Vegan-friendly cars

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

Murray Scullion
Mar 6, 2019

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 and doesn't use leather. It does however 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, like 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: a disclaimer

As mentioned above by the Vegan Society, there is no such thing as a fully a vegan car. The cars on this list are just some of the most vegan-friendly models on the market.


Vegan-friendly cars

Polestar 2

Best vegan car for eco-conscious buyers 

The Polestar 2 is aiming to bring electric motoring and cruelty-free interiors to the masses.

Polestar is the electric sub-brand of Volvo, and its ‘2’ goes toe to toe with the Tesla Model 3 - so it’s electrically powered with a 275-mile range.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has even awarded Polestar with a Compassionate Business Award because of the car’s vegan-friendly interiors. According to Polestar bosses, the car’s interior will help accelerate the shift of the car industry towards leather-free interiors. Vegan interior components include the seat covers, steering wheel, gear shift and interior coatings.

Renault Twizy

Best vegan 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 car for small families

Latest Ford Fiesta deals (current model) from £9,000
Finance from £139 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 car for medium sized families

Latest VW Golf deals from £6,649
Finance from £111 per month

It’s comfortable, it’s well made, it’s...very sensible. But sensible sells. The Golf is a solid car that 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 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, you can either specify fabric seats, or Mercedes’ artificial leather called Artico.
Mercedes A-Class buying guide


Toyota Prius

Best vegan car for hybrid motoring

Latest Toyota Prius deals from £16,500
Finance from £240 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 car for zero emissions driving

Latest Nissan Leaf deals (current model) from £23,990
Finance from £359 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 a range of around 170 miles, 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


BMW i3

Best vegan car for design

Latest BMW i3 deals from £14,899
Finance from £244 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 car for off-roading pretences

Latest Range Rover Velar deals from £36,900
Finance from £505 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 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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