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Which are the best diesel cars

Which are the best diesel cars? Here are some diesel cars worth buying

17 July 2023

Invariably, millions of cars drive through the European roads, including the ones equipped with the diesel engines. Over the years, diesel cars have been extremely popular. Drivers have been eager to buy both new and used passenger cars with an economical and dynamic source of power.

Diesel cars - still popular, but their time is slowly coming to an end (photo by Jennifer Latuperisa-Andresen/Unsplash)

Diesel cars – still popular, but their time is slowly coming to an end (photo by Jennifer Latuperisa-Andresen/Unsplash)

The advantage of diesels has been lower fuel consumption than in the case of cars equipped with gasoline engines. Demand has not even been reduced by prices, clearly higher than those of the gasoline-powered vehicles. Years later, diesel engines are still popular, owing to the low demand for diesel fuel. And although new cars with diesel engines – but also gasoline engines, because the plans (emission restrictions concerning, among others, nitrogen oxides) assume the abandonment of internal combustion engines – are less and less common, the secondary market provides a wide selection of cars with such engines.



When choosing a used diesel car, it is worth not only verifying the history of a specific vehicle – preferably based on the autoDNA report – and its technical condition, but above all finding out which units are highly recommended.


The best diesel cars – our TOP 10


Which diesel engines are worth looking into? (Photo: Sten Rademaker/Unsplash)

Which diesel engines are worth looking into? (Photo: Sten Rademaker/Unsplash)

When sifting through the market in search of refined and durable diesels, you will find both small-capacity constructions, generally popular and graceful 2.0-cylinder engines, as well as more expensive five- and six-cylinder units. However, selecting a model is only half of the success when choosing cars with such engines.


2.0 HDI (Peugeot, Citroen, as well as Ford, Volvo)

The 2.0 HDI motor boasts extraordinary durability. The four-cylinder unit debuted in the Peugeot and Citroën offer in 1998, and over the years it has undergone a number of far-reaching modernizations and improvements. However, it is the positive feedback of users of cars with this engine that is the best recommendation.

From the beginning, manufacturers have used common rail direct fuel injection alternating by Siemens and Bosch. The valve drive uses a belt. A mandatory addition is a turbocharger with variable blade geometry (except for the 90 hp version), a dual-mass flywheel and later also a FAP particulate filter.

Over the years, varieties with 90, 109, 136, 140, 150, 163 or 180 hp have been offered – they guarantee reasonable fuel consumption. 2.0 HDI has been offered not only in the PSA group cars, but also for years it has been installed in Ford and Volvo cars.


1.9/2.0 MultiJet (Fiat, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, as well as Opel, Saab, etc.)

Another diesel engine that does not cause problems is the 1.9 JTD, as well as the 2.0 MultiJet created on its basis. For years, these engines – in addition to numerous Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo models – were also available in Suzuki, Opel, Saab and even in Cadillac.



Fiat is a pioneer in the commercial use of the common rail direct fuel injection diesel engine – the brand already sold it in the Croma model in the 1990s.


The 1.9 JTD story began in the 1990s. Depending on the version, the manufacturer used an 8- or 16-valve head and a turbocharger with or without variable blade geometry. The timing drive was based on a belt cheaper in production and replacement. In newer varieties, there is a particulate filter and a dual-mass flywheel.

Interestingly, 1.9 JTD was at first offered also in the small cars in the B-segment, such as Fiat Punto. Versions ranging from 80 to 150 hp were in the offer. If only the budget allows, it is better to invest in a newer design, which is 2.0 MultiJet. 2.0 MultiJet disposed of power between 110 and 170 hp, with twin turbo of 195 hp.


1.9 TDI (Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda, Seat)


Probably the biggest classic when it comes to diesel engines - Volkswagen's 1.9 TDI.

Probably the biggest classic when it comes to diesel engines – Volkswagen’s 1.9 TDI.

There is no doubt that throughout Europe, the 1.9 TDI diesel is synonymous with durability, doing a mileage of 500.000-700.000 km without any problems. In addition, in stronger varieties, it provided at least good performance. It all started in 1991 with the debut of the unit in the Audi 80 catalogue – the first appeared a variety with a power of 90 hp. For over a quarter of a century of the 1.9 TDI career, it was offered in tens of models of Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda and Seat.

The success of this unit is in its well-developed construction, elements of the ancillaries and well sustainable materials.



Instead of common rail injection, Volkswagen used its own solution – unit injectors – whose ailment was loud work at lower speeds.


The supercharged versions generated 75-160 hp. There was also a simplified and crude version available – 1.9 SDI deprived of the turbocharger. 68 hp was enough to move (very) smoothly without worrying about fuel consumption. In its case, there’s no dual-mass wheel and other additives, which translated into the popularity of cars with this engine under the hood.


3.0 D (BMW, Range Rover)

For the demanding ones, the 6-cylinder 3.0 D diesel manufactured for over two decades by BMW is an interesting option. This engine also was used in the Range Rover cars. It dazzles with its flexibility and moderate appetite for diesel oil.

