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Jetta TDI, Civic Hybrid, or Prius?

prospectusprospectus Posts: 9
edited March 2014 in Honda
I will be in the market for a new (2005) vehicle this summer. The Jetta TDI, Civic Hybrid, and Prius are all fairly similar in price and offer great gas mileage figures. Aside from fewer fill-ups at the station, I like conserving energy where I can.

My question is this: What things should I consider in choosing between these three cars? I have already done a reasonable amount of research to arrive at these models, and I see strengths and weaknesses in each. Items for concern include: (1) easy and cost of maintenence (2) Warrenty (3) Quality of craftsmanship

I appreciate any comments, thanks.


  • mistermemisterme Posts: 407
    Thank you prospectus and welcome to the forums.

    Jetta TDI:
    Check diesel avaliability on your daily route or commute. In my case zero out of 13 stations sell diesel.
    MPG is around 40. VW products have a history of poor quality.
    Drivetrain std. warranty 5yr/60K miles
    "Spotty reliability"
    "solid build quality" - .html

    Honda Civic Hybrid:
    Average MPG is 46 over about 70 cars, I'm averaging almost 60MPG this winter. (Calculated @ the pump)
    "The most refined, solidly built economy car on the market" - ?tid=edmunds.n.researchlanding.keyvdps..2.Honda*
    Std. warranty is 3yr/36K on the drivetrain (Hybrid included) and 7yr/70K battery. I have the ext warranty of 7yr/70K and 10yr/150K.
    After 13 months & 33K miles maintenance costs parallel its conventional siblings. Hondas are known for reliability.

    48 MPG average over 100 cars.
    I couldn't find any 2005 Prius reviews here at Edmunds but here are some user commments: - nsumer.html?tid=edmunds.n.prices.vdpheader.ratingsbox.1.Toyota*
    Looks like almost all Prius owners love their cars.
    I belive Toyota's warranty and general reliability is about the same as Honda.
    I also don't think Prius maintenance is any more expensive than a regular conventional car.
  • Diesel availability is fine here (lot of truck drivers).
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    If you do a lot of city driving the HCH or Prius are reasonably high mileage cars. You do have to drive like you want to save gas. Those that drive them like ordinary people drive are not getting the great mileage. The Jetta TDI will get you an honest 45 mpg combined. If you do more highway 75-80 mph you will still get in the 48 mpg range. The TDI likes the open road. As far as reliability I would search out all three brands on Edmund's. I think you will find that there is a lot of VW bashing that goes on by those that love Japanese cars. I don't see any reliability issues with the Jetta TDI that would keep me from buying one tomorrow if they were available in CA. The Insurance Institute rates the VW better than Honda or Toyota for safety. Better crash tests, better brakes, and far superior handling. Maybe the biggest plus is when gas is $3 a gallon biodiesel becomes a bargain as the price will not be affected by what happens in the Oilfields. of the world.

    Here is a post by someone that owns a Jetta TDI & Honda Civic. He would be the Man to ask..

    ruking1, "Volkswagen Owners: TDI Models" #1503, 21 Feb 2005 1:32 pm
  • Anyone else? I expected more opinionated people than this :)
  • Hi-

    Just my 2 cents as a VW salesman. Consider how long you plan to keep the car. If you're the type to drive them into the ground, I've seen plenty of TDI's around with 250-300K on them. My concerns with the Hybrid technology are that eventually the battery packs need replacement. When is a big question mark, but it will cost thousands. Regardless of any poor quality claims others make, the TDI is a bullet proof and proven engine.
  • VW has a new 2005 that is just now avaialble; it was introduced at the LA autoshow. It is completely different from the 2005 Jetta models introduced 2-3 months ago. What that means is that you can find Jetta TDIs at a very good price now around $3000 off MSRP. That means you pay $18,000 for a GLS Jetta with leather. VW has the best road feel and becuase of the low rpm ( 1800) diesel torque the TDI is very peppy from a stop and around town . It will still cruise 75+ on the highway. The reliability issues are somewhat overblown and most have been resolved; it is now rate average or above average.

