The best diesel cars

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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by
Steve Huntingford
Updated08 August 2022

Best diesel cars 2022

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 can at least match their petrol counterparts for cleanliness. 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, leading with the best diesel car on sale: the Range Rover Evoque. 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.

Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Great driving position
  • Well-equipped
  • Slow depreciation

Weaknesses

  • Limited boot space
  • So-so fuel economy and emissions
  • Land Rover’s reliability record

The Range Rover Evoque is one of the most stylish SUVs you can buy, and there's plenty of substance to back up those eye-catching looks. It's well equipped, gives you a great driving position and hold its value brilliantly. Go for our recommended D200 diesel and you'll enjoy smooth acceleration as well as enough punch to execute swift overtakes. If you're in the market for a diesel-engined car, it's the model we recommend the most.

Read our Range Rover Evoque review

Our pick: 330e 22.3 kWh M Sport 4dr Step Auto

0-62mph: 5.9 sec
MPG/range: 353.1mpg
CO2 emissions: 19g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 375 litres
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

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

Weaknesses

  • Ride is rather firm – particularly in M Sport versions
  • Not as well finished inside as an Audi A4
  • Voice command or fiddly touchscreen only way to adjust climate control

Picture the typical company car in your head, and the chances are that you're thinking of a BMW 3 Series. This stylish yet practical executive saloon is as synonymous with the executive car class as jam is with bread, and the good news is that it's the best car of its kind. The entry-level 148bhp 318d diesel engine has enough pull for most situations, but we'd recommend increasing your budget to get the 187bhp 320d if you can afford to, since you'll appreciate its extra punch.

Read our BMW 3 Series review

Driving
Interior
Practicality
Buying & Owning

Strengths

  • Hugely spacious boot and interior
  • Minimal wind noise
  • Well priced, and hybrid makes a cheap company car

Weaknesses

  • Hybrid isn’t as practical as other versions
  • Interior quality disappoints in places
  • Some estates are more fun to drive

The Skoda Superb Estate is the best car of its kind, offering more space than any family could reasonably want, along with the comfort and mile-munching ability to make even long journeys seem like a walk in the park. The 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine is our pick of the Superb range, because it offers the kind of low-down grunt that will be especially useful if you plan on towing or regularly carrying heavy loads.

Read our Skoda Superb Estate review

Our pick: 530e M Sport 4dr Auto

0-62mph: 6.3 sec
MPG/range: 470.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 13g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 520 litres
Insurance group: 39E
Driving
Interior
Practicality
Buying & Owning

Strengths

  • Agile handling
  • Beautifully finished interior
  • Class-leading infotainment

Weaknesses

  • Gearbox can be jerky
  • You’ll want to add some options
  • Electric rivals cost less in BIK tax

A former What Car? Car of the Year, the BMW 5 Series remains the best luxury car you can buy. It offers all the comfort, class and technology you could want, at a price that makes it look like a bargain compared with some of its class rivals. The entry-level 520d diesel engine provides all the power you'll need, too, being able to hit 62mph in just 7.2sec, while also keeping your running costs in check thanks to mild hybrid assistance.

Read our BMW 5 Series review

Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

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

Weaknesses

  • Entry-level engines are a touch weedy
  • A BMW 3 Series is more fun to drive
  • You can’t add many options

A popular choice with company car drivers for its mile-munching ability and comfort, the latest Audi A4 is a fine example of a car that's best suited to a diesel engine. It's the entry level 161bhp 35 TDI option that's our favourite, because it mixes low-down punch with the kind of fuel economy that will have you and your accountant smiling. Elsewhere, it's well built inside, with high-quality materials which place it a cut above many of its rivals.

