Skip advert
Advertisement
Best cars

Top 10 best diesel cars

Diesel cars are well known for excellent fuel economy and great performance - here are 10 of the best on sale today

The best diesel cars

Diesel cars have seen a decline in popularity over the past few years, but it’s still a great engine option for those covering lots of motorway miles. That’s because diesel cars are typically more economical compared with equivalent petrol models, plus they offer lots of pulling power, making them well suited to towing caravans or trailers and going off-road.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Although the all-important Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax rates for company car drivers used to be favourable for diesel cars, growing concern over higher NOX emissions means that’s no longer the case. The company car market has been largely replaced by plug-in hybrid and electric models, thanks to their low-to-zero CO2 emissions, so in most cases you’d be better off looking at one of those models if you’re a company car chooser.

The fastest diesel carsTop 10 fastest diesel cars 2024

The latest diesel cars are now much cleaner than their predecessors, however, thanks to the latest emissions controls including AdBlue, that vastly reduce the harmful emissions from a diesel car’s tailpipe. Many diesels can comfortably return more than 50mpg under the stricter WLTP testing, and emit less CO2 than petrol equivalents.

20Whether diesel is the right choice for you also depends on other factors. Concerns over local air pollution and issues with DPFs (diesel particulate filters) mean diesels are not the best choice if you spend all your time in urban, stop-start traffic. But if you live in small towns or villages, or spend much of your time covering large distances outside of the city, they still have a vital role to play for drivers.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

If you’re after a car with lower emissions, be sure to check out our guides to the best hybrid cars, best plug-in hybrid cars and best electric cars currently on sale. Sometimes they will suit your needs better than a diesel.

BMW 3 Series saloon review

BMW 3 Series saloon
Carbuyer rating

4.4 out of 5

Read full review

The latest BMW 3 Series follows directly on from the previous model; it’s brilliant to drive, has a high quality interior and, as long as you avoid M Sport models, is impressively comfortable, too. It gets a choice of two diesel engines, with the 187bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder 320d the most popular. There’s plenty of power spread evenly across the rev range, while internal tweaks to the engine, as well as some aerodynamic ones to the bodywork, mean it’s surprisingly cheap to run thanks to economy of over 55mpg. 

Advertisement - Article continues below

Car buyers that want some extra performance and a diesel engine have the option of the BMW M340d xDrive, producing 335bhp with an average of 46mpg and all-wheel drive as standard.

If you want more practicality, the BMW 3 Series Touring estate is only fractionally less economical with useful additional load space.

Land Rover Defender review - iconic 4x4 reinvented

Defender 130
Carbuyer rating

4.4 out of 5

Read full reviewWatch video

The latest Land Rover Defender has been on the market for a couple of years now and impressed us both in the shorter, three-door 90 variant, and the longer 110 five-door version. Although the plug-in hybrid Defender and supercharged V8 version are the quicker models, car buyers interested in towing will find the diesel version a better fit for their lifestyle.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Diesel options are 3.0-litre mild-hybrids in two power outputs, badged D250 and D300. They produce 246bhp and 296bhp respectively. Towing capacity is 3,500kg for both models.

Skoda Octavia review – the most practical family hatchback

Skoda Octavia 2024
Carbuyer rating

4.7 out of 5

Read full reviewWatch video

The Skoda Octavia has been a favourite of families, emergency services fleets and company car drivers for over a decade, and those that look past the badge are rewarded with an efficient and comfortable vehicle. The Octavia offers a wider option of engines than ever before, but diesel is still a core part of the line-up. The 2.0-litre diesel engine is still a great choice for higher-mileage drivers or those that tow.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Car buyers who want a diesel engine with performance credentials are still able to buy the Skoda Octavia vRS with 197bhp and an average of 56mpg for a blend of power and fuel economy. For the four-wheel drive version, this drops to around 50mpg, but it does offer more grip than the front-wheel drive version, which could be desirable if you live in a rural area with harsh winters.