    With a manual shift VW Jetta TDI you can still drive sporty like a man and get mileage in the 40s. You can't do that with the other two. The jury is still out on how long the batteries in hybrids will last and how much they will cost to replace. There just is not enough statisitcal ddata to make a valid scietific prediction, even though generation 1 Prius was available in 1997.

    I would have gotten the TDI. It was on my short list. However, after looking all all my needs and wants I decided that manual shift, reliaiblity and power were my priority in that order. I just purchased a 2005 Honda Accord Coupe 6-speed with NAV and I am very please. Just finsishing up my first tank at primarily highway driving 70-80 and I am getting 24.6 mpg. It uses regular and gets reasonable mileage with great performance.

    To each his own, good luck with your decision.


  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Just a caution for those who are trumpeting TDIs as the answer:

    If you drive primarily "City streets" or short commutes where the speeds do not get up above 65 MPH for long or never, the Hybrids are a better choice if maximizing MPG performance is one of your goals.

    I own a 2004 Civic Hybrid I bought "used" with 4800 miles on it last July. I drive almost exclusively "city streets" in my commute and most of my personal driving, and I am getting 47.7 so far for the first 9400 miles. All my recent tanks have been higher than 47 MPG, so that number will only go up.

    I also took a long (2,568) mile Interstate trip in December to "cold" Texas and got 52.75 miles per gallon on one highway stretch doing 74 MPH. So the Hybrids can do well on highway cruising compared to the TDIs, but the TDIs are geared and engineered to do better at higher speeds than the Hybrids.

    So base your decision in part on what type of driving you do.
  • For clarification, I will do almost all city driving, and am not concerned with "driving like a man."
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    "In looking at the big picture, when you also factor in the emission reductions, a biodiesel powered vehicle like the VW TDI with it's excellent fuel economy compares favorably as one of the greenest vehicles available to the consumer."

    Good article comparing hybrid to Jetta TDI.
  • scooter71scooter71 Posts: 56
    IMO it makes no sense to purchase a diesel car in the U.S. as there's no tax incentive (opposite of the structure in Europe). This is unlikely to change.

    I'd like to see a cost of ownership comparison between the TDI and either hybrid as I suspect that the TDI costs considerably more to operate, which quite defeats the whole purpose. Doesn't it?
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    IMO it makes no sense to purchase a diesel car in the U.S. as there's no tax incentive (opposite of the structure in Europe).

    There is more to the equation than just fuel cost. There is the known longevity of the diesel and the Jetta TDI specifically. None of the hybrids have much history. Some are starting to go over the 100k mile mark, at which point they lose a significant portion of the resale in actual sales. The Blue Book for hybrids may get re-written to accomodate the actual trade-ins that are occurring. Would you buy a 2004 Prius that has 100k miles and no warranty left for $23,577. That is what Edmund's says it is worth.

    Now, my reason for wanting a VW TDI instead of a hybrid. I would like to start using biodiesel and bypass OPEC altogether. If you live in a mild climate as over 1/3 of the population you can run B100 and get $1 per gallon tax incentive. In the places I have checked that sell biodiesel it is a very affordable option. And it promotes our farmers, keeping our fuel dollars at home.
  • midnightcowboymidnightcowboy Posts: 1,978
    The Hybrids receive a $2,000 tax deduction instead of a tax credit. If you are in the highest category %38 category this equates to you only receiving $760. Most people will receive less.

    I am not sure of your timeframe, but diesel cars are available outside the USA and will be imported in as soon as low sulpher diesel becomes the norm in USA. Diesel is a more efficent fuel than gasoline energy wise. Diesel also produces very high torque at low rpm ( 1000 to 1800). By themselves, diesel engines have longivity, compete mpg-wise with Hybrids currently and have tha capabilty to even be involved in future hybrid applications with regenerative energy recovery. A final point to ponder: Diesel vehicles are popular where gas costs are much higher than USA, but hybrids are not!


  • tototwotototwo Posts: 2
    my '98 tdi has the mysterious -to the dealer- clutch failures, the most uncomfortable drivers seat I have ever sat on. My cousin does car and boat upholstery and he can't fix it either.

    I have always had the maintenance done on it and I'm at 118,000. i love the car. I love the turbo, the handling, the great in any weather from sun to snow. I love the look of it.