Initially, varieties with a power of 184-204 hp were available, later with more than 300 hp. The well-maintained copies instantly find their new owners, which only proves the exceptional sustainability of this unit. The weaker varieties have a single compressor, the more powerful ones have two or three of them – all in the name of the best possible performance sufficient to beat gasoline engines of similar power – both in the city and during longer rides.


2.4 D (Volvo)


Volvo's own diesel engine? The 2.4D motor performed very decently

Volvo’s own diesel engine? The 2.4D motor performed very decently

For years, Volvo was known for the production of armoured gasoline engines. The diesel engines available in some models came from other manufacturers. The situation changed in 2001, when Swedes introduced their own diesel engine, a 5-cylinder one, of course.

2.4 D since the beginning disposed of the common rail direct fuel injection and the variable geometry turbocharger. In the following years, the DPF filter was obligatorily used. A dual-mass flywheel was also installed. These diesels were available in variants from 130 to 215 hp.


2.2 i-DTEC (Honda)

Honda focused on the gasoline engines, while diesels came from external suppliers. The breakthrough came with the introduction of the proprietary 2.2 i-DTEC engine, which used in the Honda Accord and CR-V. Depending on the year of production and version, it had 140 hp (older units) and 150-180 hp.

The aluminum structure is equipped with a Denso common rail system, a dual-mass flywheel, a particulate filter and a Garett turbocharger. The chain was responsible for the timing drive. In this case, the chain is an indeed maintenance-free element. The only problem of the Japanese diesel are the higher costs of operation resulting from the high prices of spare parts.


3.0 V6 CDI (Mercedes)


Mercedes diesel engines were famous for their longevity, but not all of them.

Mercedes diesel engines were famous for their longevity, but not all of them.

Former German Mercedes diesels covered a million kilometers without a major breakdown – a feat that the gas-fueled versions could only dream of. Today, units are complicated and powerful, which means a completely different endurance.

Nevertheless, a properly serviced 3.0 V6 CDI installed in many models of this brand can combine good performance with sustainability. It uses a Bosch common rail direct fuel injection, a dual-mass wheel, an SRC catalyst, a turbocharger with variable blade geometry and a number of other modern elements. It disposes of the power between 190-265 hp.


1.6 MultiJet (Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia)

The construction by the Fiat engineers can be easily added to the group of engines ensuring low fuel consumption and high sustainability. The four-cylinder 1.6 MultiJet was launched in 2007.

The 16-valve warhead was used in it, as well as the variable geometry turbo – the weaker versions featured the fixed geometry turbo – and a particulate matter filter. Initially, weaker varieties were not equipped with a particulate filter or a dual-mass flywheel. The versions of 90, 105 and 120 hp were in offer, and, of course they were equipped with the common rail direct fuel injection. 1.6 MultiJet was used in new Fiat, Alfa and Lancia cars.


2.0 TDI (Volkswagen, Audi, Seat, Skoda)


The Volkswagen Passat with the 2.0 TDI diesel engine evoked extreme emotions.

The Volkswagen Passat with the 2.0 TDI diesel engine evoked extreme emotions.

At the beginning of the 21st century, VW introduced a successor to the 1.9 TDI engine – 2.0 TDI. Unfortunately, the unit did not enjoy recognition (cars with this diesel caused a lot of problems, although they were very popular in showrooms). However, it was only a number of major modernizations that brought the desired result and it was no longer necessary to stay away from the model equipped with the 2.0 TDI diesel.

The most serious change was the use of the common rail system. The faulty timing chain was replaced with a belt, which removed another defect of the early versions. Depending on the variant, the 2.0 TDI generates 150, 190 hp, and in the double-charged variant  – 240 hp. Of course, the car is equipped with a DPF, a dual-mass flywheel and a turbocharger with variable geometry.


3.0 V6 TDI (Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche)

The 3.0 V6 TDI unit, which is used in the flagship Volkswagen, Audi and, at one time, also to the Porsche Cayenne and Panamera, receives extreme user feedback. Its complicated construction requires professional and, unfortunately, expensive service. However, when all the elements are sound (and the gearbox keeps up), a car with this diesel can provide a lot of joy.

The 3.0 V6 TDI has been on sale since 2004 – there were variants with power from 204 to 313 hp providing power and torque reserve. Moreover, in practice this engine also proved to be extremely economical (especially when considering the power and size of the cars in which this diesel was installed). The unit is equipped with a common rail direct fuel injection, a particulate filter, and a turbocharger with variable blade geometry. However, it’s the complex valve drive which uses up to four chains that generates the most service expenses.


Pay attention

Even the best cars and the most recommended engines should be thoroughly checked before buying – whether it will be the extremely popular Renault Megane with 1.5 dCi under the hood or any alternative car using gasoline. The autoDNA report can help you quickly and effectively check the vehicle history – all you need to order it is the VIN number!



Let go of these diesels

When thinking about purchasing a used diesel car, you need to remember which construction should be avoided.

