Fast diesel cars

Fancy a quick but economical car? Here are the best fast diesel cars you can buy, from sporty SUVs to hot hatchbacks

Sam Naylor
Apr 27, 2022

Fast diesel cars are, for many people, the best of both worlds. You can enjoy the sporty performance that comes with a powerful engine, but without the associated high running costs you get with a performance-oriented petrol motor.

Diesel models may be starting to go out of fashion as fuel prices rise and concerns over air pollution grow, with some drivers looking to electric and hybrid cars instead of diesel power. Yet, if you are doing a lot of miles each year, or most of your journeys are motorway-based, diesel is still a brilliant option.

This is because diesel engines are very efficient at motorway speeds, often being capable of over 60mpg fuel economy at a typical motorway speed. Combined with the large fuel tank that many diesel cars have, this means you can drive all day long without having to stop to refuel. Trips across the continent can be done much faster in a diesel car for this reason, so there’s still plenty of appeal in a fast diesel.

Diesel cars are usually larger models because petrol makes more sense in smaller cars that don’t tend to spend much time on the motorway. This means fast diesel cars usually have an engine of 2.0 litres or more, and the fastest diesels are big six- or eight-cylinder motors with loads of muscle from low engine speeds. This means that they pick up speed effortlessly - great if you want a car that can punt you along quickly, without you having to work the engine hard.

This is true of all fast diesels, as these engines tend to produce more power than a similar-size petrol at lower engine speeds. It means they often feel faster from lower engine 'revs' than their petrol equivalents, which can make them fun to drive.

In this list of the best fast diesel cars we’ve gone for a selection of the best models that use a powerful diesel engine to great effect. There are diesel hot hatchbacks here that make great all-rounders, plus larger diesel saloons and SUVs, and we’ve even found a luxury car with diesel power and plenty of performance.

Read on to find out more about each of our picks.

The best fast diesel cars

1. Ford Focus

Best fast diesel hot hatch

Our pick Ford Focus ST 2.0 EcoBlue
Used deals from £21,590

When the current Ford Focus ST launched, it was available in both petrol and diesel form, as well as in hatchback and estate body styles. As of 2021 there’s no longer a diesel version available new, but you can certainly still find used examples here and there.

The Focus ST is a brilliant all-rounder and in 190hp diesel form it’s not quite as fast as the petrol model, which has 280hp. However, there’s loads of power and as much punch from low engine speeds as in the petrol car, so it’s still a lot of fun - and the Focus ST’s best aspect isn’t its engine, it’s the handling around corners.

The Focus is fantastic to drive, with sharp steering, lots of grip and a compliant ride that keeps the car feeling controlled even on bumpy country roads. It’s as practical as any version of the Ford Focus, so it makes a great family car - and as it’s a diesel, it should be affordable to run as well. There aren’t many cars that cover this many bases that well.

FORD FOCUS ST BUYERS' GUIDE

2. BMW 3 Series

Best fast diesel saloon car

BMW 3 Series front three quarters view

Our pick BMW 335d
Used deals from £15,000

The BMW 3 Series is a fantastic car in any guise - from the lesser economy-focused diesels up to the seriously quick M3 model. You could easily argue that the best of the lot is the 335d model, which has a powerful six-cylinder diesel engine that’s both fast and fuel-efficient.

It’s a smooth engine, so isn’t rattly or unpleasant to use like some diesel motors, and it has all the performance you could want. It really suits the BMW’s mixed personality - it’s a very capable, comfortable and quiet cruiser on the motorway but is also great to drive on twisty roads.

The 3 Series is available in both saloon and estate form. The latter is more practical, but less common and a bit more expensive. Unless you need the extra boot space, the saloon is just as roomy for passengers and has a decent boot in its own right. In-car technology is a strong point in all models, plus the interior is smart and feels very modern.

BMW 3 SERIES BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Jaguar F-Pace 3.0D S

Best fast diesel mid-size SUV

Our pick Jaguar F-Pace 3.0d/D300
Used deals from £25,900

Jaguar makes many excellent diesel cars and the F-Pace SUV is one that really stands out thanks to its bold SUV looks. In S form it’s available with a 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel engine that produces around 300hp, so it’s certainly able to qualify for being fast. In fact, if you’re after a mid-sized family SUV in diesel form, it’s our top pick.

The diesel engine isn’t the most economical, but you’ll still be able to get over 40mpg fairly easily, especially if you do a lot of motorway trips. It’s a smooth and punchy engine from low engine speeds, and it has performance to match a hot hatchback like the Focus ST above - yet it’s a much larger, more spacious and upmarket car than the Ford.

The Jaguar also handles corners really well for an SUV, and only a Porsche Macan can match it for fun on twisty roads. Elsewhere, it’s comfortable and easy to drive thanks in part to a smooth automatic gearbox and an excellent driving position. It’s really roomy for passengers as well, so it’s a good all-rounder - if a little pricey when new.

JAGUAR F-PACE BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Volkswagen Golf

Best fast diesel family car

Our pick Volkswagen Golf GTD
Used deals from £11,980

The Volkswagen Golf is one of the most popular family cars around, and the GTI version is a hit with fans of high-performance hatchbacks, but there’s also the excellent GTD model. It uses a 2.0-litre diesel engine and brings the performance of the GTI with the fuel economy of a more sensible Golf diesel.