    If it wasn't for the clutch i would keep it for another 100,000 miles. However VWA knew about the clutch/flywheel problems and did nothing. Same with the dealer I handed thousands of dollars to. I had to take it to a non vw shop to confirm what i read in forums like this. It could have been fixed under the DT warranty when it first happened if I had known.

    If, as I have been told, the problems are now "fixed" I'd say buy it. I'm in that position now. In a few months the clutch will start slipping and I'll be back needing a replacement. I also have looked at the 3 you mentioned.

    I'm in this for the ecology, for the less money in the hands of those shooting at my friends, for the better than my friends new Honda's gas miliage:) If I buy another Jetta I will take a LOT of abuse but given my choices that's where I'm going. Here in CT they added an extra tax to diesel and they are threatening to raise the gas tax another .25 in the next few years = $$$$

    Good Luck to us all.
  • scooter71scooter71 Posts: 56
    $2.89/gallon for "premium diesel" is the sign I saw on the way home minutes ago. And I'm not aware of any tax deductions for buying an overpriced, poorly built diesel-powered car (VW, Jeep). Oh sure- you can buy some niche biodiesel, but you better not live in Wyoming... or Oklahoma... or Kentucky... or Mississippi... or Louisiana... or Alabama... or...

    This whole diesel thing is a complete joke, guys.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    Oh sure- you can buy some niche biodiesel, but you better not live in Wyoming... or Oklahoma... or Kentucky... or Mississippi... or Louisiana... or Alabama

    I read an article about a lady in Montana that drives a VW Bug TDI using only B100. She keeps the fuel in a 55 gallon drum in her garage. She claims with the additives she never has any gelling issues. The point is HOW serious are you about getting good mileage and preserving the fossil fuel that remains? I think the whole gas/hybrid thing is a joke. They are over-priced niche vehicles with unknown reliability.

    If their is a group that act elitist it is those that own hybrids. How are they eliminating the need for OPEC? How are they supporting our own farmers?
  • Personally, I can't claim to be looking at these vehicles exclusively because I care about OPEC's decisions or saving the environment.

    What I want is a car that gets good gas mileage (which all three do), and is reliable. Despite the fact that Prii do not have a long track record to evaluate, even Edmunds seems to think they are well-built cars.

    I appreciate all the comments, but I'm not really asking for a debate on hybrid vs. diesel -- I already like both or I wouldn't have narrowed it to these three cars. I just want to know if there is anything special to consider before I buy one of them. All three cars seem to have positives and negatives.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    My advice would be get the closest to invoice on whichever you choose. Anything you pay over invoice is not really figured into the value of the car. So it is a total loss. If you keep a car for a long time it is not so important. If you trade or sell in 3-5 years it makes a lot of difference in your total cost to own. I think you can get good deals on the Civic Hybrid and Jetta TDI in many parts of the country. For me I would buy the Jetta for the option of using biodiesel. Many here disagree, that's America..... Good Luck
  • ragueroraguero Posts: 60
    I'm not too knowledgeable about diesels (other than most are noisy and polluting) but we just traded our 04 Civic Hybrid with less the 10k miles on it for a used Prius. This is our 2nd Prius, we also have another 04 which we have had since 12/03. The Civic is a good car but no where near the vehicle the Prius is. The Prius is much more comfortable and does get better mileage in our daily driving. - Rick
  • I'd also like to point out the reliability issue. VW's have had in the past some reliability problems which I made sure to read up on well before I purchased my car. They've gotten much better and the big recent issue was actually with the 1.8T gas engine and its coil packs.

    The only maintenance issue with the TDI's is one of negligence. The engine is built with much greater precision than a gas engine due to the higher pressures. It is important to change the timing belt as specified in the manual.

    People have asked me which I prefer, VW or just the diesel engine. For me, I prefer the features of the diesel. Some people don't and that's fine but I really recommend test driving one both in the city and on the highway.

