Used cars with the best diesel engines

They may have a bad reputation these days, but the best diesel engines could still be the most sensible choice for you

Joe Holding
Dec 7, 2021

For several years, the reputation of diesel fuel has suffered significantly. The reasons for its tarnished reputation have to do with increased awareness of the importance of clean air for public health, and more and more research highlighting the toxic particulates that diesel engines can emit.

It’s not all bad news, however. Diesel engines tend to have lower CO2 emissions and better fuel efficiency than their petrol counterparts, which still makes them a good alternative for many.

For some drivers, diesel engines are still the best choice for their lifestyle, but weighing up the pros and cons isn’t always straightforward. The most obvious benefit of owning a diesel is better fuel economy and lower running costs, but it’s important to consider how engine performance is affected, too. Diesels make the best cars for towing a caravan or trailer, as they produce loads of pulling power at low engine speeds.

With all this in mind, we have compiled the following list of the best diesel cars in a variety of categories, which should help you search for a new car if you have decided diesel is the right choice. There are great deals to be had on BuyaCar for all of the following models, and we can deliver any of them to your door in just a few clicks.

Used cars with the best diesel engine

1. Volkswagen Polo

Used deals Limited stock

The Volkswagen Polo is about as good as superminis get, and its superb fuel economy makes it the best small diesel car. The previous-generation Polo - sold between 2010 and 2018 - was only offered with the one diesel engine, alongside a lineup of petrols, but this 1.4-litre 'TDI' version was said to be capable of up to 83mpg. That’s very impressive, even by today’s standards.

The only real downside is that it isn’t particularly fast, with its power output of 74hp enabling it to cover 0-62mph in 12.9 seconds. If you’re prepared to travel at a leisurely pace, then the Polo’s excellent interior space, high-quality interior finish and assured driving feel will be more than enough to satisfy you on a day-to-day basis.

The diesel Polo will suit you most if you cover a lot of miles in a year, as the particulate filter has a habit of clogging up when not driven regularly. You also need to be happy that 280 litres of boot space will be enough for your needs: there’s more than enough room for four adults, but perhaps not four adults’ worth of luggage, as this is a small car.

Look out for Match models added from December 2015 onwards, as these included £900 of extra equipment for not much more than you’d have paid for an SE variant.


2. Renault Megane

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If you’re after a hatchback that’s strong in nearly all departments, the Renault Megane is a top choice. Two diesel engines are offered here: the 1.5-litre 'dCi' that produces 110hp and is capable of 76.4mpg, and the 1.6-litre 'dCi' with 130hp and fuel economy of 70.6mpg. There’s little to choose between them, although the latter doesn’t have to be worked quite as hard when you need to get up to speed, making it more suited to faster driving.

The Megane itself is very comfortable by hatchback standards, and the 8.7-inch touchscreen media system added on Dynamique S Nav cars looks smart and is easy to use. The boot measures a very handy 384 litres, although the Megane has the opposite problem to the Polo in that rear passenger space is rather limited. If this is a problem for you, then the larger Megane Sport Tourer estate might be the solution.

If you can stretch to one, you may want to find a model from 2019 onwards, as these came with a five-year warranty as opposed to the previous four-year offer.


3. Mazda 6

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There are few better diesel engines than those found in the third-generation Mazda 6, which was sold between 2013 and 2018. The one we’d recommend is the most powerful 2.2d with 175hp. Being capable of achieving 0-62mph in under eight seconds made it the fastest in the range, but fuel economy of almost 60mpg was still brilliant. So you could put your foot down but not have to worry about the effects on your wallet.

All diesel versions were very quiet on the move, but models sold from August 2016 onwards were even better in this regard, as updates made them quieter and more responsive, while sound insulation was improved too. To cap it all off, the Mazda 6’s design cuts a distinctive figure on the road, there’s enough space inside for a growing family of five, and it’s won awards for its towing ability too.

Most used diesel Mazda 6 models have covered a fair amount of mileage, which means there are plenty available for less than £10,000 on BuyaCar. Top-level trims will add to the price you pay, but you needn’t go chasing luxury kit as even the most basic examples come with 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, air-conditioning and a touchscreen media system.


4. Alfa Romeo Giulia

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If driving enjoyment is a priority for you, then another saloon that’s definitely worth looking at is the Alfa Romeo Giulia. It’s an exciting alternative to the offerings of BMW, Audi and Mercedes, and it’s certain to add some Italian flair to your Monday morning commute.

