the Jetta. Also new this year is a Jetta Hybrid. This Jetta uses premium gasoline and is able to achieve 45 mpg combined. Unlike most hybrids, this one has acceptable acceleration due to its 170 hp coming from the turbocharged engine. Yes it is a turbo-hybrid. There is also a 2.0 liter engine that has only 115 horsepower and cannot be equipped equal to the three we will compare, so it gets thrown out of this comparison. Finally, there is a sporty 2.0 Turbo gas engine that a quick look proves will not be competitive in the fuel economy value compared to the gas engine, so it too is out. That leaves three Jetta vehicles with similar performance and similar features. In order to make this a fair fight we carefully reviewed the VW Jetta line up and came up with the three we could configure most closely. Here is a breakdown of the cars:
Jetta Hybrid SE:
45 mpg combined, 2.22 gallons per 100 miles, $26,990 MSRP
Jetta TDI Diesel:
34 mpg combined, 2.94 gallons per 100 miles, $24,155 MSRP
Jetta 2.5L SE w/ convenience package:
26 mpg combined, 3.85 gallons per 100 miles, $ 21,430 MSRP
Crunching the Jetta Numbers
In order to find out which car has the best value before tax incentives, we will add up the cost of the car and the cost of 100,000 miles of fuel. Then we will subtract the trade in. Since there is no exact trade in value for these cars ten years from now, we will use the trade in value of a 2003 GLS 4-cylinder car for the 2.5L ($ 2,950) and we will use the value of the 2003 Jetta TDI for both the diesel and hybrid Jettas in our comparison ($ 5,083). Higher content and more desirable drivetrains have higher future values. Here is the analysis after we ran the algorithm for each. Note that the Vehicle cost is the MSRP per VW less the trade in:
Jetta Hybrid SE: Vehicle $ 21,907 Fuel $ 8,613 Total 10 Yr cost = $ 30,520
Jetta TDI: Vehicle $19,072 Fuel $ 11,936 Total 10 Yr cost = $ 31,008
Jetta 2.5L SE Conv.: Vehicle $ 18,480 Fuel $ 13,321 Total 10 Yr cost = $ 31,801
The Wrap Up
As we can see, the Jetta Hybrid is the winner when drivetrain and fuel costs are considered. Thankfully, we don’t need to do a detailed analysis of the tax incentives because the hybrid would only win by more of a margin. If you can get a tax break paid for by your neighbor’s taxes in your state for buying this car, you will only do better. The Jetta TDI diesel is a close second, and it too might have some tax breaks, but they won’t exceed the Hybrid’s. Finally, the gasoline Jetta comes in last despite the lowest initial cost and despite paying much less for fuel per gallon.
Gas Tax Impact
Before you start with the comments like “The story would be different if the US wouldn’t penalize diesel with higher taxes,” look closely at the comparison. This comparison was done in Massachusetts. The fuel prices were from a local station that sells a lot of diesel and has wide lanes for work trucks and a separate island for 18 wheelers. This price was great for diesel in Mass. today. The gas tax in our state is about average for the US at 41.9 cents per gallon (cgp) combined federal and state. The combined tax on diesel here is 47.9 cpg. Just for grins and giggles, we compared the hybrid and the diesel using $ 3.99 per gallon for the diesel. The Jetta diesel still loses to the hybrid, but the difference between them is now only $280. Again this is imaginary because the tax on diesel is never going down.
Our man, Aaron Turpen recently compared the 2012 Chevy Volt extended range electric vehicle to the 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI diesel and the Passat came out the cost of ownership winner. Readers went crazy challenging the results. We hope this story stirs the same passions. Our conclusion is that if one is looking to buy the most fuel economical drivetrain in a given model, it will likely be the hybrid model. If diesel is offered, like in the Jetta, the Mazda 6 sedan, and a growing number of other vehicles, it is worth doing the math to see how your choice of vehicle will rank given your state’s particular tax incentives. You may also prefer one engine’s character more than another so a long test drive is a good idea before falling in love with the on-line brochure.