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The Kindest Car Index

A definitive list of the world’s most animal and environmentally-friendly cars

Sara Newell
Written by  Sara Newell
6 min read
Updated: 22 May 2024

The Kindest Car Index: A definitive list of the world’s most animal and environmentally-friendly cars  With a record number of people adopting vegan and eco-conscious lifestyles, there’s been a rise in car manufacturers adopting animal product free interiors options, especially in electric vehicles. 

But did you know, while most manufacturers now offer leather-free options as standard, animal products are still commonly used in car interiors? That’s why at MoneySuperMarket we’ve launched the Kindest Car Index, a definitive list of the world’s most animal and environmentally friendly cars, to help you navigate the cars that are kindest to the planet, and your wallet. 

Can a car be 100% vegan? 

Currently, the short answer is no. While it’s possible for cars to have vegan-friendly interiors, animal products are still used in the production of the steel and rubber that make up the car itself. 

The same rings true for additional parts like tyres, which are typically manufactured with stearic acid, an animal product. 

This also means that even cars which boast vegan-friendly interiors may still use animal products in their components, such as wiring, rubber seals or screws. 

However, according to Donald Watson, founder of the Vegan Society, veganism is the “philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude - as far as possible and practical - all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” 

So, while going carless might not be possible or practical for many of us, there are a growing number of options available if you’re looking to be as animal and environmentally-friendly as possible when on the road.  

Car manufacturers embracing animal product-free interiors 

While a fully vegan car may be out of reach in the near future, the good news for vegan drivers is that it’s never been easier to find a vehicle boasting mostly animal-product-free interiors. 

In fact, a growing number of car manufacturers are embracing vegan interiors as part of the move to more environmentally-conscious cars, and of course to appeal to their ethically minded customers. 

Manufacturers that currently produce vegan-friendly interiors or have announced plans to introduce them include Ford, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, Kia, Volkswagen, Vauxhall, Polestar, Renault, Fiat, Tesla and even Porsche, to name just a few. 

Increasingly, manufactures are also ditching animal products such as leather by creating their own artificial alternatives, such as: 

  • Sensico (Ford) 

  • Sensatec (BMW) 

  • Artico (Mercedes)  

  • NuLux (Lexus) 

  • Softex (Toyota) 

  • Alcantara 

  • Dinamica aka Miko Suede 

 
In keeping with market demand, where leather was once the sign of luxury, there is also a growing trend for luxury car manufacturers to switch to vegan interiors as standard, especially in electric or hybrid vehicles. 

However, in some cases, such as Land Rover, vegan options may only be available in certain models or countries. Opting for a vegan interior may also sometimes come at an extra cost, like in Audi’s e-tron GT, where it will cost you an additional £2,580 to go leather free, on top of the £86,500 asking price1.  

Things to watch out for with vegan interiors

While car manufacturers often do a pretty good job of listing the materials used in their vehicles, if you’re particularly conscious you should pay close attention to what the car manufacturer means by ‘animal free’ when it comes interiors, as in most cases the term only applies to the seat materials. 

For instance, while most use synthetic materials, some fabric seats may be stuffed with wool. 

Another part of the car to pay attention to is the steering wheel. For instance, in our study, 78% of vehicles offered leather-free seats, however just 38% stated that their steering wheels were also leather free.  

The Kindest Cars: most vegan and environmentally-friendly cars you can buy  

For our Kindest Cars study, we looked at 260 different vehicles available, comparing several factors for each and assigning an overall ‘kindness score’.  For each car we considered the following criteria: 

  • Is the seat leather-free as standard or as ‘free’ option? 

  • Is the steering wheel leather-free? 

  • The CO₂ emissions of the vehicle (g/km) 

  • The UK insurance group of the vehicle 

Our experts used the manufacturers’ configuration tools to assess each car against our criteria, using the entry trim of each vehicle available at the time of the study. Where an online configurator was not available, we used the latest car brochure available. This means some cars from some manufacturers may not be listed. 

While our Kindest Car study can give you a good starting point for finding ethically and environmentally-friendly cars, remember that car specifications – including emissions and insurance groups – can vary by trim, engine, optional extras and the sales market, so it’s worth double-checking before you buy. 

Likewise, if you’re lucky enough to be in the market for a luxury car, brands like Rolls Royce say that bespoke options could be made available to customers.  

According to our rankings, the Toyota Prius, perhaps the most famous car for ‘earth-conscious’ drivers, tops the list of Kindest Cars, thanks to its vegan upholstery, zero emission electric driving, and low insurance group. 

