Best Diesel Cars

8 minutes Published: 12/03/2020
Alasdair Cherry

What does the future hold for diesel-powered vehicles? That’s the million-dollar question for today’s motorists.

There’s been lots of humming and hawing over potential solutions to the fossil fuel dilemma including the worldwide pledge to cut out internal combustion engine vehicles (ICE) completely by the year 2040.

Volkswagen’s infamous ‘dieselgate’ emissions scandal in 2015 hasn’t helped to fight the diesel engines’ corner, but the stark reality is that most societies will still rely on fossil fuels as a mode of transport for years to come.

This comes down to the highly efficient engines that diesel cars are packing. They’ll provide you with better fuel economy than a petrol engine can dream of, so drivers covering long-distance trips regularly will be financially better off opting for a diesel car.

The majority of new diesel cars can return over 50 mpg, whilst also emitting less Co2 than their petrol alternatives. However, you must be aware of the increasing parking surcharges, road tax and company car tax bills that accompany diesel cars in the current climate.

So, if a diesel fits your circumstances, check out our roundup of the best diesel cars around.

Attracted to diesels for their low emissions but not ready to try one of our best electric cars? Check out our best low emission cars list! If you regularly clock in a lot of miles, have a look at our most economical cars.

1. BMW 3 Series Saloon

RRP: £24,920 - £48,920
  • Doors: 2 - 4
  • Engine: 3.0
  • Fuel: P, D, H
  • Body: Saloon
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 243g/km

Pros

  • Fantastic driving experience.

  • Interior quality and interior space are great.

Cons

  • Quite expensive compared to some rivals.

  • A lot of the best features are optional extras.

Meticulously designed and beautifully crafted, the diesel engine in the BMW 3 Series is an absolute cracker that gives it the edge over its fellow German rivals in the executive saloon class.

This 7th generation BMW lives up to the 3 Series’ illustrious history of excellent performance combined with ultimate comfort. Returning a fantastic mpg, this diesel engine has the pace to match its efficiency, as well as producing pretty low CO2 emissions.

The 3 Series has the comfort to back up its superior performance. The cabin is excessively spacious and glamorous, boasting chic leather seats.

Add in your all-round parking sensors, BMW’s parking assistant system, as well as your standard 8.8-inch cutting-edge, infotainment touchscreen and you’ve got yourself one premium car.

2. Ford Focus Hatchback

RRP: £17,730 - £33,785
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 2.5
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 237g/km

Pros

  • Handling is best in class.

  • Diesel engines are efficient.

Cons

  • Cheap interior.

  • Boot space could be better.

An absolute stalwart in the busy hatchback class, the Focus is consistently one of the best selling small cars in the UK, and for good reason. A tip of the hat to the engineers who crafted such an alluring family hatchback.

If you’re planning on covering a fair bit of motorway mileage, the mid-sized EcoBoost engines are the golden ticket. Both efficient and effective, it should return a pretty good MPG in normal driving and noticeably low Co2 emissions which should please potential company car buyers.

The Focus is a resolute all-rounder that doesn’t cut corners. This is evident when you get inside - leg and headroom are extremely spacious in both the front and the back and there are great driver aids like lane departure warning and intelligent speed assist.

3. Renault Megane Hatchback

RRP: £16,545 - £27,775
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 1.2 - 2.0
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 228g/km

Pros

  • Fuel economy in the diesel engines is excellent.

  • Great looking car all-round.

Cons

  • The boot is pretty small.

  • Handling should be better.

The Renault Megane might not be everybody’s cup of tea to drive, but it sure is a well-equipped, practical and reliable family car that has been rejuvenated to challenge all in class.

We’ll be honest when we say the Megane’s impressive engine is what made it onto our list - in fairness, it really is quite impressive! The diesel engine options return an amazing MPG, so you won’t spend a fortune on fuel.

While the Megane won’t blow you away with excitement, there’s no doubt that you’ll get a thrill once you realise how much money you’re saving with your economical engine.

4. Volvo Xc40 Estate

RRP: £24,700 - £42,250
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 2.0
  • Fuel: P, D, H
  • Body: Crossover SUV
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 166g/km

Pros

  • Sophisticated and posh interior.

  • Makes for a comfortable driving experience.

Cons

  • Entry-level diesel trims are bare bones.

  • Really expensive.

Seductive on the outside, and sophisticated on the inside, this splendid SUV has all the capabilities and style to compete with the best in the business.

As one of the best cars to drive in its class, the diesel engines are incredible, offering a driving experience that has flexibility, consistency and comfort. Driven with affection, the XC40 diesel should perform astutely on both city streets and country roads, while also returning a reasonable fuel economy.

Step inside, and you’re in the company of some of the finest front seats that you’ll find in any family SUV. The seats are layered with pristine leather and four-way electric lumbar adjustment comes as standard on all models.

In terms of interior quality, Volvo has transformed itself from the days of the chunky estates. The elegant mix of high-end plastics, metal rims and plush leather give the XC40 an air of sophisticated maturity.

5. Audi Q7

RRP: £47,555 - £94,150
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 6.0
  • Fuel: P, D, H
  • Body: SUV
  • Drive: A
  • CO2: 309g/km

Pros

  • Diesel engines offer great fuel economy.

  • The cabin is very well designed.

Cons

  • Drives well, but similarly priced competitors are better.

  • The best safety tech costs extra.

