Great fuel efficiency is by no means a playground exclusive for compact cars and hybrids. A glance at Fueleconomy.gov reveals the many diesel cars that are featuring 40 mpg on the highway or better. In the top-rated diesel models, most of which are 2014 or 2015 models, combined mileage is often well above 30 mpg.
Since U.S. automakers have not released many diesel models in recent years, this territory is dominated by German automakers in general and the brands under the Volkswagen banner in particular. Here are the eight most efficient diesel sedans for model years 2014 and 2015.
All efficiency ratings are quoted from Fueleconomy.gov, a website administrated by the U.S. Department of Energy. Only models that have received a rating by the EPA were included on the list. In the case where two different model trims (or model years) of the same make and model (e.g. manual and automatic transmissions) landed on the list, the option with the best fuel economy was used.
8. 2014 Volkswagen Beetle TDI
While several of Volkswagen’s diesel models are coming out in new 2015 models, the 2014 VW Beetle is one of the top options that is already on the market. A 2014 Beetle is quoted at 32 mpg combined in both manual and automatic transmission models. The most efficient highway mileage is available in the manual model with 41 mpg (28 city), while automatic transmission models rated at 39 mpg highway and 29 mpg city.
7. 2014 Chevy Cruze
The Chevy Cruze turbo diesel model is the only car by a U.S. brand making the list. Cruze diesel models get 33 mpg combined at their best, though the discrepancy between highway (46 mpg) and city (27 mpg) is considerable. Drivers who have long, regular highway commutes would see the most benefit out of this diesel ride from GM’s bowtie brand.
6. 2014 Mercedes Benz E250 BlueTEC
Before the arrival of the Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive, there wasn’t much in the way of high-efficiency models coming from the German luxury giant, excepting this gorgeous E-Class sedan. The Mercedes E250 BLueTEC is a pricey proposition at a base $51,400, but there is impressive efficiency to tap at 33 mpg combined. That works out to 28 mpg for city driving and 42 mpg on the highway.
5. 2014 VW Passat TDI Clean Diesel
Volkswagen’s advances in the global auto market have a lot to do with the efficiency of cars like the 2014 Passat, which equaled the 2015 model in efficiency at 35 mpg combined. Consumers get the best mileage out of the manual model, which gets 31 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway. Though the 2015 model hit 44 mpg highway, it was set back a peg with 30 mpg city, which kept it at 35 mpg overall. The 2015 Passat model costs $2,700 more than the gas model and is expected to save drivers $3,250 in fuel costs over the average car in five years.
4. 2015 Audi A3 TDI
Audi has the 2014 World Car of the Year in the A3. Its TDI model (available late summer 2014) offers exceptional efficiency at 36 mpg combined. That figure is the average of 31 mpg in the city and 43 mpg in highway driving. The Audi A3 diesel model’s tailpipe come to 285 grams of CO2 per mile, which the EPA rates an 8 on the scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best (the lowest volume of emissions).
3. 2015 VW Golf TDI
Volkswagen has four different Golf models in the top twelve of most efficient diesel cars available in the U.S. Its top performer is the third-best car in the land in terms of efficiency: the 2015 VW Golf TDI. This 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbo diesel model gets 36 mpg combined in the 2015 model with manual transmission. That averages the Golf TDI’s 31 mpg in the city and 45 mpg on the highway. Automatic transmission models were no slouch, either, at 43 mpg highway.
2. 2015 VW Jetta TDI
The 2015 Jetta TDI is the fourth Volkswagen of eight cars on this list (VW’s Audi brand makes five), which shows just how big a commitment the German automaker has made to diesel models. It’s hard to argue with the results. In the 2015 Jetta TDI, drivers get 36 mpg in combined efficiency. This figure is the average 31 mpg (in both manual and automatic) and the manual model’s impressive 46 highway mpg. Automatic Jetta TDI models trail just behind at 45 mpg on the highway.
1. 2014 BMW 328d
With BMW on the board with the top spot, all three German luxury brands have a competitive diesel model for the 2014 or 2015 model year. BMW’s 328d was the most efficient diesel car rated by the EPA at 37 combined mpg. This number is the better of many compact cars on the road, while the 45 mpg the 328d gets on the highway is just a few measures off the 2014 Toyota Prius that weighs in at 48 mpg highway.
Even in the city, the BMW 328 diesel model can hold its own with 32 mpg. The EPA rates the 328d an 8 out of 10 for its 279 grams of CO2 emissions per mile. An eight-speed automatic comes standard with the 2.0-liter twin turbo engine capable of 180 horsepower and 280 pounds-feet of torque. That’s quite a power quotient for the most efficient diesel on the road.