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First car out of college - thinking about a TDI

The Right Car for Me:

This member has purchased a 2010 Toyota Corolla.

ttobin

I currently own a beat up 2004 Hyundai Elantra GT and am looking for something fresh. Fortunately I've acquired a good job so I can afford to invest in a car that will last sometime, but I don't want to find myself in a long term loan as I am considering returning to graduate school in the near future. Therefore I think a used car would be ideal.

I have been drawn to TDI (diesel) engines because I've heard of their legendary longevity, running for hundreds of thousands of miles. However, the VW TDIs I'm seeing for sale have a premium price tag over their petroleum counterparts, so I guess I'd ask: Is a TDI worth the extra upfront investment?

I really like the idea of the improved fuel economy. I might want to experiment with home brew bio-diesel. And a fun driving experience is important to me. (I'm looking for a car with good road feel and a manual transmission)

Let me know your thoughts, Thanks!

Preferred Bodystyle(s): Coupe / Sedan / Hatch / Wagon

Car Needs: Daily commuter / Errands about town / Long trips

Need minimum of 5 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 100000
Maximum age: 15 years

Maximum price: US $ 15000

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Response from mkaresh

10:18 pm March 31, 2014

You're outside my area of expertise, but I'm pretty sure the newer VWs can't burn biodiesel, while the older ones (though they'll last if maintained) aren't reliable.

Hopefully someone else can chime in with more knowledge of which biodiesel-capable TDIs might be good bets.

A key part of the calculation: how many miles do you expect to drive per year?

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Response from ttobin

11:01 am April 1, 2014

Thanks for the response. I was under the impression that refined bio-diesel was 100% compatable with most any diesel engine. However, the veggie-oil-diesel requires a conversion kit for most diesel engines.


As for my annual mileage - I've been traveling around 15,000 mi per year between a 30 mi round trip commute, errands, several longer trips, and some extra travel for work.

Looking forward to hearing some more responses. Thank you.

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Response from HHR

3:38 pm April 1, 2014

Have some experience with the VW TDI and I would avoid one if you do any less than 30,000 miles per year. The maintenence and reliability hassles just arn't worth it. Their weakness' are: Electrical system, EGR system, Exhaust system, parts cost and dealer network. Great highway car, but after 212,000 miles with one, I can't recommend it.

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Response from slo_gin007

6:01 pm April 1, 2014

The homebrew bio-diesel is problematic. Even when it was available cheap or free from restaurants, it required multiple filterings and the problem of cold-weather viscosity increase meant it was only good for places like Southern California -- otherwise, in even mildly cold weather it would turn to a gel, couldn't be pulled from the tank by the pump. Plus the fact that you're not paying road taxes on fuel, which is illegal in most states -- people have been busted by various Departments of Motor Vehicles for doing so.

I had a Diesel Mercedes-Benz [non-turbo] as my first car, drove it almost 300K miles, but even using clean commercial diesel fuel the injection pump was worn out at that point. In those days, a replacement cost several thousands; I couldn't afford it so sold the car. Can't say about the price of injection pumps on recent models, but if it's mechanical, it'll be expensive.

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Response from ttobin

9:50 pm April 1, 2014

Thank you for all the information. So far it sounds as if the concensus is against at TDI. Could anyone suggest a good alternative? Or if someone out there could speak for the benefits a diesel engine?

Thanks!

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Response from Serge

12:15 am April 2, 2014

If I can I would suggest Toyota Camry 4 cyl.,yes its boring car but all other things just wonderful:reliable,can use 1 tank of fuel for 1000km( my own experience), a lot of them on the market and good chance to buy mildly use one for very reasonable price.

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Response from cjones314

10:00 am April 6, 2014

First, there a conflict here. A TDI gets 45+ mpg. They're sporty of the line, but once you get through a few gears (and this happens quickly due to the narrow powerband), there's much less go-go-juice. Plus, as several other have already said, VW's TDIs aren't the paradigm of reliability.

I am 22 and about to be out of college. About 8 months ago, I got a 2009 Honda Civic Si. Right now, they're sitting right around the price point that you specified. Fuel economy will be between 22 and 28 mpg, depending on stuff like the fluids you use, the air temperature, and how often your right foot "forgets" to release the skinny pedal. Not as high MPG's as a regular Civic - for a good reason. Research the Si trim; for the 8th generation ('06 - '11), Honda drops a rendition of their legendary K20 under the hood. Suspension is tighter by 40% over a regular Civic, but if you keep stock suspension components and don't put super-sporty tires on it, it won't be jarring. These only come with a 6-Speed manual, and Honda is known for slick, precise stick shifts. If you keep the oil changed, it'll sail right past 200,000 miles, so long as you don't add tons of aftermarket stuff (but that'd trash any car).

