Best diesel cars

Last updated: Nov 26, 2014

Sales of diesel cars have gone through the roof in the past decade and the cost of fuel means they make increasingly good sense, while their low CO2 emissions mean they also cost less to tax.

Modern diesels are now so advanced that they are often the best cars in their respective ranges. New technology means that diesels are capable of travelling huge distances between fuel fill ups, and their powerful engines also makes them perfect for overtaking on the motorway.

To get on our top 10 list of the UK's best diesels, the cars have got to be great all-rounders that offer excellent value for money, whether it's a family hatchback, rugged SUV, or a classy executive saloon. We’re looking for cars that are comfortable to sit in, decent to drive, well built, and cheap to run.

Keep reading for the run-down on the top 10 diesel cars.

BMW 3 Series saloon

The BMW 3 Series was crowned our Best Executive Car in 2014. Although the BMW 320d offers excellent fuel economy – it can manage up to 68.9mpg and costs just £20 to tax – it is also impressively quick with more than enough pace for everyday driving. The BMW’s looks might be quite conservative, but the car feels classy and well built - both inside and out. The 3 Series is also the most fun to drive in its class, beating the Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4 for driver enjoyment. Just a diesel engine that is quite noisy on start-up and a premium price spoil the BMW’s perfect score sheet. Read more.

Key points

4.8 / 5
Price 
£24,255 - £43,885

SEAT Leon hatchback

Despite being able to return economy of nearly 70mpg, the SEAT Lean 2.0-litre TDI SE can still get form 0-60mph in just 8.4 seconds. The Leon is an excellent package overall – with stylish looks outside and the kind of well-built cabin we would expect from a car costing twice the price. The interior is also quiet, spacious and practical - as well as having a boot that is bigger than you’ll get in a Ford Focus. The new SEAT Leon is also one of the most fun-to-drive models in its class. Read more.

Key points

4.8 / 5
Price 
£16,115 - £24,170

Skoda Superb estate

The Skoda Superb GreenLine has one of the most spacious cabins you can find for the money. It's also extremely cheap to run thanks to the fact it gets the firm’s 1.6-litre diesel engine, which means it can return economy of 67.3mpg and emissions of 109g/km for annual road tax of £20. While the Superb’s small engine means it will never feel quick, it doesn’t feel too slow, either, even at motorway speeds where it remains extremely quiet inside. The car looks even better value when you consider that Skoda came second in our 2013 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey. Read more.

Key points

4.8 / 5
Price 
£19,815 - £34,705

Nissan Qashqai SUV

The new Nissan Qashqai has raised suspension and all the car’s controls are light and easy to use – making it surprisingly easy to drive around town. While the 1.5-litre dCi diesel version is not available with four-wheel drive, it can return astonishing economy of 74.3mpg and CO2 emissions of just 99g/km for free road tax. The new Qashqai gets more space inside than the car it replaces, has a better-built interior, is quieter at motorway speeds, and offers plenty of clever technology, too. Read more.

Key points

4.8 / 5
Price 
£18,265 - £28,500

Mazda CX-5 SUV

The Mazda CX-5 has the looks to rival the Nissan Qashqai, but its slightly bigger size means it has more space inside, with a boot that is more than 70 litres bigger than the Nissan’s. All diesel models feel powerful and smooth, and can return up to 54.3mpg when fitted with four-wheel drive. If you don’t need four-wheel drive then the two-wheel drive cars are better to drive on-road, and are even more economical. All CX-5s come with standard equipment such as sat-nav and climate control. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
Price 
£21,895 - £29,895

Peugeot 308 hatchback

The Peugeot 308 has traditionally been one of the also-rans among its small family hatchback rivals. With the latest car, that gap has narrowed enormously. It's lighter than before, and more agile as a result. The most fuel efficient 308 is the 1.6-litre 120 BlueHDi which is capable, according to Peugeot, of more than 91mpg. Every diesel model in the 308 range is free to tax, by virtue of no model emitting more than 99g/km, unless you choose a model with 17 or 18in alloy wheels. Read more.

Key points

3.8 / 5
Price 
£14,995 - £25,945

Volkswagen Golf hatchback

Fitted with a 1.6-litre TDI diesel engine, the VW Golf BlueMotion can manage economy of 88.3mpg and qualifies for free road tax. While not as fun to drive as a Ford Focus, the Volkswagen is quiet at motorway speeds and has plenty of power to keep pace with fast-moving traffic. The Golf is a bit boring to look at, but boasts one of the best interiors in its class – being excellently built and logical to use. While the Golf is quite expensive to buy compared to some rivals, the VW should hold its value better. All models get equipment such as a DAB digital radio and a touchscreen. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
Price 
£17,175 - £25,770

Fiat Panda 4x4 hatchback

The Fiat Panda 4x4 offers genuine off-road ability at a reasonable price, and can return up to 67.3mpg. The Panda 4x4's cute, but rugged looks hide a cabin that is actually remarkably practical, given the car’s small size. There are numerous storage areas dotted around the interior and the boot offers up to 260 litres of space, which extends to 870 litres with the rear seats down. Even with its cheap price, the Panda gets air conditioning and a Bluetooth phone connection as standard, and while the the Panda is quite slow, it's fun fun to drive and cheap to run. Read more.

Key points

4.1 / 5
Price 
£10,295 - £16,945

Volvo V40 hatchback

The Volvo V40 D2 diesel offers a premium package that is also extremely cheap to run, with economy of up to 83.1mpg and free road tax. The good-looking Volvo hatchback is also extremely good at protecting its passengers in the event of an accident – being the safest car Euro NCAP has ever tested. Typical Volvo traits like extremely comfortable seats, a very quiet interior, and a decent stereo make it excellent for long journeys, while its high quality interior is among the best in the business. Read more.

Key points

3.7 / 5
Price 
£18,995 - £31,900

MINI hatchback

MINI says its cars should drive like go-karts - and they do, even when fitted with a diesel engines. A number of diesel MINIs are available in a range that mirrors the petrol-powered line up. That means you get a 1.5-litre diesels in the One D, Cooper D and Cooper SD models. They're not as refined as the petrol engines, but they provide performance few other small diesel engines can muster. Our pick is the Cooper D, but those seeking high performance will be drawn to the Cooper SD, which can get from 0-62mph in less than seven seconds. Read more.

Key points

4.1 / 5
Price 
£13,750 - £21,070

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