Though the word “diesel” generally brings full-size trucks to mind, there are also quite a few cars available for drivers looking for the same mileage and performance benefits in a smaller package.

However, diesel cars got a bad name in 2015 when Volkswagen AG (which also makes Audi and Porsche) admitted it had installed defeat devices on 500,000 vehicles in the U.S. to cheat requirements by the Environmental Protection Agency when in fact, the vehicles were emitting nitrogen oxide emissions at levels 40 times higher than the EPA’s legal limit. However, in the time since, many vehicles involved have either been bought back or fixed.

But that’s not to say that diesels can’t be relatively clean — in fact, they’re more efficient. Since diesel fuel has more energy than regular gasoline, diesel-powered vehicles can go 20 to 35% farther on one gallon. With advances in performance, technology, emissions and even the diesel fuel itself, diesel is cleaner than in decades past. While their emissions can’t touch electric, it’s often as close as you can get to hybrid efficiency without the actual hybrid powertrain.

We list mileage estimates for our nine picks of the best new and used diesel cars below, as well as safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) plus ratings from Kelley Blue Book (KBB) experts and Edmunds consumers for new cars, when available. For consumer reviews, we’re also noting how many reviews have been posted at time of publication; scores are up to date at time of publishing.

Best bets for a deal

  1. 2019 Chevrolet Cruze sedan
  2. 2019 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback

Best luxury diesel

  1. 2019 Jaguar XE 20d
  2. BMW 328d xDrive
  3. 2019 Jaguar XF 20d
  4. 2018 BMW 540d xDrive

Best used diesel cars

  1. 2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTec
  2. 2015 Audi A3
  3. 2015 Volkswagen Jetta

Best bets for a deal on diesel cars

  • MSRP $25,620
  • 31 city/48 highway MPG
  • 4.2 out of 5 by KBB experts; consumer reviews unavailable on Edmunds
  • 5 stars NHTSA

Chevrolet started to take over the market that Volkswagen left, making diesel cars and SUVs. However, GM announced that 2019 would be the last year for the Cruze, a five-seat sedan that boasts impressive fuel economy. The diesel model comes with a $7,625 higher price tag than the standard fuel version, though it does include more features, including heated front seats. While the MSRP above is for a 2019 model, a quick search shows that many 2018 Cruze diesels are available.

2019 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback

  • MSRP $26,120
  • 30 city/45 highway MPG
  • 4.2 out of 5 by KBB experts; consumer reviews unavailable on Edmunds
  • 5 stars NHTSA

For those looking for something a little bit more flexible than the average sedan, the Cruze hatchback is the only other non-luxury new car option. The hatchback runs about $500 more than the diesel sedan model and loses a few fuel efficiency points. One big change for the 2019 Cruze is the loss of a manual transmission on both the hatchback and sedan. However, they’re still available in the 2018 models.


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