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
Jul 20, 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. Range Rover now uses a material it calls its Premium Textile seat material, which is an alternative to leather, and designed by Europe’s leading manufacturer of high-quality design textile, Kvadrat. It features a wool-blend textile and generally feels more premium than leather.

But if you like the feel of leather, there is vegan leather, otherwise known as artificial leather. It’s been around since the 1950s in various states, being made from different fibres. But the latest raft of artificial leather is made from sustainable materials like plants and fruits like pineapples.

Are cars vegan friendly?

Leather isn’t the only issue with vegan-friendly cars either. 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. 

So the easiest way for a car to be vegan friendly is by excluding leather. When buying a new car, it’s pretty easy to specify a non-leather interior, however, when buying used it’s a bit trickier, 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 Alacantara. This is a type of man-made suede and is vegan friendly.

Are cars vegan? In short, no. But that’s somewhat missing the point, according to, Dominika Piasecka from the Vegan Society. She says: ‘The bottom line is that there’s no such thing as a 100% vegan car, unfortunately. 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 practicable thing we can do while buying a car, while we can’t of course avoid tyres or steel.’

Vegan friendly cars

Renault Twizy

Best vegan friendly car for tight parking spots

Price from new £6,690 Used prices from £5,000

The Renault Twizy is one of the funnest ways to zip around a city, and it's also one the most unique looking cars 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 cars 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

Price from new £13,715 Used prices from £11,000

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.

It 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. We’d recommend speaking to Ford dealers about steering wheels, as these can be optioned without leather.
Read our Ford Fiesta review

Volkswagen Golf

Best vegan friendly car for medium sized families

Price from new £18,340 Used prices from £10,000

It’s comfortable, it’s well made, it’s...very sensible. But sensible sells. Besides, sometimes you just need something to ferry the kids around in, or to get to work. 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 can be optioned without leather. Get the SE spec, as this has useful additions like parking sensors and automatic headlights.
Read our Volkswagen Golf review

Mercedes A-Class

Best vegan friendly car for high-tech interior

Price from new £22,850 Used prices from £20,950

The 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 uber-limo S-Class, chiefly augmented reality sat nav and voice recognition software.

At the moment, even top-specification AMG Line models can’t be optioned with leather seats. Although, this set to change later this year. You can either specify fabric seats, or Mercedes’ artificial leather called Artico.
Read our Mercedes A-Class review

Toyota Prius

Best vegan friendly car for hybrid motoring

Price from new £24,245 Used prices from £18,000

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

Price from new £25,190 Used prices from £23,000

The Nissan Leaf is the best-selling electric car in Europe and is proudly 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

Price from new £26,185 Used prices from £14,000

While there has been a shift from MPVs 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 17inch alloy wheels, sun blinds, additional storage compartments, and even cruise control.
Read our Seat Alhambra review

BMW i3

Best vegan friendly car for design

Price from new £34,075 Used prices from £17,500

The BMW i3 is an electric car that has decent range, can be optioned with a range extending petrol engine, and, is one of the finest looking cars on sale today. It certainly has a wow factor sorely missing in other green cars. Speaking of which, BMW reckons 95% of it is recyclable too - which is pretty good going.

BMW’s knack for tapping into the ecological mindset with the i3 can be felt in the interior too - even some of the wood it uses 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. The interiors have loads of options, including cloth upholstery, as well as BMW’s artificial leather called Sensatec.
Read our BMW i3 review

Range Rover Velar

Best vegan friendly car for off-roading pretences

Price from new £44,735 Used prices from £40,000

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.

Best of all, 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. Every Velar feels luxurious and there’s also the option of a wool and polyester-blend material called Premium Textile, which costs more than Land Rover’s high-end Windsor leather, but doesn’t involve animal hide.
Read our Range Rover Velar review

Tesla Model S

Best vegan friendly car for speed

Price from new £64,700 Used prices from £60,000

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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