Not every diesel engine is worth recommending. Avoid these ones (photo: Karolina Grabowska/Pixabay)

Not every diesel engine is worth recommending. Avoid these ones (photo: Karolina Grabowska/Pixabay)

3.0 V6 dCI / CDTI Opel, Renaul, Isuzu)

An example of a cheap but costly to run engine is the Isuzu 6-cylinder diesel. The 3.0 V6 dCI/CDTI engine was produced in 2003-2008. It was a typical diesel in the offers of Opel Vectra C, Signum, Renault Vel Satis and Saab 9-5.

From the beginning, it was equipped with the Denso common rail system – regeneration of injectors is possible, but very expensive and complicated. Initially, the engine had 177 hp, after 2005, the power increased to 184 hp. 3.0 V6 CDTI tends to overheat, and in addition, the cylinder liners loosen. What’s the consequence? A risk of engine seizure.


2.5 V6 TDI (Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda)


A diesel car from Volkswagen is not necessarily a good choice - the 2.5 V6 is a prime example.

A diesel car from Volkswagen is not necessarily a good choice – the 2.5 V6 is a prime example.

Between 1997 and 2010, one of the worst diesel engines by the Volkswagen group was produced. The 2.5 V6 TDI was offered, among others, in the Volkswagen Passat B5, Skoda Superb I and a number of Audi models. It had power from 150 to 180 hp.

Surprisingly quickly in the case of these diesels, the fuel pump and the electronic control get broken, problems are also generated by an unstable valve control – the chain itself and the rapidly degrading camshafts are to blame. The engine loses power, consumes more fuel, and has problems with start-up. The incorrect work of the valve drive results in worsened efficiency of the cooling system, which, in extreme cases, might end up in the engine locking up.


2.5 D VM (Jeep, Chrysler, Ford)

The Italian unit was produced between 1987 up to 2001, and during that time it was used in e.g. Jeep, Chrysler, Ford Scorpio II and Alfa Romeo 155 and 164. The engine was equipped with the turbocharger, indirect fuel injection and the valve drive based on gear wheels – and between 1996-1998 it was based on a timing chain.

The power this diesel generated oscillated between 101 and 125 hp and 300 Nm, which was a good result as for those times. A really interesting solution was using four separate aluminum warheads with a shared gasket – thanks to which detecting any leakage in one cylinder requires disassembling all warheads and using dedicated tools to assemble them back. In addition, the owner faces an unequal fight against leaks.


2.0 Boxer Diesel (Subaru)

A dozen or so years ago, the Japanese developed their own unique diesel from scratch – in the boxer system. 2.0 Boxer Diesel generated 147-150 hp which was perfectly enough, and it was equipped with the common rail direct fuel injection, the variable geometry turbocharger, the DPF particulate matter filter, and the dual-mass flywheel.

Initially, it amazed drivers with its dynamics and low fuel consumption. However, a number of problems appeared surprisingly quickly. The clutches were very fragile and expensive in repair, the engine constantly had problems with the EGR valve and the DPF filter, as well as there were case of the bearings and the crankshafts rotating, and the blocks cracking.


2.0 D N47 (BMW)

A very popular 4-cylinder 2.0 D diesel of the N47 series – it was included in the price list, among others, in BMW 3, 5, X3, X1 series. It always guaranteed high work culture, more than enough performance and still very low fuel consumption. The engine was available in the power range between 143-204 hp.

The manufacturer equipped the engine with the common rail direct fuel injection, the variable geometry turbocharger, the dual-mass flywheel, and the particulate matter filter. The valve drive uses the chain. The engine is located longitudinally and, to further complicate service, the valve drive is located on the cab side. The entire drive causes problems. In the initial version, the gear wheel was integrated with the crankshaft, which would increase the repair costs. After modernisation, some defects were eliminated, although the unit is deemed to be trouble-some and expensive in exploitation.

Even if you manage to find a perfectly preserved copy with a low and real mileage on the secondary market, you will not avoid future problems – regardless of whether it will be Nissan, Lexus or BMW, and the car will rarely leave the garage. Sooner or later, technical defects typical for cars with these diesel engines will lead to specific faults. Their expensive repair will solve the problem only temporarily, until the next failure.


It is good to know

Did you like this article? Anything you’d like to ask in your comment? Feel free to share your feedback and comment at the bottom of the article. And remember – always before buying a car, motorcycle or even a trailer – check vehicle history and free VIN lookup with autoDNA based on the VIN numberVIN check is one of the most important things to do before deciding to buy a used vehicle. Thanks to this, autoDNA helps you make an informed decision.



Because of the emissions of nitrogen oxides and pollutants, both gasoline and diesel engines do
not have a bright future ahead of them – at least in Europe. The European Union is
striving to phase out the production of combustion engines and ultimately turn the
automotive industry towards greener power sources.

Drivers have ambivalent opinions about diesel cars. They are afraid of solutions introduced in modern diesel, which were aimed at reducing the toxic impact of these units on the environment.

However, there is no reason to be paranoid. Defective engines occur in both diesel and gasoline engines. The most important thing is to choose a car that suits your needs – also in terms of fuel

Which are the best diesel cars?
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Which are the best diesel cars?
Over the years, diesel cars have been extremely popular. Drivers have been eager to buy both new and used passenger cars. Which is the most popular?
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