It’s no surprise diesel cars are still extremely popular: they have up to 20% superior fuel economy to regular engines, especially during highway driving. They also have more torque and are great for towing and hauling.
They have a great feel to them when driving, too. Because they don’t have to accelerate as hard to get up to speed, it can feel like diesels are solid, powerful cars, even at low speeds. Plus, they have that great rumble that reminds you that you’re driving a real machine.
Sometimes price is a factor – diesel has been known to cheaper than gasoline in the past, but that’s less common these days.
Still, diesel cars are as popular now as they’ve ever been, so if you’re on the hunt for the best diesel cars, we’ve got them right here.
How We Choose Our Ratings
Choosing the “best” of a category isn’t always easy – after all, what does “best” even mean? Best value, best engine, best top speed, best extras package, best safety features?
We’ve decided to include the best diesel car in different categories, ranging all the way from price to fuel economy. That way, you can decide for yourself what diesel car fits your needs best.
The 9 Best Diesel Cars
Here they are, the 9 best diesel cars rated on a scale of five stars. We’ve listed these from the highest overall to the lowest, with ratings that reflect that. However, your needs may vary depending on whether or not you’re looking for a truck, sedan, or SUV.
1. Chevy Colorado Diesel
When it comes to diesel-powered pickup trucks, there’s a wide selection.
With diesel’s hauling power, increased torque, and fuel economy, choosing a diesel pickup truck is always a prudent decision. And in a wield field of competition, the Colorado diesel performs beautifully.
Priced at around $35k+, the Colorado is well within reach of most price-conscious buyers. It’s not the most monstrously-sized diesel truck out there, but it’s spacious enough for most everyday work needs. The standard 61” cargo bed gives plenty of space for hauling tools and materials, and the extra-long 74” bed option is also available for anyone who needs more space.
The truck rides on a four-cylinder, 2.8 liter Duramax engine that rocks 369 lb-ft of torque, 180+ horsepower, and can tow over 7,500 pounds with the right tow gear.
Also, take a look at the GMC Canyon diesel, which is a nearly identical truck with a few more luxury features.
2. Land Rover Velar Diesel Range Rover
“Luxury SUV” and “diesel” may feel a bit incongruous, but the Range Rover Velar Diesel manages to pull off the apparent contradiction with charm and grace.
The price is steeper, of course – in the $57,000 range, depending on options. Still, for the price, it’s tough to find any SUV like it.
You get 180+ horsepower, a hefty amount of storage and passenger space, a smooth powertrain, and a good-looking chassis filled to the rafters with the latest high-tech cabin gadgets.
The cabin of the Velar boasts touch-screen displays that control not only the entertainment system, but things like suspension settings, climate control, and seating settings and preferences.
The only thing the Velar frequently gets tagged on is reliability. It isn’t terrible, but for a diesel, it doesn’t stand out like many of the others.
3. Chevy Equinox Diesel
GM cars make up a large portion of the diesel market in America, so it’s no surprise to see another Chevrolet on the list.
The Equinox is one of the best diesel crossovers out there – not quite an SUV, but far from a station wagon as well. A perfect vehicle for a small family or a couple who loves road trips or camping.
The diesel helps give the Equinox a bit of a boost, increasing the amount of cargo it can haul before it starts to feel sluggish. The seats fold back to create more cargo storage, and its option of either front or all-wheel drive gives the Equinox a little more room to go off-road.
It can even tow small vehicles like motorcycles or jet skis without trouble, making it the perfect little mini-vacation car.
It’s got some nice luxury features that earn its $41k+ price tag, though some might see it as a little above budget for a crossover. However, it’s extraordinary 39 mpg on the highway is nothing to scoff at. And considering it’s pretty much the only diesel crossover on the market, and you’ve got a nice entry on this list for the pro-crossover consumer.
4. Chevy Cruze Diesel
Another Chevy car makes the list. Chevrolet has been dominating the diesel market for a long time, and they have a great handle on how to get the most out of their diesel engines.
The Chevy Cruze takes up a different category than the Colorado or the Equinox – instead of a spunky SUV crossover or a beefy truck, the Cruze is a top-notch diesel sedan compact car.
The price reflects that – the diesel Cruze models start around $23-25k, which isn’t the cheapest option on the market.
The Cruze’s 52 mpg on the highway (or 47 with automatic transmission) make it an ideal commuter car for those who spend a long time behind the wheel every day. This also makes the Cruze a fantastic choice for a messenger, delivery person, or rideshare driver.
Plenty of passenger space, great mpg, and a solid, unassuming design make the Cruze a good choice for a small family, too. It’s got a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, four cylinders, and comes in either automatic or manual transmission.
5. BMW 328d
BMW has a long history of diesel-powered sedans and luxury cars, and the 328d is no exception.
Make no mistake, the 328d isn’t cheap: the base model starts at $41k and only goes up from there.
It’s a fast, little car with plenty of toques and a sporty feel, which is common in BMW diesel. It also comes in either wagon or sedan variants, meaning you don’t have to lose cargo space just because you like luxury cars.
The BMW 328d is an excellent choice for folks who want both a luxury car and a back pocket full of horsepower and torque when they need it. Love luxury cars but live in a snowy or out-of-the-way area? A BMW 328d has plenty of torque to help you out when the road fails you.
The upscale interior is, of course, another fine selling point. The wireless charging options are state-of-the-art, keeping you from having to fiddle with cords and cables while you’re driving. There’s also a multimedia system and touchscreen built-in, and you can even add a wi-fi hotspot if you’re constantly doing business on the road or in different areas.
