Best diesel SUV

For the perfect mix of practicality, a high driving position, style and low running costs, it’s hard to look beyond the best diesel SUVs

Joe Holding
Jun 28, 2021

Sports Utility Vehicles - or SUVs as they’re more commonly known - are all the rage right now, with carmakers having found a formula in the last few years that many drivers seem to love.

Their boxy looks made a fresh change from sensible family cars of the past, and the fact that they are taller gives drivers a more commanding driving position on the road.

They also tend to be reasonably spacious, making them more comfortable for passengers and more practical too given the extra luggage space that comes with having a bigger, taller body.

Different types of SUVs address many people’s differing needs, too, with various models tailored to maximise interior space, comfort, refinement, performance or fuel economy.

Diesel SUVs are typically best when it comes to fuel economy, tending to be more efficient than similarly-sized petrol alternatives. So, the more miles you cover every year, the greater the savings you’re likely to make by going diesel.

Our list of the best diesel SUVs will give you a good idea of what’s out there, with all of these cars being available to buy from the comfort of your home through BuyaCar.

Used diesel SUV deals

1. Skoda Kamiq

Used diesel deals from £17,499
Monthly finance from £272*

If you want a diesel SUV that’s an accomplished all-rounder, then the Skoda Kamiq is a wise choice. Introduced in 2019, the Kamiq is the smallest SUV that Skoda makes (below the Karoq and Kodiaq), but it’s still one of the most spacious cars of its size.

There’s enough headroom and legroom throughout for fully grown adults, and the 400-litre boot is one of the biggest you’ll find in a small SUV such as this. There’s one diesel option; a 1.6-litre 'TDI' producing 115hp and achieving up to 56.6mpg fuel economy officially. It’s not the quickest, taking 10.2 seconds to accelerate from 0-62mph, but it’ll be more than adequate for most.

Inside, the interior is well built and the materials used are of a good quality, even if they’re not the most exciting. Standard equipment is another strong point in the Kamiq, with entry-level S cars getting 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, air-conditioning, a 6.5-inch touchscreen media system with digital radio and a range of safety features. SE - the next level up - is popular, adding larger wheels and smartphone connectivity in the form of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.


2. Citroen C4 Cactus

Used diesel deals from £8,295
Monthly finance from £198*

The Citroen C4 Cactus is one of the most economical SUVs you can get, with the 1.5-litre 'BlueHDi' 100 diesel engine racking up 78.5mpg on paper. There’s a caveat here though; this figure was achieved under the old, less realistic fuel economy testing regime, while the latest procedure produces a more realistic 62.8mpg. In any case that’s an impressive figure for this type of car, and you’ll get the same figure in the latest Peugeot 2008 and DS 3 Crossback (brands that belong to the same parent company as Citroen).

The reason we’ve focussed on the C4 Cactus is that it’s supremely comfortable; Feel- and Flair versions benefit from a new suspension setup that reduces the impact from bumps and potholes like few others at this kind of price, so if the roads near you are particularly bad then the C4 Cactus might just be the solution you’ve been waiting for.

Feel adds 16-inch alloy wheels, smartphone connectivity and stylistic changes to the already-standard LED running lights and seven-inch touchscreen media system. This is a little awkward to use when driving, but it’s far from being a dealbreaker. Meanwhile, the boot measures 358 litres which is reasonably large, and performance from the engine will see you up to 62mph in 10.7 seconds.


3. Porsche Macan

Used diesel deals from £30,370
Monthly finance from £563*

Just because you want a diesel SUV doesn’t mean you should have to give up on the idea of having fun behind the wheel. That’s where the Porsche Macan comes in; offered with a diesel engine between 2014 and 2018, the 3.0-litre diesel was popular during its run and made the Macan amazingly fast for a car of this size. With 258hp it could manage 0-62mph in 6.3 seconds, which is almost as fast as some of the best hot hatchbacks.

When you’re not putting your foot down, the Macan is capable of 44.1mpg, so running costs won’t break the bank. It has a seven-inch touchscreen media system and an array of buttons for all of the various in-car functions, and the materials used inside are so nice that you won’t want to get out at the end of your journey.

The Macan feels sporty to drive despite carrying around a substantial 500 litres of boot space, which will easily accommodate a large number of shopping bags and bulkier items. If there’s one shortcoming, it’s that the ride isn’t as soft as you get in some other SUVs.

All-wheel drive is a standard feature, offering you a little bit more grip when the weather takes a turn for the worse. An automatic gearbox is standard too, although there are paddle shifters behind the wheel, which enable you to change gear yourself when you want to take charge.


4. Volkswagen Tiguan

Used 2017 diesel deals from £15,688
Monthly finance from £251*

The Volkswagen Tiguan has plenty to offer as a family car; it’s comfortable, the diesel engines are quiet on the move, there’s lots of space inside and it’s not bad to drive either.

However, the reason it makes this list is its incredible towing ability: the 2.0-litre diesel in 190hp form (there are 115hp and 150hp versions too) has a braked towing capacity of 2,500kg, which will be enough for most trailers, horseboxes or four- and six-berth caravans. Consider the fact that this isn't the biggest, most expensive or most powerful SUV by any means and that's an impressive figure.

With the rear seats pushed into their forwardmost position you’ll have a substantial 615 litres of space to play with in the boot, as well, so comfortable family holidays in the Tiguan are a very real possibility, whether you're towing your accommodation or not.