Just the sight of the Audi Q7 is enough to tempt a devoted BMW buyer - seven-seats, ultimate practicality, timeless comfort and most importantly, a pleasant drive.

It’s so impressive that the Q7 has been the pinnacle in the luxury SUV class since its inauguration in 2015, making competitors look outdated. The diesel engine options pack an almighty punch, with acceleration and handling that’s as smooth as silk.

Economically, the Q7 obviously isn’t the most efficient car on the list, thanks to a large body and powerful engines, but it’s still pretty reasonable, all things considered. If you’re looking for one of the best diesel cars out there, you can’t go wrong with the Q7.

6. Volkswagen T-roc Hatchback

RRP: £18,735 - £39,375
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 2.0
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Crossover SUV
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 176g/km

Pros

  • Great suspension makes for a comfortable drive.

  • Plenty of kit, even on entry-level trims.

Cons

  • Quite expensive for what you get.

  • Some interior materials don’t feel very high quality.

The T-Roc has a pleasant ring to it, doesn’t it? This stylish, small SUV has all the build quality and high-tech interior we’re used to seeing in a Volkswagen vehicle - plus it's pretty funky!

In a nutshell, the T-Roc oozes comfort. Hands down, the diesel-powered T-Roc is one of the best small SUVs on the market and outperforms rivals with its punchy acceleration, firm suspension and precise steering.

The T-Roc demonstrates why diesel engines are so popular, with an incredible fuel economy for such a large car. The T-Roc’s pleasant driving experience and practical seat and boot space will appeal to families - as will its five-star Euro NCAP safety review.

7. Mercedes C Class Saloon

RRP: £26,800 - £78,112
  • Doors: 2 - 4
  • Engine: 6.2
  • Fuel: P, D, H
  • Body: Saloon
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 312g/km

Pros

  • Great looking car.

  • Economical diesel engines.

Cons

  • Space for passengers in the rear is disappointing.

  • The infotainment system is poor.

As a true powerhouse in the automotive industry, it’d be rude to leave the Mercedes C-Class out of our established list of best diesel cars.

In a constant battle for supremacy with Audi and BMW, there’s also fierce rivalry from the Jaguar and Volvo, meaning there’s no margin for error for Mercedes in this hugely competitive class.

If you’re up and down the motorway like a yo-yo, we recommend the frugal C-Class diesel engines, that offer a whole lot of power with an incredibly high fuel economy, thanks to it’s smooth nine-speed automatic gearbox.

8. Skoda Karoq

RRP: £20,660 - £35,670
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 2.0
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: SUV
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 114 - 156g/km

Pros

  • Cheap to lease.

  • Solid build quality.

Cons

  • Some might find the styling boring.

  • Highest trims are really expensive for a Skoda.

The Skoda Karoq hasn’t received the plaudits it truly deserves. Practicality...tick, affordability…tick, spaciousness...tick, comfort...tick.

Compact and well-built, the Karoq really is the unsung hero of the small SUV class and the diesel engines are a great option if you cover long distances or carry heavy cargo.

The Karoq is as fuel-efficient as it gets for SUV diesels, returning an excellent fuel economy for such a large car. The excessive range of adjustments means you’ll have no issue getting comfortable in the Karoq. Seat and height adjustment is available on all trims and you’ll also command a relatively high driving position with clear visibility and lower back support.

9. Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport

RRP: £16,930 - £41,185
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 2.0
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 197g/km

Pros

  • Provides some serious value for money.

  • Interior cabin is well designed.

Cons

  • Visibility isn’t great.

  • Some rivals offer more for your money.

At an eye-openingly low price, the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport also flaunts a roomy cabin to go alongside its charming sporty style.

Engine-wise, the diesel options are the best by far. Performance is pretty punchy, and the fuel economy is solid, so you’ll certainly be getting more bang for your buck on that front. Co2 emissions are pretty low for a diesel engine, too.

The interior cabin is incredibly well-built and the dashboard comes with a soft-touch finish and intricate stitching that you’d expect from a luxury saloon.

10. Peugeot 3008

RRP: £21,740 - £46,695
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 2.0
  • Fuel: P, D, H
  • Body: Crossover SUV
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 36 - 182g/km

Pros

  • Diesel engines offer cheap running costs.

  • The cabin is super comfortable.

Cons

  • The manual gearbox isn’t great.

  • Dodgy driving position for some.

If you’ve been searching far and wide for a family SUV with bags of space, practicality and flair, then you may have found your next family member in the form of the Peugeot 3008.

If it’s low running costs you’re interested in, the diesel engines should really tickle your fancy. The 3008’s engines offer a nice balance of power and pure fuel economy.

The engine’s flexibility is put to the test with a fully-loaded car but passes with flying colours so feel free to offer your services for your friends next house move as the boot is absolutely humongous too.

Summary

*Click fingers* Snap back to reality. Right, which car is still lingering on your mind?

Our list of diesel cars really is the best option for drivers looking to cover long distances and save a few pennies on their running costs in the meantime.

We know diesel cars tend to cost more and they’re more expensive to fill up, but they truly are more efficient and have better gas mileage than most petrol cars. Check our range of affordable lease deals on our best diesel cars, so you can drive a brand new car by making low monthly payments!

If you want the ultimate in efficient motoring, check out our best electric cars? If you’re not quite ready for that, check out our most economical cars list, or maybe our out our best low emission cars! You can also browse our full list of diesel car lease deals.