Best diesel hatchbacks

If you need a car that’s practical, affordable, cheap to run and a good all-rounder, the best diesel hatchbacks could fit the bill

Joe Holding
Jan 24, 2022

Hatchbacks are tremendous things, partly because they’re affordable to purchase and to run, but also because they’re so versatile, with their wide boot openings and folding rear seats. That makes them suited to all kinds of people and for all manner of different tasks.

Whether it be the school run, the weekly trip to the supermarket, the daily commute, trips to the tip or even family holidays, many humble hatchbacks can take pretty much anything in their stride.

And if you’re the kind of person who racks up a lot of miles over the course of a year, then a diesel hatchback could save you a large amount of money over a petrol equivalent. This is because diesels tend to be more fuel efficient than petrol cars, so the further you drive, the more you’ll notice the savings made at the pumps.

True, diesel’s reputation has taken a hit over the last few years, but while concerns over emissions are perfectly legitimate, diesels emit less CO2 than petrol equivalents and it remains the case that diesel makes the most financial sense for a lot of drivers out there.

So if you’re in need of a car that’s economical, practical and capable of just about anything, the best diesel hatchbacks will serve you very well indeed. And the ideal car for you could be just a few clicks away with BuyaCar.

Keep reading for our selection of the best diesel hatchbacks, from smaller models that are best suited to lots of low-speed journeys around town, to larger models that are well suited to whisking you up and down the motorway all day long.

Best diesel hatchbacks on BuyaCar

1. Skoda Scala

Used deals Limited stock

If it’s space and practicality that you’re after, then the Skoda Scala is almost in a class of its own among medium sized hatchbacks. The boot measures a gigantic 467 litres, which dwarfs all of its main rivals and is almost as much as you get in some larger saloons. Meanwhile, legroom and headroom levels in both the front and back seats are very good, so neither you nor your passengers will feel cramped, even on longer journeys.

The only diesel engine available in the Scala is a 1.6-litre 'TDI' unit that produces 115hp. While it’s a little noisy for our liking, a 0-62mph figure of 10.1 seconds is reasonably nippy for a family hatchback and a claimed fuel economy figure of 67.2mpg is significantly more than you’ll get in any of the petrol alternatives.

In its most basic form, the Scala comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, an eight-inch touchscreen media system, smartphone connectivity, automatic lights and wipers, plus a handy umbrella stowed in the door, so even the most affordable versions have plenty of kit.

The Scala was introduced in 2019, so there aren’t bucket loads of used examples available yet, but that also means there's a good opportunity for you to make the most of any remaining time on Skoda’s standard three-year, 60,000-mile warranty.


2. Vauxhall Astra

Used deals from £7,893
Monthly finance from £162*

The Vauxhall Astra has been one of the most popular hatchbacks in the UK for a number of years, and with good reason. As a dependable and well known model, the Astra is seen as a reliable, value-for-money car that does what it says on the tin.

That underplays the appeal of the Astra, though, because it's also satisfying to drive thanks to its responsive steering and lineup of strong engines. Initially, the latest Astra was offered with a 1.6-litre 'CDTi' diesel with three levels of power, with the most potent of these delivering 160hp and enabling the car to hit 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds, which is rather quick for a car of this type.

Claimed fuel economy for this variant can reach an impressive 78.3mpg, but you should expect something closer to 60mpg in the real world. In 2019, the diesel option in the lineup evolved into a 1.5-litre unit.

The interior feels well-made, but the quality of the materials isn't as plush as in more expensive models from Volkswagen and BMW, for instance. Entry-level Design-trim Astras get smartphone integration, a digital radio, air-conditioning, cruise control, a four-speaker stereo and electric windows as standard, and for most people that will be enough, though more luxurious versions are available.


3. BMW 1 Series

Used deals from £19,920
Monthly finance from £295*

The latest BMW 1 Series (pictured above) was introduced in 2019, bringing with it more space, a better interior and an improved driving experience over that of the old car.

One big change from the previous version is that the current 1 Series now powers its front wheels - as is the case with most other hatchbacks - rather than the rear wheels, as was the case with the previous model, a feature more often found in sports cars than hatchbacks. This change freed up more space inside, but crucially the 1 Series still feels sporty, with precise steering and superb balance in corners. It’s comfortable too.

Three diesel engines are available; the 116d, the 118d and the 120d. The first of these has a 1.5-litre, turbocharged engine that produces 116hp, returning claimed fuel economy of 61.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 110g/km. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, although some used models will come with the seven-speed automatic gearbox that cost £1,350 when new.

The other two diesels produce 150hp and 190hp respectively, with the extra power coming at the cost of fuel economy. If you usually drive alone the 116d is likely to be powerful enough for you. However, if you’ve often got your family in tow, or want something with a bit more punch, we'd recommend the 118d.


