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2009 Green Car Of The Year: The Volkswagen Jetta TDI

Diesel automobiles have traditionally been poor sellers in the United States, but that may be about to change. They already account for more than half of new car sales in Europe, but have been hovering down near 1% of all car sales here in the States. The green movement could spark a new trend, especially since the diesel-powered 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI was named Green Car of the Year this past Thursday, the first time a diesel has won the annual award given at the L.A. Auto show.

The Jetta wasn’t the only diesel on the list either, the BMW 335d was also nominated, along with two hybrids (Ford Fusion hybrid and Saturn Vue 2 Mode hybrid) and the trendy Smart ForTwo. But the judges said the TDI “epitomizes what the Green Car of the Year is all about.”

“It raises the bar significantly in environmental performance,” said Ron Cogan, editor of Green Car Journal, which has presented the award at the L.A. Auto Show since 2005. “This is all the more impressive when you consider the Jetta TDI is a clean diesel, achieving the kind of fuel efficiency offered by gasoline-electric hybrids but in a more affordable way.”

The award is only given to full production cars, as in, cars you can actually walk into a showroom and buy. And considering people like Jay Leno and Carroll Shelby are judges, they take more than just fuel economy into account. That’s most likely why the Jetta TDI won, since it’s the most well-rounded of the nominees. The Fusion hybrid gets better mileage in the city, and has a suite of interesting technology in dash, like an instrument cluster that coaches people to drive more economically, but at $27,000, the Fusion is more than $5 grand more than the Jetta TDI. A lower price means the Jetta is within reach of a much wider audience.

So far, VW sold 8,000 of the new Jetta TDI’s since they were unveiled in August of last year.

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