Volkswagen Golf review – almost perfect, but less intuitive

Volkswagen Golf Black Edition front 3/4 tracking
Carbuyer rating

4.1 out of 5

Read full reviewWatch video

UK buyers usually go for a diesel based on its fuel economy, so the latest Volkswagen Golf will appeal. A clever new 2.0-litre engine replaces the old 1.6, and is capable of returning more than 62mpg, so fuel station visits will be pretty infrequent. This engine is aimed at business buyers and we’d recommend the punchier 148bhp diesel for private customers as it still achieves over 60mpg. 

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

It might look familiar from the outside but inside the new Golf is all change, as VW has decided to use big screens and touch panels instead of buttons. There’s plenty of space for at least four adults and a decent boot.

Mercedes E-Class hybrid review

Mercedes E-Class hybrid front 3/4 driving
Carbuyer rating

4.2 out of 5

Read full review

Many car manufacturers are replacing diesel engines with hybrid options, but Mercedes has decided to create a diesel plug-in hybrid engine. Built for those who do lots of miles, the Mercedes E 300 de gives the ability to glide around town on electric power and still get decent fuel economy on a long motorway run.

Advertisement - Article continues below

A near-silent electric motor suits the plush E-Class, which doesn’t chase the 5 Series for sportiness and instead focuses on comfort and refinement. The E 300 de is able to quickly pick up speed though, hitting 0-62mph in under six seconds. Passenger space is plentiful but you won’t be able to carry many bulky items in the boot because there’s a sizeable shelf right in the centre of the load space.

If you’re after a pure diesel, the E-Class is also available with the 220 d, 300 d and 400 d engines – the most economical of these is the 220 d entry-level model which is capable of up to 57.7mpg according to official figures.

Kia Sorento review – a great SUV now made even better

Kia Sorento 2024 front quarter driving
Carbuyer rating

4.3 out of 5

Read full reviewWatch video

Winning our Car of the Year award in 2021 and Best Large Family Car award for 2022, the Kia Sorento is one of our favourite large vehicles. Supply shortages have narrowed down the range considerably but the 2.2-litre diesel continues to be offered. The eight-speed automatic gearbox further benefits fuel efficiency while also making sure there is always power when you need it.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Car buyers looking for a vehicle that can tow will be best suited by the diesel Sorento with its maximum towing capacity of 2,500kg, which is 1,000kg more than the petrol hybrid manages.

Advertisement - Article continues below

As of mid 2023, the Sorento is still only able to be ordered in top trim and so it may be worth contacting your local dealer for the latest availability across the range.

Mazda CX-5 review - a sleek, left-field family SUV

2022 Mazda CX-5
Carbuyer rating

4 out of 5

Read full reviewWatch video

In any guise, the Mazda CX-5 is surprisingly engaging to drive, and drivers doing frequent long-distance trips will be well-served by the 2.2-litre diesel which comes with two power outputs: 148bhp and 181bhp. When we drove the 181bhp version we were impressed with how keen it was to rev for a diesel engine, and it felt quiet, smooth, yet responsive. The 148bhp engine was capable, but when we drove it with the automatic transmission it felt a little sluggish to change gear, so for keen drivers, we’d recommend sticking to the manual for either engine.

Elsewhere the CX-5 is impressive, too. Its interior feels built to a high quality, with pleasantly tactile materials, and it’s well equipped with a modern 10.25-inch infotainment screen that has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Base models even get a leather steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, 17-inch alloys and LED headlights, plus autonomous emergency braking tech. Higher trims only add to the luxury, making the CX-5 a rather desirable car.

Citroën C3 Aircross review - the most comfortable small SUV?

Citroen C3 Aircross front quarter dynamic
Carbuyer rating

4.1 out of 5

Read full review

We were impressed by the Citroen C3 Aircross for its comfortable interior and stylish exterior. The unique styling is paired with more conventional powertrains that are very efficient; the diesel engine achieves 60mpg. Accelerating from a standstill to find a gap in traffic or get moving on a roundabout is also impressive for the diesel model and access in and out is great thanks to the lifted ride height. Comfort is one of the C3 Aircross’ top priorities, with a ride that soaks up the bumps.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

A decent amount of boot space and high scores for safety are other attractive features, and there is plenty of technology. Although, the heater controls are managed through the touchscreen and are not as tactile as a simple dial or button.

