I am searching out a NB, 2000-2005. I commute and my gas guzzling SUV needs a break. Diesel or gas? And is 1999 too old? I want to spend less than $4000... I live in Canada, should I be concerned with rust?
TDI will depend on how much you drive and where you drive. If its a lot of sort trips and city driving, that's not really good for a TDI engine and the premium you pay for it won't really ever pay off. Lots of highway driving, then yeah, a TDI will work well. But the gassers are great too. A 2.0 with a 5-speed is pretty darn bulletproof and is cheap to maintain. The only thing I've noticed with them is that since they are the base motor, they tend to not be owned by enthusiasts and get pretty beat up. But the engine is solid. The 1.8T is super fun but it takes premium fuel. The TDI is a diesel of course, but it is picky about oil and you have to be very good at staying on top of maintenance.
I've had experiences with all 3 engines so feel free to ask more questions.
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As you can see from my signature I've owned a 2001 TDI and a 2002 1.8 Turbo. I loved each. The years you are looking at are great years and the price range you are wanting to stay within is reasonable too. Good luck with your purchase.