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Top Picks and Nits for Commuter Cars?

AAA releases its version of practical cars for daily driving.

by on Mar.23, 2010

If you can get past Toyota's recall and safety troubles, Prius remains a great commuter car.

AAA released its top vehicle picks for commuters today based on practicality, safety, comfort, fuel efficiency and affordability criteria.

The non-profit motoring organization, with 51 million members, says the average motorist spends roughly 41 minutes a day traveling about 22.5 miles round trip to/from work in personal vehicles.

Its top picks for commuting – with my comments, and please add yours – are:

  • Honda Insight: This car is among the ultimate in gasoline fuel economy while being reasonably comfortable for the driver and front-seat passenger. It is also less costly and more fun to drive than some of its hybrid competitors.

(Well, maybe since the promised low-price version of the Toyota Prius has never appeared. However, my trips to Honda dealerships revealed that most of the cars offered are higher trim levels, so the alleged price advantage is confined to press releases.)

  • Ford Fusion: Four-cylinder versions offer an appealing combination of power, riding comfort and handling competence. The Hybrid offers even more economy, but the fuel savings come with a major bump in the purchase price.

(No kidding the hybrid is more expensive. Be sure to drive the four-cylinder before you buy it. its performance is, well, leisurely.)

  • Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Everything that you ever hated about diesels has been exorcised in this latest version of the Volkswagen diesel engine. It is quiet, with just a trace of diesel clatter at idle; peppy, especially when underway; and every bit as economical as the most miserly hybrids. It also is great fun to drive. Comfortable front seats are a plus.


(I do not think the Jetta is every bit as “economical” as most hybrids. Our testing shows Prius with a roughly 10 mpg advantage in urban, suburban and highway conditions. See also Road&Track, March 2010 for an even more rigorous testing data. And fueling a diesel, especially at truck stops, is a less than fun experience.)   (more…)

Motor Week Fetes Jetta Clean Diesel

Best of all worlds, TV show declares

by on Feb.11, 2009

Motor Week Host John Davis with Best-of-the-Year VW Jetta TDI

Motor Week Host John Davis with Best-of-the-Year VW Jetta TDI

The JETTA TDI clean diesel was named “Best of the Year” by Motor Week in its 2009 Drivers’ Choice Award competition.

John Davis, Motor Week host, said the Jetta TDI really had no peer this year. “It is the best of all worlds rolled into one vehicle. It’s clean, powerful, fun to drive, roomy and comfortable and it also happens to be very affordable. If history is any judge on past Volkswagen diesels, you can add extremely reliable and durable to the list.”

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the Jetta TDI gets an economical 29 miles per gallon in its City cycle and 40 miles per gallon on the Highway. Volkswagen went a step further to show the true fuel economy of the Jetta TDI. Third party testing found the Jetta performed 24 percent better in real world conditions – in sharp contrast to most vehicles, which typical deliver lower mileage than the EPA forecast — achieving 38 miles per gallon in the city and 44 mpg on the highway.

The other ‘Driver Choice’ awards included Best Small Car, Honda Fit; Best Family Sedan, Mazda6; Best Minivan, Dodge Grand Caravan/Chrysler Town & Country; Best Sport Sedan, Cadillac CTS; Best Luxury Sedan, Hyundai Genesis; Best Convertible, BMW1- Series; Best Small Utility, Subaru Forester; Best Large Utility, Honda Pilot; Best Pickup Truck, Dodge Ram; Best Sport Coupe, Audi A5/S5; Best Performance Car, Nissan GT-R, Best Eco-Friendly, Volkswagen GTI; Best Dream Machine, Chevrolet ZR1.