Now, don’t get me wrong, hybrids can make sense under the right circumstances. If you do a lot of city driving, for example, nothing can beat a hybrid’s fuel economy. And hybrids like the Toyota Prius and Ford C-MAX are downright practical vehicles, even if you put their incredible fuel economy aside.
But diesel engine cars and diesel powered trucks have a lot to offer.
For one thing, they’re about as fuel-efficient on the highway as the most frugal hybrids, so urban fuel economy is the only compromise.
For another, they give you great low-end torque. That means you can effortlessly scoot away from traffic lights, and oftentimes you don’t even need to downshift to pass someone. It also makes diesel powered trucks a superior choice for towing and hauling.
Finally, diesel engine cars and trucks are known for being reliable for hundreds of thousands of miles. Unlike hybrids, diesels use simple, proven technology that has powered commercial vehicles like buses and dump trucks for decades.
Intrigued? Good. Here are my top diesel cars and diesel powered trucks for 2013.
Best Small Car: 2013 Volkswagen Golf TDI
The Golf hatchback is one of my favorite small cars no matter what’s under the hood, because you just can’t get its combination of versatility, European dynamics, and upscale ambiance anywhere else. But when you thrown in Volkswagen’s turbodiesel 2.0-liter inline-4, the pot only gets sweeter. Rated at a modest 140 horsepower but a robust 236 pound-feet of torque, the “TDI” diesel motor gives the Golf great get-up-and-go around town. What’s more, the EPA says it’s good for 30 mpg city/42 mpg highway, and I’ve seen real-world results near 50 mpg on the open road.
Best Midsize Car: 2014 Mazda6 Skyactiv Diesel
You can’t even buy this car yet, but trust me, it’s worth waiting for. The Mazda6 is all-new for 2014, with beautiful styling and a much nicer interior, but the big news is that it’s going to offered with a 2.2-liter turbodiesel inline-4. Based on early reports, you can expect around 280 pound-feet of torque from the Mazda diesel, as well as fuel economy in excess of 40 mpg.
If you absolutely need a midsize car right now, check out the VW Passat TDI, which shares the Golf’s motor. But if I were you, I’d wait for the more desirable Mazda.
Best Crossover/SUV: 2013 Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTEC
No Mercedes-Benz comes cheap, and the M-Class crossover is one of Benz’s pricier models. But if it fits your budget, you can’t go wrong with the diesel-powered ML350 BlueTEC. Blessed with an ultra-smooth 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 that cranks out 240 horsepower and an incredible 455 pound-feet of torque, the ML350 BlueTEC delivers executive-grade acceleration and refinement. It also returns 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway, which is pretty amazing for a big rig like this.
Best Truck: 2013 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Duramax
If you haven’t been paying attention to diesel powered trucks lately, let me bring you up to speed. There’s a diesel fuel arms race going on between GM, Dodge, and Ford, and the horsepower and torque figures are completely insane. But I’ll tell you a little secret: it’s not just about the numbers. At 397 horsepower and 765 pound-feet of torque, GM’s 6.6-liter “Duramax” turbodiesel V8 trails Ford’s entry on paper (believe it or not), but in the real world, it’s the strongest truck motor you can buy. And compared to a gasoline-powered V8, it’s going to give you significantly better fuel economy, too.