Overall, the BMW 328d is a rare luxury diesel, a marriage of practicality and comfort that is well worth the price.
6. Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel
Jeep is hardly new to either the SUV business or the diesel business, but that doesn’t mean the 2018 Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel isn’t an interesting, up-to-date spin on an old classic.
The price points for the Jeep Grand Cherokee are all over the map, depending on what model you want. The base model starts at around $30k, while the higher end models can cost between $45-$67k.
When it comes to off-road diesel options, the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel stands out from the crowd with aplomb. Both the V6 and the V8 options are appropriately zippy, and the horsepower is nothing to scoff out.
As for interior options, this Jeep isn’t as barebones as people often associate with the brand. It has a standard infotainment screen, Apple Car Play, and Android Auto, making it easy to sync up your phone with the car no matter what cell phone platform you’re using.
Plus, the Jeep Grand Cherokee 2018 model ranked #4 in a recent list of greatest SUVs, which is a nice little feather in its cap, and a solid recommendation as well.
7. Volkswagen Jetta TDI
It’s not the fastest car on this Best Diesel Cars list, and it’s certainly not crammed with luxury gadgets, but the Volkswagen Jetta TDI earns its spot for its sheer affordability and reliability.
If you’re on the hunt for an inexpensive diesel car that will treat you right, the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI is an excellent choice. The 4-cylinder, 2-liter, turbo diesel engine is surprisingly powerful and feels good to drive. The mileage is great for a commuter or a family trucking kids to school every day: the Jetta TDI scores 31 mpg in the city and 46 mpg on the highway.
Like all Volkswagens, the Jetta TDI is reliable, safe, and well-engineered. But, most of all, it’s terribly inexpensive. Used models range from $9k to $14k and perform admirably even after a lot of miles and use.
8. Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC
The E250 BlueTEC is a diesel luxury sedan with a lot going on underneath the hood.
First off, the Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC is an attractive car, with clean lines, a simple design, and a fully-equipped interior. The multimedia package is fully stocked and includes AUX, Bluetooth syncing, and the Mercedes-Benz COMAND interface. The COMAND interface includes built-in map software, address book, music controls, and all of the other settings.
Equipped with rear or four-wheel drive, the E250 BlueTEC is both versatile and agile. The engine is a 2.1-liter turbo-charged 4-cylinder, racking up 195 horsepower and 370 ft-lbs of torque. The MPG isn’t as good as some of the other best diesel cars on this list – with a 24 mpg in the city and 38 on the highway, it’s certainly decent but doesn’t compare to the Chevrolet Cruze.
Still, the power and luxury of the E250 more than makeup for the mpg hit.
The E250 is also surprisingly quiet for a diesel engine, which is a rare treat that’s worth mentioning.
9. Ford F-250 Diesel
When it comes to monster-sized diesel trucks, it’s hard to go wrong with the Ford F-250 diesel.
With a 6.7-liter 8-cylinder engine, four-wheel drive, and 450 horsepower at 2800 rpms, the F-250 will not only get you there but also the whole family in the full-sized trailer you’re towing. This is a hard truck meant for hard work, and it’s the perfect choice for the diesel-enthusiast who needs extra power.
There are towing packages, off-road packages, and even snow-plow prep packages all available, the F250 can fill almost any work role you can think of. I mean, it can’t fly or anything, so don’t replace your helicopter with an F250 but for pickup trucks, it’s extremely versatile.
The interior also feels good and the seats are comfortable – you’re not trading comfort for functionality, which is a nice touch.
10. BMW X5 xDrive35d
While the model name may be a mouthful, the BMW X5 xDrive35d is a fun luxury SUV for those who want a comfortable drive and sporty features.
The engine pulls 255 horsepower and 412 lb-ft of torque, giving the XDrive swift acceleration and a little pepper. The MPG isn’t bad – at around 18 in the city and 25 on the highway, it sits higher than most gas-powered SUVs but lower than smaller hybrids. Still, it feels like a fair trade for all of the passenger and cargo space.
As far as luxury features go, it comes standard with surround sound audio, Apple Car Play, a large and clear touchscreen, map software included, and even an optional Wi-Fi hotspot.
A Buyer’s Guide to Diesel Cars
When finding your own diesel car to purchase, remember that price isn’t the end of the game.
The first is fuel economy. Though many diesels are in fact more economical, that’s not always 100% the case. Don’t assume a vehicle is going to save you more money on fuel just because it’s diesel. Do your homework, research the MPG and the diesel rates in your area. Then, compare that to the cost of a regular gas-running car. Also, remember that the diesel tax is higher than gasoline, so factor that into your calculations.
Second to look for is the way the car feels, especially at lower speeds. Test drive the car and make sure it’s not too rumbly – diesel has a feel to it that diesel lovers crave but isn’t always appreciated. Try before you buy.
The third thing to look for is functionality. Do you tow a lot? Do you need lots of torque to carry around heavy loads? If so, diesel is perfect. However, make sure the car in question has the right options for towing packages and cargo space that you’ll need.
Just a Few of the Best Diesel Cars Available Right Now
Diesel cars, trucks, and SUVs are extremely popular in Europe, and their popularity in the United States has held fairly steady for a long time despite the glut of hybrid and electric options.
Whether you’re in the market for the biggest diesel truck, the sportiest diesel crossover, or a luxury machine that can transform your morning drive into something a bit more enjoyable, there’s a diesel car on this list for anyone.
Better mileage, better torque, and a fun driving experience? It’s hard to go wrong with a diesel automobile.