Vegan cars

Veganism is on a rapid rise and car manufacturers are well aware of it. These are the best vegan friendly cars

Murray Scullion
Sep 10, 2018

The number of vegans in the UK now sits at around 3.5 million, according to a recent study. To put that into context, a different study from the Vegan Society in 2016 put the figure at 542,000.

It’s not a phenomenon that’s gone unnoticed either. Fashion designers like Gucci, Versace and DKNY have been giving up leather, and car manufacturers are cottoning on to the growing movement too by regularly skipping on leather in favour of vegan-friendly options.

The easiest way to avoid leather traditionally is by going for cheaper-specification models. For instance, the base-spec S model Volkswagen Golf gets cloth seats as standard, whereas the much more expensive R-Line models get leather.

The tides are turning, however, as car makers realise that cars don't need leather seats to be luxurious. Range Rover now uses a material it calls its Premium Textile seat material, which is designed by Kvadrat, a maker of high-end fabrics. The part-polyester material feels opulent but does contain wool, which isn't generally regarded as vegan-friendly due to the way that sheep are farmed.

If you like the feel of leather, there is vegan leather, which is also known as artificial leather. It has been around since the 1950s in various states. The latest raft of artificial leather is increasingly made from sustainable materials, with plant-based artificial leather being developed. this can even be made from fibres extracted from waste pineapple leaves.

Are cars vegan friendly?

Leather isn’t the only issue with vegan-friendly cars. Entertainment system screens contain liquid crystals that may be based on cholesterol taken from animals. The rubber and plastic used to make tyres may be vulcanised and toughened using tallow (mutton fat), and even the steel used for a car’s frame may have been lubricated with animal fat. 

In short, no car comes close to being entirely vegan-friendly but that's not the point, according to Dominika Piasecka a spokesperson for the Vegan Society. "The bottom line is that there’s no such thing as a 100% vegan car, unfortunately," says Piasecka. "The key with veganism is trying to do your best. It’s not possible to be 100% vegan in this imperfect world but we can avoid animal suffering as much as possible. Avoiding leather is a practical thing we can do while buying a car, while we can’t of course avoid tyres or steel."

When buying a new car, it’s easy to specify a non-leather interior but it's not always as easy when buying used, as not everything is labelled properly. Keep an eye out for the specific names of artificial leathers used by car makers, such as Artico with Mercedes and Sensatec with BMW. Also, look out for Alcantara. This is a type of man-made suede and is vegan friendly.

 

Vegan friendly cars

Renault Twizy

Best vegan friendly car for tight parking spots

The Renault Twizy is one of the most fun ways to zip around a city, and it's also one the most unique looking vehicles around. It’s electrically powered, so offers zero emissions driving, and is so small that it can be parked head on like the Smart ForTwo in busy streets.

It may only have seating for two (one in front of the other), but it is one of the most vegan-friendly motors on sale as it doesn’t have leather seats and the whole vehicle is 85% recyclable.

 

Ford Fiesta

Best vegan friendly car for small families

Latest Ford Fiesta deals (current model) from £10,245
Finance from £138 per month

Ford’s Fiesta is the best-selling car in the UK, and is also massively popular throughout Europe. The success is no accident either, as it combines comfort, value for money, and performance in a neatly proportioned package, with a huge variety of engine and interior choices.

The latest model, which went on sale in 2017, has plenty of options for non-leather seats too. You’ll have to opt for a Style, Zetec, or B&O Play Zetec model to fully avoid leather seats though. All Fiestas, apart from entry-level Style models have leather steering wheels as standard, but these can be swapped for non-leather materials on request. Used buyers may be able to have leather-trimmed steering wheels replaced by a Ford dealership. 
Ford Fiesta buying guide

 

Volkswagen Golf

Best vegan friendly car for medium sized families

Latest VW Golf deals from £7,999
Finance from £137 per month

It’s comfortable, it’s well made, it’s...very sensible. But sensible sells. The Golf is a solid car which is economical and robust, plus it has plenty of engine choices. Used values are strong too, which makes car finance deals cheap.