It’ll be possible to reach over 60mpg on motorway trips in the GTD if you drive carefully, yet its punchy performance means that you can enjoy driving on back roads once you get closer to your destination. The engine is a little noisy and doesn’t like to be worked too hard, so it’s not quite as fun as the GTI, but that’s the trade-off for this much more efficient type of engine.

The GTD is just as practical as any other Golf, so it has a big 380-litre boot, lots of room in the back for passengers - adults or kids - and a pleasant, tech-filled cabin. We’d stick to the previous-generation 'mark 7.5' model, as it’s better than the current eighth-generation Golf in several areas.

2013-2020 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF BUYERS' GUIDE
2020-PRESENT VOLKSWAGEN GOLF BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Audi TT

Best fast diesel sports car

Audi TT Coupe rear view

Our pick Audi TT 2.0 TDI
Used deals from £8,800

The Audi TT is a sports car and usually these are petrol-only - yet there are diesel models in the TT range, making it an unusual and interesting choice if you’re after a fast diesel car. With around 180hp, it’s not the most exciting engine around, but the 2.0-litre diesel in the TT is punchy enough for the small TT sports car to get from 0-62mph in a quick 6.5 seconds.

That means it feels faster than the modest engine power looks on paper. The Audi TT is good to drive, with lots of grip, a good level of comfort on bumpy roads and a low driving position that adds to the sporty feel. One of the biggest selling points for the TT is the way it looks on the outside, but it’s good to know that it also has a fantastic interior as well.

It’s got all the tech you could need, including sat-nav and a digital radio, but it’s all contained on a screen behind the steering wheel instead of on a central touchscreen media system. This means the dashboard is clutter-free and looks very upmarket, plus the digital dash is easy to use and looks great. As a result, the Audi TT is a sports car that you can easily live with every day.

AUDI TT BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Skoda Octavia

Best fast diesel estate car

Our pick Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TDI
Used deals from £14,239

The Skoda Octavia vRS is closely related to the Volkswagen Golf GTI (with Skoda and Volkswagen being part of the same parent company), so it follows that the vRS diesel is related to the Golf GTD mentioned above. They both use the same 2.0-litre diesel engine, and performance is pretty similar; the vRS is fun to drive, fast and economical.

Where the Skoda really shines is in estate form, though, as it makes a superb family car. In fact, the vRS diesel is often used by the police in the UK because it’s big enough to carry officers and all the equipment needed plus it’s easily able to keep up with fleeing drivers. It’s a supremely practical car that happens to have excellent performance and it won’t be expensive to run, either.

The boot is a very large 640 litres with the seats up, which is around double that of many small family cars, and if you fold the seats down then there’s a gigantic 1,700 litres available. That’s more than enough for trips to the dump, and of course you’ll be able to shoot home afterwards in no time thanks to the powerful diesel engine under the bonnet.

SKODA OCTAVIA ESTATE BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Porsche Cayenne

Best fast diesel large SUV

Our pick Porsche Cayenne 3.0d V6
Used deals from £35,495

There are a lot of large SUVs around that have huge diesel engines, but not a lot of them are fast or particularly fun to drive. The engine is powerful in those models out of necessity, because the cars are so heavy and need the power to keep them going. The Porsche Cayenne is one of the exceptions, and if you want a huge SUV that’s fast and fun, the Diesel model is a great choice.

It was available in six- and eight-cylinder forms (the latter is called the Cayenne S Diesel), and both are really powerful engines that deliver strong performance. The Cayenne is known for being great to drive considering its size, too, with sharp steering, good comfort and loads of grip in corners.

The Porsche isn’t cheap to buy or run, but it’s as upmarket as you would expect and has a fantastic interior that feels very plush. Technology isn’t its strongest suit, but there’s loads of room inside and the boot is massive, so it makes a top family car - as long as you can fit it on your driveway, as it’s a rather big car.

PORSCHE CAYENNE BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Mercedes S-Class

Best fast diesel luxury car

Our pick Mercedes S350d
Used deals from £27,395

When you think of a fast car, you’ll probably have a sports car or hot hatchback in mind, but don’t forget that luxury cars are very often equipped with large, powerful engines as well - and that can mean that they’re surprisingly fast. Take the Mercedes S-Class, for example - it won’t keep up with many of the sportier models above on a twisty road but the S350d model is certainly able to qualify for fast diesel car status. It has a substantial 282hp power output and can whizz from 0-62mph in around 6.4 seconds.

The S-Class is a brilliant car in just about every other way aside from handling. It’s one of the most comfortable cars you can buy at any price, and has an extremely high-quality and upmarket interior with more space than anyone could ask for. It’s got a huge boot, more tech than virtually anything else at the same price point and it’s supremely quiet on the motorway.

That’s not to say it’s rubbish in the bends, either, as it’s far more composed than you might expect on twisting roads, and while it’s not the most nimble it can certainly be enjoyable to drive on a country road. Higher running costs might put you off, but these come from increased maintenance bills compared with less complex cars, rather than poor fuel economy as the diesel engine is pretty economical.

MERCEDES S-CLASS BUYERS' GUIDE

*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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