For many new car buyers, the environmental impact of their next purchase may one of the biggest considerations when choosing which car to buy. If you’re one of them, then you’ve come to the right place – we’ve put together a list of low emissions, green cars that also happen to be great cars in their own right.
After all, buying a car isn’t just about the tailpipe emissions. It also has to work for you and your lifestyle, with enough practicality, comfort and equipment to make life easier.
Here we’ve lined up several different types of car, to help cater for a wide range of needs. We’ve got electric cars, hybrid cars and plug-in hybrid cars, and everything from small superminis up to practical large SUVs. We’ve put a focus on value for money, so even the more upmarket models have been chosen because they’re the best model available in the UK at that price point.
Read on to find out which cars we’ve picked as the best low emissions green cars.
- Peugeot e-208
- Renault Zoe
- Volkswagen ID.3
- Kia e-Niro
- Tesla Model 3
- Nissan Leaf
- Toyota Corolla
- BMW 3 Series 330e
- Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge
- Skoda Superb iV
Watch our full Peugeot e-208 review
1. Peugeot e-208
The Peugeot e-208 is pretty much what it says on the tin: a 208 small car, but with an electric motor instead of a petrol or diesel engine. Of course, this means it has no tailpipe emissions, which makes it a perfect green car for cities or lots of town driving.
It’s good to drive and has lots of equipment, including a digital dial display and smartphone connectivity. The e-208 is reasonably practical for a small car and interior quality is excellent too. The small steering wheel takes some getting used to, though, and taller drivers might find the driving position strange.
2. Renault Zoe
If you’re after a small, French electric car and the Peugeot e-208 doesn’t do it for you, consider the Renault Zoe. It has a much more conventional – but no less impressive – interior design, so it’s easier to get used to than the Peugeot.
It’s also very impressive in terms of electric range, at around 240 miles on a single charge. It’s a great eco car, with no tailpipe emissions and thanks to its long range, you don’t have to charge it up as often either. The Zoe is ideal for city or town driving, but can handle longer commutes if you have access to charging points at home and at work.
It’s not the greatest motorway cruiser, though, because there’s a fair amount of wind and road noise at speed. However, it’s got all the tech you could want, including smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
3. Volkswagen ID.3
The Volkswagen ID.3 is the first electric car VW has made that isn’t sharing with petrol or diesel versions (like the e-Golf or e-Up did). Thanks to the electric motor and battery pack, it has no tailpipe emissions, making it a fantastic green family car – it can go up to 340 miles on a single charge (provided it comes with the biggest battery).
It’s roughly the size of a Golf, but with no large engine or gearbox to package around, the ID.3 has a spacious and practical interior.
‘I drove the Volkswagen ID.3 until it died!’ Watch our VW ID.3 review
It’s pricey, though, and while the interior looks really minimalist and modern, the touchscreen is a bit of a pain to use for everyday tasks like changing the air-conditioning settings.
4. Kia e-Niro
The Kia e-Niro is a fantastic green car – it scooped up the Eco Award at the 2019 carwow Car of the Year awards, in fact. That’s because it works as a family car really well, has an impressive range of 282 miles, and of course produces no tailpipe emissions at all.
The e-Niro’s long range means it’s more versatile than other electric cars. You can go for more days in a row without having to charge up, for example, or perhaps take a longer trip without having to worry about charging on motorway services several times.
Most importantly for a practical family car – there’s lots of space inside, the infotainment is easy to use and packed with features and the Kia is comfortable on all kinds of roads. It’s a shame the cabin has more cheap-looking plastic than in some alternatives, considering the price tag.
Watch what happens when you drive an electric car until the batteries run out
5. Tesla Model 3
The Tesla Model is a brilliant electric car that could change the way you think about cars forever. It’s not faultless – the build quality isn’t up to the standard of similarly priced BMWs and Audis and it’s quite expensive – but the Model 3 is one of the most impressive EVs currently on sale.
