New Car – VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI

We were outgrowing Sarah’s Acura RSX and really wanted a four door car; it isn’t fun cramming friends in the back of little coupe. It was about 8 years old and coming up on 90k miles which was starting to show. The leather on the seats was cracking and the clutch needed work. I also kept noticing how loud road noise was at freeway speeds, a side effect of low profile tires and stiff suspension.

We started the selection process with one criteria: the replacement vehicle had to get similar or better gas mileage than the RSX. That eliminated a pretty big portion of the car market because the RSX was capable of mid 30’s on the highway and high 20’s in the city while still being fun to drive. Our full list of criteria really narrowed things down: 35+ MPG on the highway, automatic transmission, 4 doors, leather interior, AUX input, and not a hybrid.

A quick filtering of 2010 models shows that there isn’t much to choose from once you add on that MPG requirement. There are some small gasser like the Mini, Yaris or Fit that get decent MPG, but they weren’t what we wanted really.

The only other thing left were Volkswagen’s diesel TDIs. Between the Jetta Sedan, Jetta Sportwagen and Golf, we liked the Sportwagen the most. It was equipped with everything we wanted and destroyed practically every other car in its class in MPG. It’s kind of crazy that no other car manufacturer has bothered bringing a middle of the road, fuel efficient diesel to the US.

If all we cared about was mileage then we would have just gotten a Prius, but I like driving. The Prius is a great midsize econobox, just a little uninspiring. Toyota can keep their few extra MPG and unwanted acceleration.

So after finding the one dealership in So Cal with the exact car we wanted and getting a quote $1k under sticker we drove home in a new 2010 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI.

2010 VW Sportwagen TDI
2010 VW Sportwagen TDI

Between the DSG transmission (Dual Shift Gearbox, pretty much an automatic manual) and the gobs of torque turned out by the turbocharged diesel the JSW is actually pretty fun to drive. Shifts are super quick and I don’t think I’ll miss driving a stick; the 6 speeds and lower RPMs would mean a lot of rowing through the gears around town. We got 35 mpg on our first tank of diesel with mixed driving, but I expect that to rise as the car breaks in and I tone it down on the accelerator.

Breaking down my gasoline consumption

With gas prices at their current levels people are hurting at the pump and even my 2.5 mile commute adds up. I usually go home for lunch so I’m driving 10 miles a day. Compared to the 50 miles I was doing one year ago I should be grateful my gas bill is as low as it is. The savings I’ve seen with a shorter commute aren’t quite as large as you’d think. The increased price of gas and lower mileage from city driving has doubled my cost per mile.

Gas prices have gone up considerably; here’s my data I’m collected over the past 2.5 years:
Price of Gas

Higher prices mean it costs more to drive a mile, no question there. Here’s my mileage over that same time period for my 2005 Toyota Tacoma 4 cylinder automatic:
MPG

When I started at the County last August two things happened: a tank of gas started lasting longer and my mileage plummeted. The short trip to and from work means my engine is operating at a less efficient temperature for a larger proportion of my commute. Coupled with stopping and idling at traffic lights I saw a 7-8 mpg decrease, that’s a very significant ~30% drop in mileage. My historic cost per mile looks like this:
Cost per mile

The double whammy of increased prices and lower mileage hurts. With my current cost per mile it costs me $2.20 to drive to work everyday. Doesn’t seem like much, but that adds up to about $550 per year. That’s just to get to work, that doesn’t include driving anywhere fun.

I’m going to go through a series of post analyzing my energy costs and figuring out ways to reduce them. What’s your daily commute cost you? Simple formula to calculate it:

Commute cost = (price of gas / MPG) * miles