This is not your grandfather’s diesel car. The new Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL is sure to take the mid-range diesel car to the next step in the alternative fuel race. While most are searching for new forms of powering vehicles – such as Honda and Nissan trying to take over the electric vehicle market, and Chevy, Ford and Toyota competing heavily over the hybrid market – Volkswagen and Mercedes have decided to take a step back in time with the exploration of diesel fuel.

Volkswagen makes a strong case that more cars should check out a diesel-powered vehicle. Like many fuel-efficient cars, the Passat does not sacrifice speed or performance to keep money in your pocket.

Exterior: Continuing the tradition of the Passat’s sporty and unique design of the past, Volkswagen decided to add a more futuristic and sleeker look with the slight lights and the sterling silver lining. The wheels are available in array of styles. The basic TDI comes well equipped with 17-inch sporty alloy wheels as options, or you can upgrade to the 18-inch alloy wheels, which really stand out on the road.

Interior: Surprisingly, once in the driver’s seat, you’ll notice how spacious and roomy the interior is. Even with the lower price point, Volkswagen made it more elegant and upscale from the earlier models. For rear-seat passengers, the area isn’t enormous, but it’s definitely roomy enough for three adults.

The Passat utilizes an array of plush amenities such as both automatic and manual transmissions, heated front seats, a touch-screen radio and a six-speed manual transmission, all for $25,995.

You can let the wind blow in your hair and add a sunroof and a DSG (Direct-Shift Gearbox) as options (separately or as a package), navigation, Volkswagen’s Mobile Device Interface (MDI), fog lights and exterior chrome accents all in one package. The navigation system, not as advanced as many systems, is comprehensive and worked well. Its turn-by-turn directions are provided in a separate display in the center of the dashboard between the tachometer and speedometer.

The top-of-the-line Passat 2.0L TDI SEL, which can contend with any mid-range vehicle on the market, retails for $32,195. The 2.0 adds leather sports seats, keyless access and start, an upgraded navigation system, driver seat memory, a wood grain interior, eight-way power passenger seat, interior chrome accents and a Fender audio system that can produce concert-like sounds from your iPod’s and mp3 players.

Performance: Before one even settles in the driver’s seat, the bragging and selling point with the new Passat is its achievement of an EPA highway fuel economy rating of 43 mpg. It gets 31 mpg in town, and the combined EPA rating is 35 mpg. These figures are entirely realistic and put it well ahead of the Toyota Camry Hybrid (31 mpg fuel economy/35 mpg town/33 mpg highway), the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid (35 mpg fuel economy/40 mpg town/37 mpg highway) and the Ford Fusion (41 mpg fuel economy/36 mpg town/39 mpg highway). The Passat can still keep up with the gas-guzzlers on the road, and you don’t notice the slow drag many fuel-efficient cars suffer from.

While the Passat TDI starts at a higher price point than the base SE, it’s far better equipped and is basically on par price-wise with the SEL gasoline variant, translating into no price penalty for choosing diesel given its incredible 800-mile range and 43 mpg fuel economy plus the elegant interior. The only problem you may notice with the diesel gas tank is that every gas station won’t be an option. So pay close attention to the diesel stations.

Safety and Security: Similar to other Volkswagen TDI models including the Golf TDI and the Jetta TDI, the Passat provides excellent support in cornering and is superb for driving longer distances without inducing any back pain. The navigation system is easy enough to use, and the Passat gives a sense of safety once inside with the controlled and sturdy steering, coupled with front and power solid, vented disc brakes, a four-link independent rear suspension with telescopic shock absorbers and weight optimized, anti roll bar. You truly feel a strong sense of security, and this is a great car for parents to consider for their college-aged drivers.