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New VW Jetta Diesel Tops Prius in Fuel-Economy Marathon Test

It's this year's ultimate MPG comparison test: the just-released 2009 Volskwagen Jetta TDi diesel against the uber-popular 2008 Toyota Prius hybrid.

And has it first, with nearly 500 miles of city and highway driving—and some very surprising results.

By Ben Stewart

Published on: September 24, 2008
The City
Our route was a brutal test of both the vehicles' capabilities—and our drivers' patience. It took us 11 hours to travel 238 city miles covering four counties in southern California, under conditions varying from rush hour in downtown L.A. to wide-open, 40-mph country lanes. At no point on this route did we enter a freeway—or even hit a road with a speed limit higher than 45 mph.
Prius 44.7mpg Jetta 32

The Highway
Our highway test loop took us from the cool ocean breezes of Santa Monica to the hot desert winds near Palm Springs. We set the cruise control to 65 mph as often as possible to maximize fuel economy.
Prius 44.8 mpg Jetta 45.4 mpg

As was the case in the previous day's city test, it soon became clear that the Jetta was the hot rod of this duo.

When we absolutely needed to punch the throttle to merge with traffic, the Jetta left the Prius behind.

Shift the DSG into Sport mode, and it will downshift rather brilliantly as you enter a sweeping bend.

The Jetta's drivetrain almost encourages you to burn fuel—that is, it's actually fun to drive. And the same cannot be said for the Prius.

On long, undulating freeway bumps, the Jetta is better damped, and it delivered less road noise than the Prius to boot (though the differences

between the two are more negligible on the freeway).
So where was the more pleasurable place to spend those 11 hours around La La Land? Inside the Jetta—its more traditional ****pit and far more luxurious materials make the new car as cozy as the Prius is cold. The driving position of the Prius makes you feel like you're sitting on the car instead of in it. And since the steering wheel is only adjustable for tilt and not telescope, larger drivers must move the seat a bit too far forward. Yet the Prius, with its funky shifter and digital dash, still conveys that future-car vibe better than anything on the market. As you hustle and joust with traffic, the Prius's quick steering make it the more nimble of the two. And at just under 3000 pounds, the Prius carries about 200 pounds less weight. But in terms of ride quality and refinement, the edge swings back to the Jetta.
Our $24,190 Jetta TDi Loyal Edition DSG came fairly well equipped but did lack a navigation system, while at $28,254 our

2008 Prius came with a luxurious $5925 Touring package that included navigation and leather.
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