    Also, it is the easiest car you'll ever drive stick. The drivetrain losses of an automatic transmission (until the 2006 DSG's come out) take away a lot of the benefits of the TDI. It is great to experience the low end torque (at 50mpg) of this car. When I bought mine, I had never driven stick before in my life. I made it 30 miles home through city and highway driving and I only stalled once. Since then I've stalled it maybe 6 times in the year since.
  • I dropped into this forum as I am helping a friend pick out a new/used car. I've used Edmunds for years so thanks. I purchased a used 2003 Jetta GL TDI wagon (5-speed) last March as a replacement for a 91 Camery.

    There is ample information on TDI's available thanks to the internet now days.

    I've enjoyed my friends' TDIs for years and I finally have my own. I looked at both Hybrids and normal gas cars. In the end, I just liked the TDI better but that isn't to say it is for everyone.

    *Noise: Modern diesels are only slightly louder than an equal gas engine. There is a little more clatter at idle but less noise at cruising speed (due to lower RPM)

    *Pollution: Lower and higher depending on factors. Low sulfer diesel helps reduce sulfer, slightly higher NOx production (until 2006 when we get low sulfer diesel everywhere), no monoxides and much lower volatile organics than gas. These are NOT the same as the 1970s diesel engines you see in all the old busses that blow smoke. My car does not smoke

    *Power: I have far more peak torque at a lower RPM than any gas car. This makes take-offs smoother and faster. No it isn't a sports car, but it is sporty and keeps the car responsive in emergency situations

    *Fuel: I can average up to 51 MPG on the highway, about 42-46 city depending on season. Fuel is always available as once you drive a diesel all of a sudden you notice it's sold everywhere. Notice where the commercial vehicles go. Yes the price goes up in the winter but it is still comparatively cheap. I can also run on waste vegetable oil, or biodiesel if I choose. This allows me to run zero-net-carbon to the environment as well as not support OPEC. Diesel has a higher energy density than gasoline.

    *Size: My car is a full wagon. It is a solid car built completely in Germany. I've got cargo room to spare but it is still nimble. The Jetta, Bug and Golf are smaller but fun as well. I am not worried about accidents (very high ratings).

    Diesels aren't for everyone but they are an underdog technology misunderstood and feared by many. I could argue for them for any number of reasons but in reality I just really like my car. As an electrical engineer, I think the hybrids are cool but not yet a mass marketable solution. I can't say I've test drove anything other than the Prius yet but I did not feel safe driving a vehicle so light and lacking in power (especially on the highway). Hybrids do shine if you do exclusively city driving but as I said, I prefer the diesels.

    You'll hopefully see diesels take off next year as European low sulfer fuel becomes mandated country wide. Then we can have all the manufactures bring over their cars: Audi, BMW, Ford, VW, etc. etc. Did you know the VW Lupo TDI gets 80mpg and is about the same size as the prius except without needing any added engine complexity?
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    I really recommend test driving one both in the city and on the highway.

    Welcome to the Forum. There is nothing like personal experience, and I Thank you for yours. I am thinking of waiting for the 6 speed DSG in a Passat or Jetta wagon with TDI. I have gotten lazy with having automatic transmissions. I should buy a manual to get that driving enjoyment back.
  • midnightcowboymidnightcowboy Posts: 1,978

    Excellent review! Thanks for the information.

  • eecsentric: "Did you know the VW Lupo TDI gets 80mpg and is about the same size as the prius except without needing any added engine complexity? "

    I hate to correct your excellent note, eecsentric, but that's really not accurate. The Lupo is not nearly the same size as a Prius. The Lupo sold in Europe is a sub-sub-compact that is designed to carry 2 people in city driving and easily finding a parking spot in the crazed European cities. Reviewing VW's sedan lineup in decreasing size you have the Phaeton, then the Passat, Jetta/Bora, then the Polo and finally the Lupo. The Prius' interior is comparable in size to the Passat which is 3 sizes bigger than the Lupo. It surely gets a nice mileage with it's tiny TDI 3 cilinder 1.2 liter 45HP engine and a total weigh of around 2000 lb but that would never fly here.

    I agree with everything else. ;)
  • Cargomoto, you raise a good point on the size of the vehicle. My comment was possibly misleading so let me try to correct that. However, the Prius is more akin to a VW Bug than the Passat which is a mid/full size sedan. One can check sizes on the Edmunds statistics pages. Having driven the VW Bug and the Prius, my preference on all aforementioned topics is for the Bug. I actually don't really care for the new Bug, but after driving a TDI version of it (and seeing a modified one on a dyno) I'd certainly go for that.

