Best diesel cars 2020

If you're in the market for an SUV, an executive saloon or something for towing, diesel cars still make a lot of financial sense. Here we count down our favourites...


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What Car? team

Diesel has received a lot of bad press in recent years, and while it's true that diesel engines – especially older ones – can be more polluting than petrols, a diesel-powered car still makes a great deal of sense for drivers who cover lots of miles.

Indeed, despite the negative headlines, our independent tests have shown that the latest diesel engines are, in some cases, cleaner than their petrol counterparts.

What's more, they're almost always more efficient. And, in larger cars, the strong low-down pulling power of a diesel engine usually makes it preferable to a higher revving petrol.

Here, we've rounded up our favourite diesel-powered cars. In each case, you can find out more about it or see how much our New Car Buying service could save you by clicking on the relevant link.

10

BMW X3 xDrive20d MHT

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£37,903

RRP from £41,485 to £87,530

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The X3 is a great choice if you're looking for a prestige SUV with five seats. Keen drivers will like its strong yet smooth 2.0-litre diesel engine and top-notch handling, while passengers can enjoy the plush and spacious interior. You also get BMW's iDrive infotainment system, which is the best around.

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Pros

  • Sharp handling
  • Class-leading infotainment
  • Strong engines

Cons

  • Slightly firm ride in M Sport trim
  • Popular 20d engine sounds relatively gruff
  • Comparatively pricey PCP finance
9

Audi A4 40 TDI quattro

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£28,178

RRP from £30,760 to £57,625

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Recently facelifted, the A4 is hard to fault, which is why we named it our overall Car of the Year back in 2016. As you'd expect, the ride is comfortable and the interior incredibly classy. Go for our recommended 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine (badged 40 TDI) and you'll also enjoy prodigious performance and good fuel economy.

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Pros

  • Class-leading interior quality
  • Smooth engines
  • Well equipped as standard

Cons

  • Entry-level engines a touch weedy
  • All-touchscreen infotainment system
  • Rivals have lower CO2 emissions
8

Range Rover Velar D180

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£43,159

RRP from £45,710 to £86,725

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If you want the luxury of a Range Rover, but can live without much of its prodigious off-road ability, then the Velar is for you. It's luxurious inside, has a massive boot and the D180 engine we recommend is also surprisingly economical. It might be the smallest engine in the range, but this 2.0-litre diesel still offers 187bhp – enough to haul the Velar to motorway speeds with impressive gusto.

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Pros

  • Decent economy with the D180 diesel
  • Massive boot
  • Good off road

Cons

  • Average rear leg room
  • Slow-witted infotainment
  • Some cheap plastics inside
7

Skoda Superb Estate 2.0 TDI 150

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£23,988

RRP from £26,135 to £42,100

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The regular Skoda Superb is already hugely spacious, but if you need to haul around industrial volumes of cargo, then the Superb Estate is what you'll want. It has more space than the average cruise liner, a smart interior and represents exceptional value for money. Our recommended 2.0-litre diesel engine has 148bhp on tap, and is well suited to motorway cruising.

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Pros

  • Class-leading space
  • Smart interior for the price
  • Exceptional value for money all round

Cons

  • Some rivals are more fun to drive
  • Diesel engines sound a little gruff
  • Automatic gearbox can be a tad jerky in traffic
6

Audi Q5 40 TDI quattro

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£38,093

RRP from £41,445 to £68,070

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Beautifully made and quiet as a mouse, the latest Q5 feels like a far more expensive car than it actually is. As in the A4, the 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine is the one to go for, because it has plenty of oomph to get you going, yet also CO2 emissions low enough to keep your company car tax bills competitive.

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Pros

  • Smooth and punchy engines
  • High-quality interior
  • Excellent infotainment system

Cons

  • Steering could be more involving
  • No seven-seat option
  • You need pricey air suspension for the best ride
5

BMW 3 Series 320d

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£27,860

RRP from £31,110 to £49,845

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The 3 Series is our reigning champion in the highly competitive executive saloon class, beating rivals that include the Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class. The 3 Series features a strong 2.0-litre diesel engine in 320d form, and is huge fun to drive. Add in BMW's impressive iDrive infotainment system and it's a fantastic choice.

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Pros

  • Brilliant fun to drive
  • Class-leading infotainment system
  • Great range of engines

Cons

  • Ride is rather firm – particularly in M Sport versions
  • Not as well finished inside as an Audi A4
  • Adjustable lumbar support costs extra
4

Volvo XC40 D3

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£25,295

RRP from £25,295 to £53,155

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Volvo's family SUV is brimming with both style and kit, while also being spacious and one of the very best cars of its type to drive. It's so good, in fact, that we named it as our overall Car of the Year in 2018. The 148bhp 2.0-litre D3 diesel is our recommended choice, because it's more flexible than the petrol T3, so more relaxing to drive. It's economical, too, returning an impressive 42.9mpg in our True MPG test.

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Pros

  • Stylish and high-quality interior
  • Comfortable ride on most versions
  • Comprehensive safety kit

Cons

  • Lacks the rear seat flexibility of some rivals
  • Fiddly infotainment system
  • Road noise on the motorway
3

Audi Q7 50 TDI

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£51,910

RRP from £56,940 to £96,380

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Audi's seven-seat luxury SUV is the best cars of its kind. It's incredibly quiet, comfortable to sit in and pleasantly efficient to run, while its interior is plush enough to shame most luxury saloons. As if all that weren't enough, the Q7 is extremely practical, having plenty of space for families and their luggage. The 50 TDI diesel engine is the mid-point of the Q7 range and makes acceleration effortless.

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Pros

  • Smooth and powerful engines
  • Pillowy ride in Sport and S line trims
  • Stunning interior quality

Cons

  • Rivals have better infotainment systems
  • Third-row space is better in the BMW X7
  • Slow-witted automatic gearboxes
2

BMW 5 Series 520d MHT

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£35,014

RRP from £38,600 to £70,350

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The 5 Series won our overall Car of the Year Award in 2017 and remains the best luxury car you can buy. Its interior quality shames rivals that cost twice as much, plus it's great to drive, incredibly quiet and very comfortable. There's a reason the 2.0-litre diesel-engined 520d is the most popular version among British buyers, too: it's brawny, with plenty of power, but also impressively frugal.

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Pros

  • Agile and comfortable – with adaptive suspension fitted
  • Beautifully made interior
  • Superb infotainment system

Cons

  • Unsettled ride on 19in alloys and standard M Sport suspension
  • A Volvo S90 has bigger rear seats
  • A Mercedes E-Class has a bigger boot
1

Range Rover Evoque D180

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£30,090

RRP from £31,725 to £51,860

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The Range Rover Evoque is one of the most stylish SUVs you can buy, and there's plenty of substance to back up those looks. It's well equipped, gives you a great driving position and hold its value brilliantly. Go for our recommended D180 diesel and you'll enjoy smooth acceleration as well as enough punch to execute swift overtakes.

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Read our review

Pros

  • Great driving position
  • Well equipped
  • Slow depreciation

Cons

  • There are cheaper alternatives
  • So-so fuel economy and emissions
  • Land Rover’s reliability record
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