In this guise the engine returns 49.6mpg on paper, but if you’re not planning to put it under quite so much strain, then the 115hp version is worth considering, as it can achieve up to 60.1mpg. Other SUVs offer slightly more in this area, but not enough to make you feel short-changed at the pumps.

Buying the Tiguan is another matter though. As a new car it’s one of the more expensive models of this size, and as a used model the highest specification versions are still expensive. You’ll find much more value in SE models (just above the entry-level S cars), which get parking sensors front and rear, three-zone climate control, and self-adjusting side mirrors on top of the standard eight-inch touchscreen media system, leather steering wheel and roof rails.


5. Kia Sorento

Kia Sorento front three quarters view

Used diesel deals from £14,995
Monthly finance from £344*

Few diesel SUVs are as spacious as the Kia Sorento; it’s a seven-seater, and while the last row is a bit of a squeeze for anyone bar children, everyone else will be able to stretch out in comfort. The smooth ride helps to this end as well.

The Sorento was replaced in the summer of 2020 with a new version, and prices for the outgoing car have dropped considerably since. That model came with a 2.2-litre diesel engine that produced 200hp, with 0-62mph taking less than 10 seconds. This is a little leisurely but far from slow, and you’re more likely to care about the fact that it offers claimed fuel consumption of 49.6mpg (automatic cars lower this to 43.5mpg). Either way, that’s pretty good going for a seven-seater.

Inside, even the most basic KT-1 Sorentos get air-conditioning, rear parking sensors and cruise control, while KT-2 cars add a seven-inch touchscreen media system with sat-nav, a reversing camera and self-levelling suspension; a useful feature should you ever make use of its 2.5-tonne towing capacity. This is likely all the car you’ll ever need, but the higher trim levels will add some appealing extras like a panoramic sunroof.

When you factor all of this and its seven-year warranty, the Sorento is very good value indeed - and that's before you take into account the fact you can go for an older model than you might normally consider and still get plenty of manufacturer warranty cover.


6. Land Rover Defender

Used diesel deals from £53,995
Monthly finance from £794*

If you need an SUV with the best off-roading ability, get a Land Rover Defender. It really is that simple. The Defender has a long history of being able to take on the most challenging terrain, with the previous version of the famed off-roader making a name for itself as one of the most capable off-roaders every made.

The new Defender arrived in 2020 with a completely new design. It’s two cars in one really; one that’s stylish enough to look at home in the city, and one that has the ability to traverse across all kinds of arduous terrain. It does the latter especially well, with four-wheel drive, air suspension, a two-speed transmission, locking centre and active rear locking differentials and a 'Terrain Response' system joining forces to give it supreme off-road skills.

The Defender even behaves well on the road too, with adequate acceleration in a straight line and excellent levels of comfort.

The short-wheelbase version of the Defender is called the ‘90’; with this model there are three diesels available, with the D200, D240 and D300 offering 200hp, 240hp and 300hp respectively. The long-wheelbase car is known as the ‘110’, and that swaps out the 2.0-litre D240 engine for the 3.0-litre D250 with - you guessed it - 250hp.

Fuel economy for these hovers just over 30mpg, which is pretty poor by modern standards, though this is partly as a result of the sophisticated - and heavy - four-wheel drive system and all the mechanical bits and pieces needed to make the Defender practically unstoppable on any terrain.

7. Volvo XC90

Used diesel deals from £25,901
Monthly finance from £469*

Volvo’s estate cars of old were known for their utilitarian qualities and huge boot space, and the Swedish firm’s SUVs have twinned that element of practicality with a cool, luxurious interior design that puts its cars in competition with the most upmarket machines you can buy.

The design used inside the Volvo XC90 is sublime, with wood-effect panels helping to create one of the most calming interiors ever. The standard nine-inch touchscreen media system is portrait in orientation rather than landscape, and the graphics used on both it and the digital instrument display in front of the driver are crisp and easy to read on the go. Not only that, the ride is one of the best of any modern SUV.

Most people buying a new XC90 opted for the diesel D5 version until it was pulled from the lineup in 2019: it achieves 45.6mpg and enables the XC90 to achieve 0-62mph in a quick 7.4 seconds thanks to its output of 235hp, so it’s both brisk and economical. The D5’s replacement was the B5 version which added mild hybrid technology to improve fuel economy by a claimed 15%.


8. BMW X3

Used 2018 diesel deals from £25,999
Monthly finance from £394*

The phrase ‘Sports Utility Vehicle’ is usually somewhat of a misnomer, given that most of the cars presented as an SUV have very little about them to justify the word ‘Sport’ in particular. That’s not the case with the BMW X3, which drives incredibly well for its size.

Launched in 2018, the latest version of BMW’s mid-size SUV has a couple of diesel options to choose from; a 2.0-litre unit (identified as '20d') delivers 190hp and powers the X3 from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds, while a 3.0-litre unit (the '30d') ups power to 286hp and drops the acceleration figure to 5.7 seconds. If it’s speed you want then the latter is a great choice, especially as its 45.6mpg claimed fuel economy isn’t that far behind the smaller diesel’s 47.9mpg.

The interior is brilliantly designed and finished, and passengers won’t struggle for space wherever they sit. Four-wheel drive is standard, as is an eight-speed automatic gearbox (there’s no manual), leather seats, three-zone climate control, sat-nav and a 6.5-inch dashboard display. Look out for cars with the optional 10.3-inch touchscreen, which is a delight to use.


*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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