    Now as far as the Passat goes, it is a beautiful car. A fellow TDI enthusiast has actually gone so far (and I've seen the car in person) as to import a European V6 TDI engine/drivetrain with 6 speed transmission and drop it into a Passat Wagon with all wheel drive. The Passat is at least twice the size of the Prius, not to mention heavier, more fully featured and even with only the 2.0L TDI (North American version), still far more powerful than the Prius so I wouldn't rate these in the same category.

    Remember one drives torque. The Prius pulls 82 ft-lbs while the Jetta/Golf/NB pulls 177 ft-lbs and the Passat pulls 247 ft-lbs. The Lupo 1.4L 3cyl TDI weighs in at a lightweight 100ft-lbs (and 61HP, not 45) with a car that is 800lbs lighter than the prius. The reason for bringing this up was to point out that the Lupo (although I've never driven one) would be decently sporty at least on par with a Prius and it could do this without the need for advanced and complex drivetrain components.

    Since that issue is raised it would be my preference (always the geek/engineer) to see a purely electric drivetrain car with at wheel (if not in hub) motors powered by a central battery/diesel engine. Diesel engines are very well suited to running electric generators, plus all the benefits of diesel (multiple fuel, efficiency, safety, emissions) are realized. A team of students at San Diego State University actually built a 2 seater sports car hybrid using an engine from a Lupo. I think it was called the L3 Enigma.

    As I have stated, there are many misconceptions about diesel technology. A lot has changed since the 1970s yet many people are unaware of these changes. Diesels however certainly aren't for everyone and I have no problem admitting that, I just don't want the technology to be misrepresented. The fun factoid for the day is that when a diesel engine is turning at a greater speed than requested by throttle control (i.e. coasting or decelerating.) zero fuel is injected into the cylinders. Decelerating in gear is a good way to boost fuel economy while driving a diesel.
  • "The Lupo is not nearly the same size as a Prius. The Lupo sold in Europe is a sub-sub-compact that is designed to carry 2 people in city driving."


    Sorry, but you got your facts wrong. Yes you're correct, the Lupo is tiny. Lupo = Mini Cooper in approximate size/shape.

    But you got the rest wrong. Lupo carries *5* people (not 2). And it CAN be driven on the highway (not just the city) at 100 miles an hour!

    And if I could, I would sell my Insight and buy the Lupo 80MPG/3L car right now, because it gets higher fuel economy and more torque (better driveability) and is not limited to only 2 people. I'd like to see VW bring the Lupo to America and steal the "highest mpg" title away from Honda.


    Here's a review of Der Lupo:

    Troy :-)
  • blueiedgodblueiedgod Posts: 2,798
    But you got the rest wrong. Lupo carries *5* people (not 2). And it CAN be driven on the highway (not just the city) at 100 miles an hour!

    Not 5 American's, 5 Europeans. With a 850 lbs load capacity 5 average american's will weigh 1000 lbs, while 5 average Europeans will probably be at the limit of maximum payload.
  • joebeattjoebeatt Posts: 50
    Gagrice claims that VW is safer than Toyota or Honda. This is not true, just look at which shows that the Prius got the maximum result in crash testing. Also the German Auto Motor und Sport did a brake test that showed that the Prius has better brakes than the VW.

    Furthermore I'm amazed to see the enthusiasm that seems to be building up for diesels in the USA (I'm from Europe). Diesel is so amazingly dirty, it kills millions of people around the world every year. Read about it on and especially the latest part of the article:

    The small particles which come from diesel exhaust are particularly dangerous because they are coated with a mixture of chemicals such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nitroaromatics, benzene, dioxins, and other toxicants. The particles act like a special delivery system which places these toxic chemicals deep within our bodies. Some asthma medications use the principle of delivering a beneficial drug in a fine inhaled aerosol. Diesel exhaust is like a perversion of a drug delivery system which delivers hazardous toxicants into our lungs. The particles are retained in the body along with the toxic chemical hitchhikers which would otherwise be quickly eliminated.
  • Diesel particulate is a problem of course and no one is going to deny that. However, there are some mitigating factors that should also be looked at (returning to my prior comments on misunderstanding the technology).