For a new car, you’ll have to opt for an S, SE, or SE Nav model, as these are the only ones that are available without leather. SE spec is best, as this has useful additions like parking sensors and automatic headlights.
Volkswagen Golf buying guide

 

Mercedes A-Class

Best vegan friendly car for high-tech interior

The latest A-Class may be the cheapest car in Mercedes’ range, but it’s still brimming with the technology and quality you’d expect from a Merc. Inside there are gadgets to rival the firm's high-end luxury cars, such as augmented reality sat nav that displays directions over images of the road ahead and sophisticated voice recognition software.

At the moment, leather seats aren't even an option on the new A-Class, although this set to change later this year. You can either specify fabric seats, or Mercedes’ artificial leather called Artico.
Mercedes A-Class buying guide

 

Toyota Prius

Best vegan friendly car for hybrid motoring

Latest Toyota Prius deals from £16,500
Finance from £219 per month

If it’s good enough for Leonardo DiCaprio it’s good enough for us. The Prius kicked-off the hybrid car phenomenon, ushering in a new-age of eco-friendly taxi drivers. It’s remarkably reliable too, although, not the most sporting drive around.

Base-spec Prius’ come with cloth seats, but even plus plusher cars skip leather in favour of cloth as well. Word of warning though - top spec Excel models can only be had with leather seats.
Read our Toyota Prius review

 

Nissan Leaf

Best vegan friendly car for zero emissions driving

Latest Nissan Leaf deals (current model) from £23,664
Finance from £371 per month

The Nissan Leaf is the best-selling electric car in Europe and is made in Sunderland. It’s also the best fully-electric family car that most families can afford. It has the best range in class, is quiet and comfortable plus, being electric, it’s surprisingly fast.

The Leaf can be specified without leather seats, steering wheel, and gearshift (mostly because the gearshift is a metal switch) which is great for vegans. It should be noted that top-spec Tekna models do get leather as standard though.
Read our Nissan Leaf review

 

Seat Alhambra

Best vegan friendly car for seven-seats

While there has been a shift from people carriers like the Alhambra to SUVs like the Skoda Kodiaq among the buying public, there’s no denying that the Alhambra offers a lot of space, seating for seven, and practical sliding doors for not a lot of money.

Only S and SE models forgo leather, but it’s not like you’re missing out on much. SE spec cars get 17in alloy wheels, sun blinds, additional storage compartments, and even cruise control.
Read our Seat Alhambra review

BMW i3

Best vegan friendly car for design

Latest BMW i3 deals from £15,460
Finance from £240 per month

The BMW i3 is an electric car, which uses some of the most eco-friendly materials on the car market today. It's made largely from carbon fibre, rather than steel and is 95 per cent recyclable, according to BMW.

Some of the wood used on the dashboard comes from knocked down trees that are grown in monsoon season, so that it doesn’t take away space from growing plants to eat. Interior options include cloth upholstery, as well as BMW’s artificial leather called Sensatec.

It's a realistic option for most drivers, thanks to the real-world range of around 150 miles between charges offered by the version with the largest battery (known as 94Ah). It's also available with a small petrol engine, known as a range extender (ReX), which can charge the car up on the move
BMW i3 buying guide

 

Range Rover Velar

Best vegan friendly car for off-roading pretences

Latest Range Rover Velar deals from £41,744
Finance from £521 per month

This is probably the most fashionable car on the list, and would match nicely with any Gucci faux-leather handbag. The Velar is an off-roader for town, and is larger than the Range Rover Evoque, but not as big as the Range Rover Sport.

The Velar shows that car manufacturers are changing their ways when it comes to leather. No longer are non-leather interiors the reserve of bargain basement models, with the option of Range Rover's PRemium Textile. its appeal will depend on your view on wool, as the fabric is a wool and polyester blend.
Read our Range Rover Velar review

 

Tesla Model S

Best vegan friendly car for speed

Tesla’s electric cars are known for their long range (up to 393 miles) and their lightning-fast acceleration (0-60mph in 2.5 seconds), but you might be bored of Tesla-related headlines infiltrating the news every day. Even if you are, the headline ‘All of Tesla’s seat options are vegan’ is certainly attention grabbing.

In short, Tesla no longer sells new cars with leather seats, a huge win for vegans. They all come with synthetic leather material now, although leather steering wheels remain standard. Tesla will fit a non-leather steering wheel on request though.

 

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