The Long Range model can manage around 350 miles between charges, which could easily be a whole week’s worth of commuting (without any tailpipe emissions at all, of course). If you’re more interested in acceleration, the Performance model goes from 0-60mph in 3.5 seconds.
The minimalist interior is ultra-modern and really comfortable. But the touchscreen display is a bit fiddly to use while on the move and it has a mind-boggling array of features to play with.
6. Nissan Leaf
The Nissan Leaf was one of the first properly mainstream electric cars, and the second-generation version is a huge step on from the original. It retains the most important aspect, of course, that being the eco-friendly electric motor without so much as a sniff of CO2 being produced locally.
The Leaf suffers slightly from its plasticky interior, fiddly infotainment system and awkward driving position, but just about everything else makes it worth a look if you’re after a no-emissions family car. It’s spacious, good to drive, nippy around town and has a decent range of around 239 miles (on the e+ model).
It’s comfortable too, and because there’s no engine, driving around at town speeds it’s really relaxing. The Leaf is starting to look dated next to newer rivals such as the VW ID.3 but it’s still a great choice and you should be able to find a competitive deal when buying one.
7. Toyota Corolla
If you’re not ready to dive into the deep end with a fully-electric car, the Toyota Corolla is one of the best low emissions cars around that still has a petrol engine on board. It uses hybrid tech to keep CO2 emissions low, and it’s really economical as well so should save you plenty of money on fuel.
The Corolla name used to have a reputation for being boring but this new model is anything but. It’s one of the most entertaining cars of its size to drive, although the CVT automatic gearbox does mean it’s a little noisy when accelerating.
The infotainment could be better as well, but the Toyota is so good in other areas such as comfort, equipment, efficiency and motorway cruising that this is easily overlooked. It’s not as practical as a VW Golf, but if you want a green car that’s also great to drive then the Corolla is a fine choice.
8. BMW 3 Series 330e
If you want an electric car to keep your emissions low, but aren’t sure if one would work for your lifestyle, a plug-in hybrid could be a perfect choice. One of the best is the BMW 330e, which can be driven for around 40 miles on electric power alone.
That’s enough for the average commute if you charge up every day. However, unlike a fully electric car, you can drive using the petrol engine if the battery runs out. It won’t be very economical if you use it regularly like this, though – so keep it topped up with electricity to be as green as possible.
The 330e is like every other 3 Series in every other way: it’s very comfortable, great to drive, full of hi-tech kit, spacious and great on the motorway. That’s why it’s one of the best plug-in hybrids, because it mixes the new tech with what was already a fantastic car.
9. Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge
If you like the sound of a plug-in hybrid but would like your next green car to be a premium SUV, take a look at the Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge. It’s got a petrol engine and an electric motor, the latter able to take you just under 30 miles on a single charge.
The XC40 is comfortable, well equipped, and has lots of room inside for passengers. You’ll need to pick your trim level carefully as lesser models can feel a bit bare inside. The infotainment system is a little fiddly when you’re driving but it looks modern and has a lot of features.
Like with the BMW above, you’ll have to keep on top of charging it to keep emissions low, but if you can do that then the XC40 could be a great choice.
10. Skoda Superb iV
The Skoda Superb iV is another plug-in hybrid that, for some buyers, will be able to keep emissions low while avoiding any kind of range anxiety. The key to low emissions is to regularly charge the batteries. Still, the 1.4-litre petrol engine that drives the wheels when the battery runs dry is also pretty economical on its own, despite the heavy battery pack.
The Skoda Superb iV is good to drive, although it’s not exactly sporty. It’s at its best on the motorway at a cruise, where you can enjoy the quiet cabin and comfy suspension, or around town running solely on electricity.
There’s lots of equipment as standard, a reasonably plush cabin, a huge boot and lots of room for passengers in the back. It’s the most spacious car for rear-seat passengers on this list, so if you need practicality in your next eco car, consider the Superb iV.