4. Kia Ceed

Used deals from £11,589
Monthly finance from £193*

The Kia Ceed is a well equipped and well engineered machine, with its solid build quality being underlined by Kia's impressive seven-year warranty. The maker's confidence in the car should give you peace of mind that the Ceed is built to last, and makes it a great car to buy used, because even four-year-old models have the same amount of manufacturer warranty remaining as most brand new cars.

The interior certainly feels very sturdy, and the quality of the soft-touch materials puts the finish in the same league as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. All of the latest models get an eight-inch touchscreen media system including sat-nav too, so you won’t be lacking when it comes to standard equipment.

The diesel option in the lineup consists of 1.6-litre 'CRDi' engines available with 116hp and 136hp. The engines are impressively quiet and supremely refined in either form, with the former capable of almost 60mpg. Admittedly, the Ceed isn’t the most exciting car to drive and the ride isn’t the most comfortable, but with a big 391-litre boot and lots of space inside, it’s certainly a strong all-rounder.


5. Renault Clio

Used deals from £11,094
Monthly finance from £193*

If style is important to you then the Renault Clio is arguably one of the best looking small cars on the road right now. Technically this is a supermini, but all that means is that it’s a bit smaller than your average, fully fledged hatchback.

In any case, the Clio’s 366-litre boot is larger than you’ll find in some larger hatchbacks, and the smaller footprint on the road makes it fun to drive, even if that's just around town. The rear seats are a bit of a squeeze, but if you’re only ever going to seat kids back there, this is a perfectly reasonable compromise to make.

Most people go for the petrol versions of the Clio, but the diesel has its merits too. It’s a little slow (0-62mph takes 14.7 seconds) but there’s no arguing with claimed fuel economy of 67.2mpg. If you cover a lot of miles annually, this is the one to go for in order to save money at the fuel station. It may be a small car, but it's well suited to long journeys.

Standard kit includes LED headlights, cruise control, and a 4.2-inch digital display behind the steering wheel, but you’ll need to step up to the mid-spec S Edition model to get the 9.3-inch touchscreen media system.


6. Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta front three quarters view

Used deals from £9,412
Monthly finance from £191*

The Ford Fiesta was the best-selling car in the UK for years, with British drivers appreciating its economical engines, practical design, affordability and enjoyable driving characteristics. There are very few faults to be found here.

The 1.5-litre 'TDCI' diesel engine is the most economical of the lot, returning 74.3mpg, although some people may find its 85hp a little underwhelming when it comes to acceleration. Look for a relatively new Zetec model and you’ll get a touchscreen media system, smartphone connectivity in the shape of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, adaptive cruise control and a heated windscreen - ideal for frosty mornings.

The 292-litre boot is quite small - even compared to a similarly sized car like the Clio above, but if you need something bigger the latest Ford Focus hatchback has a lot to offer; introduced in 2018, this car’s 375-litre boot is more useful and there’s a bit more space inside the cabin too.


7. Mercedes A-Class

Mercedes A-Class front three quarters view

Used deals from £18,395
Monthly finance from £269*

Another desirable style-centric hatchback is the Mercedes A-Class. This upmarket machine is aimed at business types and those who want a bit of sophistication in their lives, even in a relatively small car. To that end the A-Class is packed with kit, and the interior is one of the most luxurious you’ll find in a vehicle this size.

High-end versions of the A-Class get a pair of 12.3-inch digital screens across the top of the dashboard consisting of digital driver's dials and a touchscreen media system. There are media controls on the steering wheel for ease of use, but more impressive are the slick voice controls, which also come as standard and enable you to use plain language instructions to set the sat-nav, for instance. Artificial leather seats, sat-nav, climate control and various automatic safety systems are thrown in too.

There are three diesel engines in the A-Class lineup, but we’d steer clear of the A180d as it’s a little slow. Instead the A200d and A220d - both 2.0-litre diesels - are much more sprightly, and achieve strong claimed fuel economy figures of 70.6mpg and 67.3mpg respectively.


8. Volkswagen Golf

Volkswagen Golf front three quarters view

Used deals from £20,203
Monthly finance from £329*

The Volkswagen Golf is another car that’s extremely popular in Britain, with a reputation for being a good all-rounder. It’s built to last, its engines are economical and it’s very practical for its size, but you need to shop carefully in order to get a good deal on used models.

The 200hp 2.0-litre diesel engine in the latest Golf GTD enables it to accelerate from 0-62mph in a quick 7.1 seconds, and the 150hp 2.0-litre diesels in the cheaper versions of the Golf aren't far behind, while promising over 60mpg. Drivers looking to cut costs could consider the 115hp 2.0-litre engine, though we think the 150hp version strikes the best balance between performance and efficiency.

Every version of the Golf comes with ambient lighting, adaptive cruise control, LED headlights and a large screen behind the wheel in place of conventional dials. GTD models get brighter LED headlights that adapt to avoid blinding oncoming drivers and sporty front seats, among other things.


*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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