Fuel efficient all wheel drives?

I live in Rochester NY and I’m looking for a car that doesn’t exist in this country apparently. Here’s what I want: All wheel drive, high fuel economy, good cargo room and access (hatchback or wagon). I’d also prefer a manual transmission, but… that adds to the impossibility.

It would seem that this combination would be highly sought after in this country…

To get decent fuel economy it would seem diesel or hybrid is the drive-train choice. Here are the “almosts”
Audi A3 - you can get TDI OR Quattro but not both in the same car
BMW 355d - only available as a sedan (how stupid is that when they make a great 3 series x wagon)
BMW X3 diesel - not available in US
Jeep Liberty CRD - discontinued (best engine ever in that body)
SAAB 9-3x (ice) Diesel - only available in Europe
Subaru - Outback Diesel - not available in US
Toyota - Why didn’t Toyota make the Prius V AWD?? or make a RAV4 Hybrid??
Volvo - XC60 Diesel - not available in US
Volkswagen - A Quattro option on the Jetta TDI wagon would be a great seller - the drive train already exists…


Thanks for your suggestions.


You CAN’T…You use to be able to bring grey-market vehicles into the US from Europe fairly easily…Now to bring one in it has to meet all US EPA and safety standards…which will run in the THOUSANDS…Not even sure if you can even do that anymore.

I’ve been driving mid-size SUV’s for over 20 years now…And I’d LOVE to see the Toyota or Nissan European version sold in the US…Both have a 4-cylinder Turbo Diesel that has the same HP as my V6…but with MORE torque and gets about 40% better gas mileage…Oh well…I can only buy what’s available.

The main reason why those vehicles aren’t sold here…is MARKET DEMAND. They don’t see a market for those vehicles here in the US. Europe, South America and US drivers all have different wants and needs.

“Here’s what I want: All wheel drive, high fuel economy, good cargo room and access (hatchback or wagon). I’d also prefer a manual transmission, but… that adds to the impossibility.”

There are several AWD’s that are efficient, meaning you give up about 2 mpg. You can’t get much more efficient than that. AWD adds weight, and more gears and bearings which all add more friction for the motor to overcome. Audi and Subaru systems are efficient.

“High fuel economy” - what is high to you? What mpg are you looking for? You can get higher mpg with diesel but in the US you are paying a lot more per gallon compared to 87 octane regular. What kind of mpg out of a gas motor that uses regular would be acceptable. Many of the models you listed require premium gas. Perhaps you need to look at overall fuel costs per mile.

What is good cargo room? Bigger means heavier with boxy bodies and less aerodynamic efficiency. Could you get by with a Honda Fit? Lots of cargo space in a small, light, aerodynamic shape.

You can get a manual trans in a few small cars, like a Fit. But as the car gets bigger and goes up in luxury (Volvo, BMW, Audi) they import few manual transmissions because Americans don’t want a luxury car with a stick. Luxury and stick are opposites in the mind of American buyers. Sticks are for trucks, sport cars, and cheap economy cars in the US.

Can’t you special order a new Subaru or Audi Wagon with a manual transmission? I don’t think you are going to find any sitting on a new car lot, or used lot either, but you should be able to order one and wait for delivery.

You can’t get everything you want, so something in your criteria is going to have to give. Prioritize your criteria and keep looking.

As Mike stated it is really not practical to bring these models into the US, after you factor in a European price that is far higher than US pricing to begin with and when you include the thousands of $$ that it would cost you to test and certify that a vehicle is in compliance with all EPA and NHTSA regulations.

But–even though none of the models listed by the OP are available for sale in the US, there is an option that he/she may not be aware of. The new-design Outback, when equipped with the 4-cylinder engine and CVT is rated at 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway. This is actually better than the rating for the same model when equipped with a manual trans (19 city/27 highway)!

Many Outback owners report highway mileage of 32-33 mpg. While this is still not the type of mileage that a diesel would deliver, it is still fairly remarkable for a vehicle of this size with this much interior room.

Can you get any of these in Canada, eh? Take a trip up to Niagara Falls this weekend if you can.

You do realize that your criteria are mutually exclusive–high cargo capacity and awd reduce fuel efficiency.

Personally, I did fine in Oswego with a 5-speed Civic with 4 winter tires. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that awd is a necessity because you live in Rochester.