Noting your location, it's VERY capable in the snow, at least based on the recent Snow-Jam in Atlanta (where apparently no one knows how to drive). I had Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3's on at the time. Between the front wheel drive, the limited slip differential, the manual transmission, the tires, and the VSA/Traction Control system. I almost had to work to get the thing to break loose on the snow. It's no Audi Allroad, but it's very impressive for FWD. I really like the Si trim; it is essentially a track-capable car. If you don't need the extra horsepower or handling, a 5-Speed Civic (1.8L) would be great, too. The 5-Speed will throw another 10 mpg's your way, but it won't have the limited slip diff. (helpful in snow), and it won't have the same traction control system capabilities. Hondas will last well into the 500,000 mile range, but only if you change the oil as needed (research/Google; figure out prescribed drain intervals based on oil used and filter installed). Plus, if a system does crap out, you can get a replacement part for a Honda for much less money than a VW, expecially the TDI's. Fuel economy isn't the only way you can save money on operation costs for cars.

As a side note, Bio-diesel is very corrosive - much like Ethanol in gasoline.

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Honda Civic

Response from cjones314

10:15 am April 6, 2014

I just realized I mentioned a conflict in my reply but didn't mention what it is (I also forgot a contraction - it should have been "there's" instead of "there"). The conflict is fuel economy and sporty/handling/performance. They are related. As one goes up, the other goes down. My brother has a Jetta TDI, and it handles ok, but doesn't give as much feedback from the road as the Si. Generally, the faster a car is, the less fuel eceonomy it gets as well. There are exceptions, but the list isn't very long and entries often have 6-figure MSRP's. The Si is faster than the TDI once you pass 30mph (0-30, they're the same). But, acceleration isn't why you buy a Civic Si. Handling is. When properly maintained(alignment, balance, tire pressure, etc.), a Civic Si will provide an near-unbelieveable amount of driver feedback. You'll feel when it starts to come loose. You'll be able to feel the weight transfer as you take that back-road corner at a slightly-less-then-legal speed. In terms of balance, precision, and driver feedback/control, Honda has it down to a science. It won't beat a V8 off the line, but that wasn't what it was made for. I'd encourage you find an eighth gen Si to test drive because I don't think the ninth generation Si's are old enough to be in the price point you specified yet. Plus, IMAO, the eigth gens are better, raw, race-engineered, precision machines. The ninth gens feel like Honda got soft with their direction for the Si.

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Response from ttobin

4:44 pm April 6, 2014

Thanks cjones314, I'll definitely look into the Civic Si. After hearing the warnings on reliablity from members on this thread and digging a little deeper with my own research I think I'm starting to steer away from the TDI route.

To clarify my fuel economy wishes - I'd like a sporty car that can achieve at least mid-upper 20's mpg that also has good road feel and a peppy power train. I'd like to avoid a full blown sports car with a big V8 or the like. So I believe the suggestion of the Civic Si is right up my alley. I've also seen some good press for the Mazda 3 (and the Mazda Speed 3) - any opinions of this make/model?


Thanks!

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Response from ttobin

5:21 pm April 6, 2014

Thanks cjones314, I'll definitely look into the Civic Si. After hearing the warnings on reliablity from members on this thread and digging a little deeper with my own research I think I'm starting to steer away from the TDI route.

To clarify my fuel economy wishes - I'd like a sporty car that can achieve at least mid-upper 20's mpg that also has good road feel and a peppy power train. I'd like to avoid a full blown sports car with a big V8 or the like. So I believe the suggestion of the Civic Si is right up my alley. I've also seen some good press for the Mazda 3 (and the Mazda Speed 3) - any opinions of this make/model?


Thanks!

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Response from Member2612

2:28 pm April 21, 2014

A Mazda is a great choice based on your criteria - I think you may be able to find some 2011 models within your budge (Mazda 3) or if you prefer midsized, a 2009-2011 Mazda 6. A good friend of mine through college owned a 2009 Mazda 6 (2.5L I4), and I've driven it a quite a few times. Sporty, direct, and a solid piece of machine. Mid-high 20s combined depending on your right foot. He never had any trouble with it except a brake light going out when it was under 3 month old. The paint is superb and durable, and the interior feels more like a premium car. It won't win at the track, but you can toss it into corners with absolute confidence. A couple of my friends also owns Mazda 3's currently, and they have nothing but great stuff to say about the car. It's roomy, sporty, and well put together.

A Subaru Impreza may also be a good choice. You sacrifice a bit on the fuel economy (probably will be lucky to get mid-20s due to the AWD system), but it does a lot better on snow. Sportiness is in its nature, and Subarus tend to be damn near unkillable.

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Mazda Mazda3
Mazda Mazda6
Subaru Impreza / Outback Sport

Response from ttobin

8:14 pm April 22, 2014

I was able to test drive a Mazda 3 and really enjoyed the driving experience. However, I wasn't able to find one priced and spec'ed to meet my needs.

As a result I've desided to compromise a little on sporty handling and a peppy engine in return for reliablility and economy in the form of a 2010 Toyota Corolla S.


Thanks everyone for your insights.

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Toyota Corolla

Response from Member6055

10:10 am April 29, 2014

The TDI is a great engine, though I have not owned one long term, I have driven pretty much all TDI versions of VW models. On latter model years, their mileage and performance are phenomenal.

You are right, unfortunately, resale values are high, if not too high to justify the premium. Overall I think they are best value when bought new and driving 20k+ miles/year.

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