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Car buyers dumping diesels for hybrid and electric models

New survey suggests the emissions scandal and subsequent talk of punitive taxes on diesel cars has caused their popularity to slump

Words BySteve Huntingford

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Diesel car emissions

Almost half of people who currently drive a diesel plan to switch to a petrol, hybrid or electric model when they next change their car, new research suggests.

Diesels currently account for around four in 10 cars on UK roads. But it seem that this proportion is set to shrink dramatically due to the negative publicity the fuel has received since the Volkswagen Dieselgate emissions scandal.

The changing mood is revealed in a survey for What Car? and its sister title Autocar, in which just 23% of people said they intend to buy a diesel car next time around. What's more, it suggests that most of the people planning to move out of diesels will go for a hybrid or electric model instead.

Currently, just 2% of cars in the UK use hybrid or electric power, but 17% of the people surveyed said one of these would be their preferred choice next time around.

The popularity of petrol cars, meanwhile, looks set to remain stable at around 60% of the UK market.

Concerns about pollution and future resale values were the two most common reasons given for rejecting diesel, with them cited by 73% and 41% respectively.

And while purchasing intention isn't the same as real buyer behaviour, around a third of people said they would no longer consider a diesel under any circumstances – almost as many as had completely ruled out replacing their current car with something electric.

The top 10 hybrid cars – and the ones to avoid:

10. Toyota Yaris Hybrid

No brand is more closely associated with hybrids than Toyota, the company behind that icon of green motoring, the Prius. However, a cheaper option is the Yaris Hybrid which combines small car nimbleness with hybrid efficiency. Generous standard equipment and a spacious and practical interior add further to the Yaris Hybrid’s appeal, while a plasticky dashboard and jittery ride count against it.

Read our full Toyota Yaris review

Find a great Toyota Yaris deal


9. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV has been a staggering success in the UK, selling even better here than in its home market of Japan. It’s popularity is partly down to the fact it’s an SUV, and demand for those is sky-high; partly because it’s a plug-in hybrid, which means it qualifies for the government’s subsidy to buyers of electric cars; and partly because, unlike most hybrids, it’s no more expensive than the diesel alternative.

Read our full Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV review

Find a great Mitsubishi Outlander deal


8. Mercedes-Benz C-Class C 300 h

Back in 2015, this Mercedes-Benz C-Class hybrid won a What Car? twin test against its closest rival, the Lexus IS300h. Despite Lexus’s huge experience in the world of hybrids, the C-Class’s ultra-low CO2 emissions of 94g/km give it lower running costs than the IS. The Mercedes also feels more agile than the Lexus and is plusher inside. It’s a very smart company car choice.

Read our full Mercedes C-Class review

Find a great Mercedes C-Class deal

Click next to see the rest of the top 10 hybrid cars – and the ones to avoid

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