However, the upcoming Dacia Spring, which is due to arrive in the UK October 2024 after a successful European rollout, could also be a strong choice for vegan drivers and is tentatively tied in the number one spot, pending its official insurance group classification.  

With a list price of just £14,345, the Spring will enter the market as the cheapest EV car in the UK (second only to the Citroen Ami quadricycle) and offers a leather-free steering wheel and seats. Nearly £20,000 cheaper than the Prius, industry experts expect the Dacia to have low insurance group, but it won’t be known officially until it is released in October. 

Also featuring highly in our list was the all-electric Fiat 500, along with the Volkswagen ID. range, with the German manufacturer shifting its focus to ethical consumers with recycled materials, leather-free interiors, and a pledge to electric-only driving. 

On the other end of the scale, high costs, power engines, high emissions and a lack of leather free options mean Audi’s performance RS and S range cars and the Porsche 911 rank lowest in our Kindest Car scale.  

It’s worth noting however, that some of the models towards the bottom of our list, like the R8, are being gently phased out of production in their current guise2

Generally speaking, our research found that luxury vehicles with newer model years tend to include a variety of leather-free trim options, whereas older models still championed the association between leather and luxury driving. 

The most vegan-friendly car brands 

According to our study, the most vegan-friendly car brands are Vauxhall, Ford, Dacia, Land Rover, Mini, Polestar, Smart and Tesla, all of which contained vegan-friendly interior options on both the steering wheel and seats across all models in the study. 

However, while brands like BMW and Volkswagen had a lower percentage of vegan-friendly vehicles, in most cases their new model cars did offer animal-product-free interiors, with their older models bringing the overall score down. 

While all the brands in the study offered synthetic seat materials, these were often bundled with leather-wrapped steering wheels. Those particularly conscious could opt to install an aftermarket vegan-friendly steering wheel to their car. If you choose to do so, it could count as a modification to your vehicle, and you would need to declare it to your insurer as failure to do so could invalidate your cover

Sara Newell, insurance expert at MoneySupermarket, said; “In recent years, we’ve seen a growing trend among car makers to using more ethically-minded materials as they look to become more sustainable and appeal to more environmentally-conscious drivers.  

“Vegan-friendly interiors have become especially popular in electric cars, with most electric vehicles in our study offering at least some vegan options. 

“Traditionally, leather interiors were a sign of quality and luxury in cars. However, our study shows that things are changing. Today, even cars at the highest end of the price range offer vegan interiors, although in some cases you may have to pay extra.  

“That said, while most vehicles in our study offered leather-free seats, in many models, vegan-free interiors don’t extend to the steering wheel, so people who choose to avoid animal products should check the materials listed in the individual car specs before buying. 

“For those looking to switch out leather parts for animal-free materials, while your interior is unlikely to impact your insurance costs significantly, you do need to tell your insurers about any modifications. Undeclared changes to your vehicle could result in your insurance being invalidated altogether.” 

Are you considering switching to a car that’s kinder to the planet? Our handy electric vehicle tool compares electric vehicles to help you find one that’s right for you needs. 

If you already have an electric vehicle, check our car insurance comparison service, to see if you can get a better deal on your insurance.  When you choose to buy car insurance through MoneySuperMarket, you’ll become a member of our SuperSaveClub and earn rewards and perks, including unlimited access to free days out at thousands of venues nationwide, worth £1803

Methodology 

MoneySuperMarket analysed the entry level model for car ranges currently offered by major manufacturers to find information on the materials used for steering wheels and seats across a variety of models available in the UK. 

Data was collected directly from the manufacturers’ website. Where the term “leather” has been used, this has been marked down as an animal product, unless explicitly specified. Models taken were the entry level of cars available of the day the data was collected and is not an exhaustive list of options of car models. 

Car insurance group data applies to the entrsay level vehicle group, or where applicable the average representative insurance group of similar trims in the car range. Where insurance group data has not been available (due to the car yet being classified) an estimation has been made, comparing to similar cars in class – these will be updated once final insurance group data is made available. 

We also noted each vehicle's carbon emissions (g/km) according to its Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) result. 

Findings were scored and weighted using a min-max normalisation formula. 

Data correct as of 01/05/2024 

1 Audi etron GT data correct as of 01/05/2024 

2 https://www.motor1.com/news/713615/audi-r8-production-ends/  

3 Based on 1 visit per month - average ticket value £15.07 (March 24) 

 

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