Five Diesels from Europe that will out-eco a Prius

Your Prius may be rated at 60 mpg in the city and 51 mpg while cruising the countryside, but chances are you’re not realizing those numbers the EPA obtained by strapping Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive to a dynamometer. In Europe, where fuel economy is calculated by actually operating an engine on the road while it’s under the hood of a vehicle, the Prius returns a more realistic 47 mpg in the city and 56 mpg on the highway, or 5.0L/100km city and 4.2L/100km highway in the continent’s native metric.

This more realistic fuel economy rating lowers the bar enough for a handful of European small cars to beat the Prius in a game at which many Americans believe it’s indomitable. And guess what, these cars from the old world all use highly fuel-efficient diesel engines.

(All mileage numbers represent official European rating converted into miles/gallon via this conversion site)

Audi  A2 1.2 TDI
city: 65.33
highway: 87.11
average: 78.4

Smart fortwo CDI
city: 60.31
highway: 75.87
average: 69.18

Peugeot 107 Urban 1.4 HDi 54 / Citroën  C1 HDi 55 SX
city: 44.38
highway: 69.18
average: 57.37)

Citroën  C2 HDi 70 SensoDrive VTR
city: 48
highway: 61.9
average: 56

KIA  Picanto 1.1 CRDi EX
city: 48
highway: 31.9
average: 56

If many in this country are so concerned about eking the most amount of miles from a gallon of fuel, why hasn’t the modern diesel enjoyed the same success here as the hybrid? The easy answer would be the ghost of diesel’s past, particularly a bad batch of oil burners designed by Oldsmobile in the 1980’s.

The more complicated response is that Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel fuel hasn’t been readily available in the U.S. like it is in Europe. This special blend of diesel contains less sulfur, which reduces emissions, but also allows for better emissions control systems to be used on a diesel engine. Fortunately ULSD will be the new standard in the U.S. come this fall. Some companies, like DaimlerChrysler, are waiting in the wings with 50-state approved diesels that are powerful, clean and get grand gas mileage. Will diesels finally become the eco-peer of hybrids? Who will be the first to marry the two in an ultra-efficient diesel hybrid production car? Time will tell, but we can all breathe easier knowing more green options are sprouting up every year.

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