The 2.2-litre diesel offers 180hp and is the best for fuel economy at 67.2mpg according to the official figures, while 0-62mph takes a brisk 7.1 seconds. The lightweight construction used in the Giulia makes it fun to throw around on b-road corners, and while there’s no manual gearbox, the automatic won’t rain on your parade, as it works well.

You shouldn’t be afraid of this sportiness coming at the cost of comfort or practicality either; the Giulia’s suspension rides well in everyday situations, and the 480-litre boot will easily swallow a couple of big suitcases for a weekend away.

The Giulia isn’t as common as some of the more mainstream alternatives, so it's not the easiest model to find second-hand, but if you like its distinctive style, it's well worth being patient and waiting until the right model becomes available.


5. Ford Mondeo Estate

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You can’t really go wrong with a Ford Mondeo, but if you need more practicality than the hatchback or saloon versions will give you, the Ford Mondeo Estate is an even better choice. Don’t be deceived by the apparent drop in boot space from 541 to 500 litres; the roofline is flat right up to the bootlid and the hatchback boot opening is wide, so it’s better for transporting large items. And if you drop the rear seats, you’ll have a substantial 1,605 litres of space at your disposal.

Diesel power is best for the Mondeo Estate, and we’d go for the 2.0-litre diesel models badged 'TDCi'. These come with either 150hp, 180hp or 210hp, and the middle variant strikes a nice balance between performance and fuel economy, delivering 58.6mpg. If you’re likely to tow a caravan, the most powerful version might be the better bet.

Better still, the engine runs quietly, so long journeys can pass by peacefully. Decent build quality is present and correct too, and while it’s not the most exciting estate it’s a very dependable workhorse.


6. BMW X5

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Efficient diesel engines are one of the main reasons to buy a BMW X5 SUV, although passenger space, a luxury interior finish and incredible levels of on-board technology are big factors too. The latest model was launched in 2018, but if you’re looking for a bargain then the previous-generation car that arrived in 2013 will tick all the right boxes.

The most basic sDrive25d, two-wheel-drive diesel (all the other diesels are 'xDrivefour-wheel drive, which reduces fuel economy) will serve you perfectly well with 52.3mpg, which is pretty good for a large car such as this. A total of 231hp is enough to propel you from 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds, although you can get this down to a rapid 5.3 seconds in the mighty M50d version if you so wish.

The BMW X5 is a high-end car, so the inside is suitably swish; even the entry-level SE spec comes with leather upholstery and a leather steering wheel, plus cruise control, a digital radio, heated front seats and a large touchscreen media system with BMW’s easy-to-use 'iDrive' interface.


7. Jaguar XF

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Living a life of luxury is easy in the Jaguar XF. This upmarket saloon is as much of a personal statement as it is a method of transport, with a sophisticated interior guaranteed to make every drive feel special from behind the wheel. It’s not all for show either, as the XF is capable of decent speed when the need arises.

As you’d expect, the diesel models are far better than the petrol ones when it comes to fuel economy. The most frugal 2.0-litre version is able to return up to 57.6mpg, while the most powerful version - the 240hp model - can cover 0-62mph in a quick 6.5 seconds. Even this is capable of returning 47.9mpg, which is still impressive.

Whichever XF you choose, you’ll feel encouraged to have fun thanks to the car’s precise steering. The six-speed manual gearbox is very smooth, although the eight-speed automatic is a better fit overall. When you’ve had enough of driving the XF fast, it’s a relaxing cruiser made all the more civilised by the expensive-looking materials used throughout and the slick digital displays on the dashboard.


8. Kia Sorento

Used deals from £17,000
Monthly finance from £531*

Kia is producing rapidly improving cars every year and has a lineup of models that are reliable, built to a high standard and far more desirable than they were even a few years ago.

The Kia Sorento SUV is no exception, with its seven seats making ideal if you have a large family. The last row of seats is a little cramped and only really suitable for kids, but it's still a very useful feature to have.

A new version of the Sorento went on sale in the summer of 2020, meaning that prices for the model that came before it (the third-generation car, released in 2015) are coming down. This was only available with a diesel engine; a 2.2-litre unit that delivered 200hp and enabled the Sorento to achieve 0-60mph in under 10 seconds. Fuel economy of up to 49.6mpg is vastly better than you’ll get in something like a Land Rover Discovery, too.

A trailer stability assist system is one of the many standard features, with manual versions of the car able to tow up to 2.5 tonnes.


*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.


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