Methyl esters derived from vegetable oils by the process of transesterification (commonly referred as ‘biodiesel’), can be used as an alternative fuel in compression ignition engines. In this study, three different vegetable oils (rape, soy and waste oil) were used to produce biodiesel fuels that were then tested in a four cylinder direct injection engine, typically used in small diesel genset applications. Engine performance and emissions were recorded at five load conditions and at two different speeds. This paper presents the results obtained for measurements of NOx and smoke opacity at the different speed and load conditions for the three biodiesels, and their blends (5 and 50% v/v) with mineral diesel. A simple combustion analysis was also performed where ignition delay, position and magnitude of peak cylinder pressure and heat release rate were examined to asses how the variation of chemical structure and blend percentage affects engine performance.Engine performance and emissions for all of the 5% biodiesel blends were indistinguishable from mineral diesel. However, at higher blends, the rape fuel exhibited better emission and performance characteristics than either the soy or waste fuels. Furthermore; whilst emissions trends varied for each blend and fuel, emissions of smoke were significantly reduced at all speed and load conditions, and NOx was reduced by up to 50% at low loads. It will also be shown that while engine performance was not significantly deteriorated by biodiesel, there was evidence of increased ignition delay with higher blends, and a possible two stage ignition process where mineral diesel ignited earlier than the biodiesel.