When we say the most-vegan friendly motors, we’re not referring to vehicles those who choose to avoid animal-free products can eat.
Like other industries, car manufacturers are becoming increasing aware of more people adopting a vegan lifestyle, and are reacting by launching a range of synthetic fabrics to replace leather used in the cabins of their latest models.
But a new ‘kindness’ index has been launched to rank vehicles in order of how friendly they are to the planet, taking into account both the impact to animals and the environment.
The ranking looks at the materials used to upholster the seats, steering wheel, gearstick and handbrake in new cars, as well as the CO2 outputs emitted from their exhaust pipes.
Having once been a symbol of luxury, car makers are now ditching conventional leathers to appease a growing vegan customer base.
In their place are synthetic alternatives produced without harming any animals in the process, with some brands – including Ford, BMW, Mercedes, Lexus and Toyota – launching their own copyrighted substitutions.
While manufacturers are taking additional measures to offer more vegan-friendly vehicles, animal products are still used in the production of the steel and rubber that make up the car itself – meaning there’s no such thing as an entirely vegan motor.
However, Money.co.uk has created a Kinder Cars Index for the best all-rounders for the planet right now.
This is based on them having leather-free interiors as standard (according to the manufacturers’ websites) as well as low emissions.
Unsurprisingly, the top of the rankings is dominated by electric vehicles.
In number one spot and taking the ‘Most Kind’ award is the Renault Twizy – the French brand’s smallest ever model.
The two-seat EV sneaks in despite not necessarily being a car, with it actually being categorised as a quadricycle.
It also ditches leather materials as standard out of necessity, not choice.
That’s because it’s sold without windows, and doors are an optional extra. A pretty startling fact given the £11,695 entry price (and no £3,000 saving from the taxpayer-funded Plug-in Car Grant because it’s not technically a car).
In order to waterproof the interior, no leather materials are used. It also has a range of just 31 to 56 miles and can’t be taken on motorways, it should be highlighted.
Second in the list is the Renault Zoe, which is an electric car that qualifies for the government subsidy, though still rings it from £26,995.
Also in the top five is the recently-launched £49,900 Polestar 2, which won the gong as the Best Luxury Vehicle, followed by the VW ID.3 and Vauxhall Corsa-E.
The top 23 cars in the 50-long ranking are electric models with zero tailpipe emissions.
With electric cars significantly more expensive than a petrol or diesel alternative, this list suggests vegans will need to pay a premium to get the cars with the kindest scores.
And not all of these 23 models have interiors made from synthetic, recycled and sustainable materials, as you can see in the table of results.
In terms of the best cars for vegans that use internal combustion engines, the Kia XCeed Hybrid (32g/km CO2), Fiat 500 Hybrid (119g/km CO2) and Citroen C1 petrol (109g/km CO2) are the top choices.
The Dacia Sandero, which is currently priced from £6,995 (though this price will increase by around £1,000 when the new version arrives later this year) is the best car for vegans on a budget.
Those who want an SUV to transport their families should feel least guilty driving a Mercedes-Benz EQC, which costs a whopping £65,000, the report said.
Surprisingly, eco-car poster boys such as the range of Tesla electric vehicles and Toyota’s Prius hybrid featured lower in the list than you might thing.
According to manufacturer websites, the entry-level Prius and Teslas currently come with leather steering wheels as standard, which is why they feature low down in the kindness list.
However, Elon Musk’s US firm has said that they will happily change their steering wheel to one made with a vegan-friendly leather alternative, and for no charge.
Anyone looking to buy a Prius can also request a steering wheel wrapped in Toyota’s leather alternative, ‘Softex’.
Salman Haqqi, consumer spending expert at Money.co.uk, said: ‘Demand for more ethical options is helping to shape the car industry with brands including Tesla, Ford, Toyota, and BMW, all offering vegan-friendly leather alternatives in some of their flagship models.
‘However, buying a car is still a bit of a minefield for vegan motorists as animal products are used in the manufacture of the steel and rubber that makes up the car itself.
‘For some people, their car is the one necessary evil that it’s just not possible to go without.
‘But to help mindful motorists minimize their impact as much as possible, we looked at the leather content and CO2 emissions of some of the most well-known manufacturers to find the kindest cars that are available to buy today.’
Earlier this month, Jaguar Land Rover announced that interior parts for its future cars will be made from recycled plastics recovered from landfill and oceans around the world.
Polestar, which is the electric luxury arm of Geely, which owns Volvo, has also promised to use only man-made fabrics that avoid animal leathers and wool in all its plug-in vehicles.