CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

What car to buy- Prius V or VW Jetta TDI

I need to buy a new car, a wagon that gets good milage if possible. I drive mostly on interstate, long distances and inbetween around town. I live in an area with lots of hills. I have owned a Scion XB and was pretty happy with that but decided to look at a Prius V and a VW Jetta Sportswagon TDI. One question is is it worth getting a Prius if most of your miles are on interstate and going up and down hills and you will be driving at 70 mph. If not then what is the reliability of the new TDI wagon. and if buying either one of these will really stretch my budget is there anything wrong with sticking to the Scion again?
Thank you for any advice you can give me. I made the mistake of test driving the 2 vehicles and the salesmen won’t stop calling me- very irritating.

First, tell the salesmen not to call you as that might mean you won’t buy their car. Have had to take that approach before. Secondly, I would expand my search. Not not that neither of these excellent models won’t serve you, but highway miles is a good way to get high mileage and better comfort then these two cars can offer at 70 miles per hour.

Even a basic Camry or Accord can be much more comfortable and in 4 cylinder do well into the 30 s. Hybrids don’t show maximum efficiency on the highway and diesels in a compact IMO, are better served with mixed driving too. Hybrids make little sense to buy if you don’t take advantage of their strengths.

Your driving pattern is not going get much benefit from a hybrid. The TDI wagon sounds perfect for you. Check into the maintenance costs of the diesel, they are higher than you’d have with a gas engine.

You might look at some other options. The Honda Fit is very flexible, more roomy than you’d expect and very good mpg, reliablitity, and low maintenance costs. The Masda 3 with Skyactive gets great mpg, fun to drive, and I think comes in a wagon style.

Take a look at a Ford Focus or Hyundai Elantra wagon. 40mpg for either and many thousands less $ than the Prius or TDI. It will take many years to see any cost advantage.

Jetta diesel base price: $25k 30/42 mpg
Prius V base price: $26k 44/40 mpg
skyactiv Mazda 3 hatchback base price: $19k 28/39 mpg
Ford Focus hatchback base price: $18k 26/36 mpg

For $6k LESS than the Jetta or Prius, you can get similar mileage from the Mazda. The Fiesta will get similar mileage as the Mazda 3, but is a little bit smaller, but also about $5k less than the 3

Stop by the local bookstore, pick up a Consumer Reports New Car Buyer’s guide, and test drive all those that look good. You’ll have a much higher probability of being happy with the result than if you go solely by our recommendations. we all have biases.

My personal experience is that the Prius is a better highway car than EPA ratings suggest. I’ve driven two round trips from San Francisco to LA at just over 50 mpg (at more like 65 than 70.) Both trips even had some AC use. I was very pleasantly surprised as other small cars I’d driven on the same trip had given not much over 40 mpg. I really love to sit in the Golf at auto shows but don’t trust their reliability, especially the diesels. Too many bad experiences with the brand.

You need to take each of them on a LONG test drive (your commute route), loaded up as you normally would. I expect they’ll be quite different, up to you which you like more.

But if either is too much $$, absolutely get something cheaper, cars are NOT the place to spend extra money.