Read our Audi A4 review

Our pick: xDrive40d MHT M Sport 5dr Step Auto

0-62mph: 5.9 sec
MPG/range: 36.2mpg
CO2 emissions: 205g/km
Seats: 7
Boot: 750 litres
Insurance group: 50E
Driving
Interior
Practicality
Buying & Owning

Strengths

  • Supremely quiet and comfortable
  • Incredibly spacious and practical
  • Great infotainment system

Weaknesses

  • There are cheaper alternatives
  • Looks won’t be to all tastes
  • No plug-in hybrid or electric option

If big is beautiful, then the BMW X7 should be in the National Portrait Gallery. You see, it's the largest SUV BMW makes, and as such has acres of space on board for you, your passengers, and the kitchen sink they may wish to bring with them. It's so good, in fact, that we named it as the Best Luxury SUV for Big Families at the most recent What Car? Awards. Hauling around a heavy hitter like the X7 is best suited to a grunty diesel engine, and the xDrive40d model we recommend has 335bhp on tap to make the task as easy as asking for a refill of champagne.

Read our BMW X7 review

Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

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

Weaknesses

  • Touchscreen infotainment system
  • Third-row space is better in the BMW X7
  • Entry-level Sport trim misses some important kit

If you're in the market for a luxury SUV then you clearly appreciate the finer things in life, and we think the 282bhp 50 TDI diesel engine in the Audi Q7 is one such finer thing. It pulls effortlessly from low revs and can get you up to motorway speeds in just 6.2sec. Combine that with the Q7's other strengths, namely a beautifully made interior, lots of space for your family and all their luggage, and a comfy ride, and it's easy to see why this is a five-star luxury SUV. In fact, we reckon it's the most comfortable luxury SUV you can buy.

Read our Audi Q7 review

Our pick: 420i M Sport 2dr Step Auto

0-62mph: 7.5 sec
MPG/range: 44.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 144g/km
Seats: 4
Boot: 440 litres
Insurance group: 29E
Driving
Interior
Practicality
Buying & Owning

Strengths

  • More fun to drive than direct rivals
  • Range-topping M440i is seriously rapid
  • Back seats are more usable than you might imagine

Weaknesses

  • Divisive looks
  • Rivals have more versatile folding rear seats
  • Some wind and tyre noise

Our reigning Coupé of the Year, the latest BMW 4 Series marries jaw-dropping looks with an engaging drive and even a relatively practical interior. We like both the range-topping M440i and the entry level 420i petrols, but if you'll be covering lots of miles it's the 420d diesel that we'd point you towards. It's powerful, with lots of low-down grunt to get you moving quickly, yet shouldn't cost a lot to run.

Read our BMW 4 Series review

Our pick: 40 TDI Quattro Sport 5dr S Tronic

0-62mph: 7.6 sec
MPG/range: 44.1mpg
CO2 emissions: 167g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 520 litres
Insurance group: 33E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Smooth and punchy engines
  • Good to drive
  • High-quality interior

Weaknesses

  • Plug-in hybrid battery range could be better
  • No seven-seat option
  • Firmer ride on S line and Edition 1 versions

Diesel power suits the Audi Q5 large SUV very well, and the 201bhp 40 TDI diesel engine we recommend is one of the most impressive options in the range, feeling effortlessly strong from low down in the rev range, and benefitting from mild hybrid assistance to help assist the engine and reduce fuel consumption. Elsewhere, the Q5 is a fairly practical choice, with an interior that's a touch above most other options in this class. It features top-notch materials and feels well put together, and is loaded with useful technology, including an infotainment system that's easier to get along with than the one in the rival Volvo XC60.

Read our Audi Q5 review

Our pick: 3.0 D250 S 110 5dr Auto

0-62mph: 8.3 sec
MPG/range: 33.1mpg
CO2 emissions: 223g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 786 litres
Insurance group: 37E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Comfortable on the road, excellent off it
  • Up to eight seats
  • Slow depreciation

Weaknesses

  • Higher trim levels are very pricey
  • Fuel economy and CO2 emissions are poor
  • Tiny boot in 90 models

The latest Land Rover Defender isn't just for off-roading. Indeed, while it's wonderfully capable in the rough stuff, it's also a very accomplished SUV on the road, with comfy air suspension as standard (if you go for the 110 model) and a luxurious interior. Diesel versions of the Defender all use the same 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine with mild hybrid assistance to help keep your fuel bills under control, and of these it's the 296bhp D300 that has the most grunt. Indeed, it can haul the Defender to 62mph in just 7.0sec. 

Read our Land Rover Defender review

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