Diesel cars are historically an unknown entity in the USA, accounting for only 2.8% of the market share in 2014. However, companies are making a conscious effort to bring diesel engines to the USA due to their high efficiency and relatively smooth operation compared to gas-powered cars. With that said, diesel engines may not be the best option for inner city driving, and here's three reasons why:
Fuel Economy in the City
When it comes to driving short distances, nearly all engines give poor fuel economy. This problem is exacerbated in cold weather, as the first 15-20 minutes or so will be used to heat the engine up. As the engine takes considerable time to heat up compared to the journey time, you will likely see poor fuel efficiency over all short trips. Therefore, regardless of whether you choose gas-powered or diesel, commuting to work or dropping the kids off at school will likely yield low bang for your buck.
Another issue associated with inner city driving is stop-start journeys. As you navigate your way through busy streets with low speed limits, it's likely you'll have to stop and start your engine a number of times. These stop-start journeys, when paired with harsh braking and fast acceleration, can significantly reduce your fuel economy on even the most efficient of engines.
Diesel cars are renowned for being slightly sluggish off the mark, but come into their own on long stretches at a relatively constant speed. Unfortunately, these conditions are rarely seen around the inner city, so a diesel engine will always be at a disadvantage. Additionally, as diesel cars are less responsive than gas-powered cars, you may find yourself slamming on the accelerator when taking off. You can train yourself to drive a diesel car smoothly; however, it may be difficult when faced with rush hour traffic and an 8 a.m. meeting to attend.
Mechanical Issues with Diesel Engines
Diesel engines have a reputation for emitting a large amount of black smoke; however, thankfully car manufacturers are making conscious efforts to reduce this problem. Modern diesel engines come fully equipped with a diesel particulate filter (DPF) that collects the smog associated with diesel engines. This ensures the material is returned to the atmosphere as tiny particles rather than a cloud of black smoke.
However, while this device is great for reducing dangerous emissions, it takes a while to get started. Similar to a diesel engine, the particulate filter needs to heat up in order to burn off the soot particles. If you only drive short distances, the DPF may never be given a chance to heat up and kick into action. This can cause the filter to become clogged, which can mean an expensive replacement in order to avoid the component collapsing.
Using the Wrong Type of Fuel
With diesel engines accounting for such a low market share across the USA, it's inevitable some new diesel owners will use the wrong type of fuel when topping up. Particularly if you currently drive a gas-powered engine, it's very possible you will fall victim to your habits and pump gas into a diesel engine.
Putting gas into a diesel engine can be catastrophic, particularly if you don't notice the problem before starting the engine up. Diesel engines aren't designed to run on gas, so the engine will likely seize up or fail to start altogether. Even if you do catch the problem before starting up, you'll have to have your vehicle towed and the fuel tank flushed out before you can drive again. If you are exclusively an inner city driver, it may best sticking to gas-powered engines sold at places like Auto Max, especially when considered alongside the two drawbacks mentioned above.