Driving in the Capital is about to get EVEN more expensive – tougher Congestion Charge regulations and the new Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) means that it can cost you up to £24 just to take your car into central London. To be exempt from paying those, your car will have to produce CO2s of less than 75g/km, meet tough emissions standards and be capable of driving on electric power alone for 20 miles minimum. Here are ten cars which let you beat the charge.
The Nissan Leaf is one of the best examples of a zero-emissions car that’s Congestion Charge and ULEZ exempt. Underneath its unassuming body, you’ll find an electric motor that offers a healthy 235-mile range. The Leaf’s quiet running, clever E-Pedal – it’s an accelerator that also applies the brakes slightly when you lift your foot off – and automatic gearbox make it extremely relaxing to drive and more than capable on a mixture of roads. In every other way though, you can treat it like a normal car, so you get enough space inside for four adults and a boot that’ll swallow a couple of large suitcases, it’s just a shame the cabin suffers from some cheap interior plastics.
The BMW i3 wears its electric-car status like a badge of honour. That space-age styling means it looks like nothing else on the road and the interior, which is made from sustainable materials such as bamboo, is equally eye-catching. The BMW i3 is a small car, but inside it feels light and airy, has just enough space for four and the rear doors hinge from the back, which gives you unhindered access to the rear seat. The BMW’s small size, automatic gearbox, 160-mile range and instant acceleration make it a perfect town car, but not so great for long journies. And, of course, it’s exempt from paying the ULEZ and the Congestion Charge.
The Renault Zoe proves you can have reasonably priced car that’s exempt from the Congestion Charge and the ULEZ. It’s yours for less than the price of a basic Ford Focus… and a lot less if you buy via carwow. It has space for four people and a boot that’ll swallow two suitcases, although the cabin does feel cheap in places. Lethargic performance used to be an issue but a new electric motor makes all the difference. It gives the Zoe acceleration of 0-30mph in under four seconds – that will give scooters a run for their money in town. And town is where the Zoe belongs because it’s quiet, easy to park, only has one gear (you don’t need to worry about shifting) and a decent 180-mile range.
The Jaguar I-Pace might look a bit like an SUV in the flesh, but it actually drives like a sports car – darting into corners with aplomb and powering out of them with the kind of force most sports cars would kill for. Factor in a near-300-mile, all-electric range and, in terms of performance, there’s isn’t much not to like. The I-Pace costs a lot more to buy than a diesel SUV of a similar size but at least charging it is cheap and you won’t need to pay the Congestion Charge or the ULEZ. Sit behind the wheel and the I-Pace doesn’t quite have the space-age feel of an Audi e-tron, but everything is well put together and made from high-quality materials. There’s plenty of space in there for four, too, and the boot is bigger than you get in most SUVs this size.
The Audi e-tron blends the best of electric cars with everything you expect of an Audi. That means its thumping straight-line performance is tempered by a numb feeling in corners, but at least it’s exempt from the Congestion Charge and the ULEZ, and has a claimed 248-mile range. Typically Audi, you also get an interior that looks like it belongs in the 50s – the 2050s – thanks to its array of high-definition touchscreens and optional rear-facing cameras which do the job of wing mirrors. All that comes in a practical SUV body with a spacious rear seat and a boot big enough to go on holiday in.
Hyundai Kona Electric
The Hyundai Kona Electric is a different kettle of fish from the mediocre standard Kona. Its revised styling makes it look more interesting than the regular Kona and the revised interior also provides a noticeable step up. Go for the 64kWh model (you can also have a 38kWh version) and you end up with a car that’s Congestion Charge and ULEZ exempt, has a 279-mile range and strong performance. You also get decent levels equipment for the price – even basic models have cruise control and a reversing camera. The Kona’s main issue is its lack of practicality – the back seats just aren’t that great for an SUV and the boot is quite small.
BMW 530e iPerformance
The best thing about the BMW 530e iPerformance is that there’s no compromise over the regular BMW 5 Series. The 530e is a hybrid that uses a 2.0-litre petrol engine boosted by an electric motor. That gives you the best of both worlds so it’s 49g/km emissions and 31-mile electric range make it exempt from paying the Congestion Charge and ULEZ. It is also pretty darn quick, has a 400-mile range and if you can’t find somewhere to charge it you can rely on petrol power until you get home. Like every 5 Series, the 530e is smart looking inside and out, has a spacious interior with intuitive (though not quite as fancy as an Audi A6’s) infotainment and is a big car you can actually enjoy driving.
Volvo XC60 T8
The Volvo XC60 T8 is the petrol-electric hybrid version of Volvo’s excellent midsize SUV. It looks smart and oozes restrained quality on the inside thanks to an uncluttered dashboard layout and wads of expensive materials. It’s also practical with loads of room in the back, a large boot and some of the comfiest seats you’ll ever sit in. In fact, comfort is what the XC60’s all about – something the hybrid lends itself well to because the T8 can roll along in quiet electric mode for up to 28 miles. That makes it exempt from the ULEZ and the Congestion Charge, while the petrol engine provides strong performance and a long range.
The Kia e-Niro has a 64kWh electric motor that serves up spritely performance and a 282-mile official range. It’s also exempt from the Congestion Charge and the ULEZ. The near-silent electric motor makes the e-Niro a relaxing car to drive. Inside, it lacks pizzazz but is easy to operate and there’s plenty of room up front. Meanwhile, the back seat could do with a little more foot room but has space for two tall adults and you get a large boot with a practical square shape. Alongside the emission-free driving, perhaps the e-Niro’s biggest selling point is it’s seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty – that’s better than you get from any other car here.
The Volkswagen e-Golf does exactly what it says on the tin – it’s a Volkswagen Golf and the ‘e’ stands for ‘electric’. The ‘Golf’ bit means you get a car with quality interior, has enough room for four people and, while the boot is a tad smaller than in other Golfs (the batteries take up space), it’ll still swallow a couple of suitcases. Exempt from the Congestion Charge and the ULEZ, the e-Golf’s perfect for town driving because it’s quiet and has a single speed so you don’t need to worry about shifting gears. That said, its 186-mile range is one the shortest here.