Dacia Duster review – a budget family SUV favourite

Dacia Duster SUV
Carbuyer rating

4.2 out of 5

Read full review

The Dacia Duster is available as a Blue dCi 115 diesel with two or four-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission only. The Duster is a great choice for those after a good value diesel car thanks to its low price, although it’s worth noting the diesel can only be configured on top-spec Extreme cars – it’s still great value for the money though.

Dacia Duster Extreme models get rear USB charging ports, electric windows, keyless entry, cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, rear parking sensors, blind spot warning, hill start assist, electric folding mirrors fog lights, tinted windows, automatic climate control, an eight-inch infotainment system with Dacia’s MediaNav navigation system plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and heated front seats.

Audi A3 Sportback review – the original premium hatchback

Audi A3 Carbuyer front quarter driving
Carbuyer rating

4.2 out of 5

Read full reviewWatch video

Not just a popular choice with company-car drivers, the A3 also appeals to private buyers wanting a  premium car with strong residual values. The Audi A3 paired with a 2.0-litre diesel engine became popular just shy of two decades ago and has since remained a go-to choice for those covering higher mileage.

The latest Audi A3 has great technology that’s at least on par with rivals, although many of the dials and buttons have been superseded by a touchscreen that has become a love-it-or-hate-it feature. The pick of the range is the 148bhp ‘35 TDI’ for 61mpg and plenty of power.

Check out our top 10 best hybrid cars, and top 10 best hybrid SUVs.

Top 10 best diesel cars

  1. BMW 3 Series
  2. Land Rover Defender
  3. Skoda Octavia Estate
  4. Volkswagen Golf
  5. Mercedes E-Class
  6. Kia Sorento
  7. Mazda CX-5
  8. Citroen C3 Aircross
  9. Dacia Duster
  10. Audi A3 Sportback
Skip advert
Advertisement

Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

Skip advert
Advertisement

Recommended

Skoda Octavia Estate review – the class leader for practicality
Skoda Octavia Estate facelift review
In-depth reviews
24 May 2024

Skoda Octavia Estate review – the class leader for practicality

Top 10 best hybrid SUVs 2024
Best hybrid SUVs
Best cars
10 May 2024

Top 10 best hybrid SUVs 2024

BMW 5 Series review – a near-faultless executive saloon
BMW 5 Series front quarter
In-depth reviews
9 May 2024

BMW 5 Series review – a near-faultless executive saloon

Land Rover Defender review - iconic 4x4 reinvented
Defender 130
In-depth reviews
9 May 2024

Land Rover Defender review - iconic 4x4 reinvented

Most Popular

New MINI John Cooper Works first look! Petrol and electric hot hatch coming this year
MINI John Cooper Works camo front quarter
News
20 May 2024

New MINI John Cooper Works first look! Petrol and electric hot hatch coming this year

Best new car deals 2024: this week’s top car offers
Carbuyer best new car deals hero
Deals
24 May 2024

Best new car deals 2024: this week’s top car offers

Speed awareness course: what to expect and who’s eligible?
Police car - open boot
Tips and advice
17 May 2024

Speed awareness course: what to expect and who’s eligible?

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
26 Mar 2024

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Public EV charge point
Tips and advice
11 Jan 2023

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?
PCP vs HP
Tips and advice
17 May 2022

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
21 Mar 2024

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Top 10 best car interiors
Peugeot 208 hatchback
Best cars
25 Jun 2021

Top 10 best car interiors

Top 10 best electric cars 2024
Best electric cars
Best cars
16 May 2024

Top 10 best electric cars 2024

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2024
The best cheap-to-run cars 2023
Best cars
2 Jan 2024

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2024

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2024
Fastest hot hatchbacks hero
Best cars
2 Jan 2024

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2024