I’m driving a SAAB 9-5 Aero Wagon right now with a 5sp which gets 24 city and 32 hwy which I find very respectable. Would love something with similar cargo room and mpg’s but in AWD. I’d by the Audi A3 in a second (as small as I’d like to go) if I could get TDI, Quattro, and Manual all in one car, but each of those options cancels out the other two. Best match I can find right now is either give up fuel economy at go with Jeep Patriot (5sp) or give up economy and stick and go with GMC Terrain (Auto). Other option seems to be to give up AWD and go with Prius (anybody have problems driving these in the snow?) or Jetta TDI Wagon which I know is pretty decent in the snow for FWD with the right tires.

How many miles do you drive per year?

What about a Golf TDI? Basically an A3 underneath, and I think it comes with a stick.

There’s a Toyota Matrix with AWD, but I don’t know if it came with a stick.

I drive an average of 20,000 mi/year and about 70% of that is highway driving.

Good idea on the Golf TDI! Beginning to think that AWD is the thing I should give up on, and invest in good snow tires…LOL

With your fwd experience, I’d stick with it and add a good set of winter tires. The Jetta TDI wagon or the Prius (how about the Prius V?) would then be good options.

I just looked on the VW website–Golf TDI comes with a 6-speed stick. Awesomeness! Jetta TDI has a 5-speed stick.

YES Golf TDI with 6sp does sound awesome. Going to check one out now! THX

You can get higher mpg with diesel but in the US you are paying a lot more per gallon compared to 87 octane regular.

No it’s not…I’m looking out my window right now at a gas station here in MA…Diesel is selling at $.05 BELOW high-test…It’s only $.15 higher then 87 octane.

You’re lucky, Mike. In Dallas it’s $0.50 more than RUG.

Wonder why the big difference in price???

We’ve had a Ford Escape AWD hybrid since 2006 and are pleased enough we plan to keep it for the foreseeable future.
Although not as sporty as some vehicles on your “wish list” it may be a great compromise, since it probably has better mileage and capacity than most, and is likely to be more dependable and less expensive to maintain and repair than many cars on your “wish list,” especially the European ones (we have needed only one non-routine repair, for a broken rear-window wiper).
One precaution, though – our original tires were early model “eco-tires” and they were perhaps the worst ones we can remember. When we upgraded to Goodyear Triple Tread, the traction/braking/handling improved greatly, so I’d investigate and research the tires before buying any vehicle. Sadly, it has no stick shift.
If you are buying one, though, act quickly – Ford has announced a somewhat smaller vehicle will replace the Escape Hybrid, and it may be a while before they equip that vehicle with AWD. Another option might be a standard Subaru, although when we checked it out it, the car gave lower fuel mileage, had less space, and was even less sporty than the Escape, and we just preferred the way the Escape drove.
BTW we knew three people in the '80’s who brought “grey market” cars over from Europe and they had major problems getting parts and service. Europe just has a better selection than we do, but their cars are usually far more expensive to operate (except for the fuel cost).
Hope that helps.

While the vehicles are not my cup of tea, there’s the Dodge Caliber. My oldest son bought an '07 new and it’s been rock solid with not a squeak, rattle, or hiccup along the way. (It’s the 2.4 with CVT and AWD and gets about 25 to 30 MPG on the open road depending on how it’s driven.)

It was recently announced that the Caliber has hit the end of the production run and will be discontinued. This could possibly lead to some deal making with dealers who want to close them out.

As to diesel, it’s been 40 to 60 cents higher per gallon than gasoline for ages around here. My hazy memory says it’s been 10 years or so since diesel was cheaper than gasoline and as of the other day regular unleaded was 3.27 per gallon here while diesel was 3.69 per.

You should look at the Suzuki Aerio, a small AWD hatchback that gets great gas mileage, has good cargo space with the seats down and costs very little to buy and maintain compared to the ones you listed.

The Suzuki has a 3 way drive mode, automatic AWD, 2 WD and manual 4 wheel setting. It fills the void once occupied by the small imported 4 bangers from Mada, Toyota and others.

If I lived on a budget in snow country, this would be my daily driver.

Mazda Cx-5 is coming into production for next year I believe, with a diesel option the following year