    Particulate waste is produced mainly by carbon building up around a "nucleus" particle, mainly sulfer. One can significantly reduce particulate emissions by using a cleaner diesel. For instance, bio-diesel has as far as I know far reduced emissions of all mentioned types of wastes with equivalent or so NOx emissions. I would be interested in seeing the mentioned study done in Europe.

    For what reason? Because europe uses a more refined low sulfer diesel for just this reason. Sulfur by-products clog the particulate filters which are installed on European diesel cars. The particulate filters are important because particulate waste clogs the catalytic converters that process NOx wastes with high efficiency. Take a look at BMW's new 535D. It is a serious power car but it sips fuel and has incredibly reduced emissions meeting the EU4 emission standards (compare to CARB). On American high sulfer diesel however the regenerative emissions system would quickly clog.

    In 2006, by Federal mandate all on-road diesel sold in the US must be the low sulfer type. This means that not only can the European emissions systems be fitted to our diesels, but other car manufactures will bring their diesels here as well. Ford makes the focus in a diesel model but doesn't sell it at home.

    So again, the root of my message is yes, as with any technology there are pros and cons. And yes, particulate emissions from diesels are an issue. But the issue is being taken care of and given the trade offs and comparative advantages, I still find that a turbocharged diesel engine fits my driving needs, while also pleasing my nerd/political/environmental/safety/cost/health.

    As a side note, the website on crash safety rated the VW Golf as well as if not higher than the Prius. It is good to note that in the past two years, Toyota has significantly improved their crash performance of the Prius. Make sure when purchasing the car to order it with the optional head and side airbags. Also check

    If the 535D was available here, I'd buy it tomorrow. Multi-stage turbo straight six, 413ft-lbs torque, 270HP, 0-60 in 6.5seconds, silent exhaust system, ultra-low emissions... and 35mpg. It even comes as a wagon as well as sedan.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    which shows that the Prius got the maximum result in crash testing. Also the German Auto Motor und Sport did a brake test that showed that the Prius has better brakes than the VW.

    Welcome to the forum.

    You are partially correct. The Prius sold in the EU is safer than the Prius sold here. It comes with rear disk brakes and side air bags standard in the EU version. In the US the side airbags are a $650 option and rear disk brakes are not available.

    The article on diesel does not differentiate between cars, trucks and other diesel uses. Also that is an 8 year old study that did not analyze the PM from modern diesel engines. My understanding is that the VW, MB & Honda and other diesel engines now pass the Euro4 emission standards. Pre 2000 diesel engines did not address emissions because their were no rules that applied to them. In fact most of the current rules in CA went into affect in 2004. They still don't put restrictions on big trucks, ships and heavy equipment. As we all know they will be around a long time, as most will last 1 million miles or more. I would be interested in tests on current VW & MB diesel engines with reference to PM. My understanding they are now in line with the PM from gas car engines.
  • joebeattjoebeatt Posts: 50
    I fully agree that high sulfer diesel doesn't help. However, even with low sulfer the particle (PM) problem doesn't go away, it only gets "less bad". See for instance and then page 11. You will see that almost 40,000 people per year die of PM related problems in Austria, France and Switzerland alone and these countries have low sulfer diesel. The whole document makes good reading for diesel fans, by the way.

    Another point is that modern diesels are far WORSE for your health than old ones. The old ones produce larger particles, that you would actually see as black smoke, and that would be more or less stopped in your nose, before they would reach your lungs. With modern diesels the particles are much smaller. You don't see much black smoke, but the particles are so small that they find their way into the deepest tissues of the lungs. The smaller size particles seem to be caused by the higher injection pressures used nowadays.

    Filters might be a step towards a solution of the particle problem. However they are still not proven to be totally effective in the long run. Furthermore they reduce the MPG of the vehicle and a high MPG is one of the reasons to by a diesel in the first place.

    I personally go for the hybrid gasoline car for the moment. If you insist on buying a diesel make sure that it has a particle filter, but I guess it will not be easy to find one the US.
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