Getting a ULEZ compliant car doesn’t have to break the bank; we pick 10 great options
London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) expanded to cover almost all areas inside the M25 on 29 August, leaving many motorists scratching their heads. Research from carwow indicates 64% of Londoners (rising to 74% of drivers UK wide) don’t know whether their cars meet ULEZ standards, or will attract the £12.50 daily charge for entering the zone.
But while the majority of cars in London and the Home Counties meet the requisite emission standards to escape the ULEZ fee, a little under a million cars in the capital are thought to be non-compliant.
With that in mind, carwow has compiled a list of 10 fantastic ULEZ compliant cars available via its used-car platform*, all from trusted and vetted dealers, and all costing £10,000 or less.
*Cars available and prices accurate as of 22/09/23; images for illustration purposes only
1. Fiat 500C
0.9-litre petrol engine
ULEZ-proof cars don’t have to be things you buy just with your head, as attested to by the fun, stylish Fiat 500C
This funky little city car is bound to put a smile on your face, especially during the summer months when you can peel back the roof and enjoy the capital’s cleaner air. The dinky 0.9-litre engine may be better suited to city streets than faster moving roads, and it’s not the most practical car out there, but in terms of smiles per mile it’s hard to beat for the money.
2. Volkswagen Up
1.0-litre petrol engine
Despite its diminutive stature the Up is actually pretty spacious inside, while the driving experience is nothing short of entertaining, and build quality is up there with the best. Cute looks and low running costs seal the deal.
3. Dacia Duster
1.0-litre petrol engine
SUVs are enduringly popular and if you’re in the market for a practical, high-riding car, the Dacia Duster makes a great case for itself.
Easy to drive, cheap to run and impressively spacious, the Duster may not be the last word in interior refinement and quality, but its roster of other talents is such that this is easy to overlook.
4. Ford Fiesta
1.1-litre petrol engine
The Ford Fiesta was a long-standing best-seller in the UK before production ended in summer 2023, so now is the time to snap up one of these fantastic small hatchbacks.
A key Fiesta selling point is the way it drives, with direct steering, peppy, responsive engines and a snappy gearchange making it seriously engaging and sharp to drive. The Fiesta is also about as affordable as a car gets to run, while ULEZ compliance is almost guaranteed as the vast majority of cars are petrol-powered.
5. Citroen C4 Cactus
1.2-litre petrol engine
It’s something of a cliche to say that Citroen is known for building quirky cars, but the car-park-ding absorbing ‘Airbumps’ that adorn the Cactus’ sides make it impossible to say that this car isn’t a little bit different.
It’s also been said many times that Citroen produces comfortable cars and, again, this is true for the C4 Cactus, with soft suspension that makes London’s pockmarked streets almost an irrelevance. Handsome styling, light steering and soft, supple seats add to a compelling picture.
6. Alfa Romeo Mito Quadrifoglio Verde
1.4-litre petrol engine
If you’re in the market for a small, ULEZ-compliant hatchback there are certainly more sensible choices than the Alfa Romeo Mito; other cars in this class and at this price point have far nicer interiors, are more comfortable over bumps and feature better build quality.
What many rivals lack, however, is the styling, character and sheer joie de vivre of the little Mito, all of which become irrepressible in the sporty Quadrifoglio Verde (green four-leaf clover) version, which features a 170hp turbocharged petrol engine, together with a snazzy bodykit and suspension that’s been tuned for a sporty drive.
7. Jeep Renegade
The chunky styling and high driving position of a Jeep hold a lot of appeal in the capital, and while you might associate such characteristics with punchy running costs, the Renegade is actually based on Fiat mechanical underpinnings, so should be pretty friendly on the wallet.
Opting for the Longitude model will also get you a Renegade that’s loaded with a decent amount of equipment, while the 1.6-litre petrol engine offers reasonable performance and economy, and the SUV shape makes for a practical set of family wheels.
8. Renault Megane
1.6-litre diesel engine
The Ford Focus alternative is a great-looking car which is really well-equipped as standard. Finding a ULEZ compliant car doesn’t mean you have to completely rule out diesel power, and the 1.6-litre oil burner in this car is clean enough to avoid the ULEZ charge, while also being able to return up to 70mpg.
9. Volvo V40
1.6-litre petrol engine
The Volvo V40 is mechanically related to the Ford Focus hatchback – another great car that can be had in ULEZ-compliant guise for under £10,000 – and offers a more premium, Swedish take on the family-hatch formula.
The ‘floating’ centre console, behind which sits a useful cubbyhole, gives the V40’s cabin a distinctive air, while comfortable seats, excellent motorway refinement and strong levels of standard equipment make the V40 a fantastic companion for life.
10. Nissan Leaf
Single electric motor
Electric cars are both exempt from London’s ULEZ charge and, until 2025, are also excused from the central Congestion Charge, making an EV a great pick if you’re hoping to minimise your travel bills in the capital.
Just under £7,000 is enough to get you the keys to a first-generation Leaf, which is about as relaxing and easy to drive as a car can be. An official range of between 124 and 155 miles should be plenty for urban trips.
Hugo Griffiths, carwow’s consumer editor, says:
“It’s worth running the numbers on whether it makes financial sense to upgrade your car: if you’re only likely to travel into the expanded ULEZ zone once a month or so, spending thousands on a compliant vehicle is unlikely to make much sense to escape the £12.50 charge.
“People who head into the zone on a regular basis are more likely to want to switch, though, and if you’re on a tight budget but still want a car with all the mod-cons, leasing can also be a good option. The costs are typically lower than other car finance methods, which means you could afford a higher spec car. Deals include road tax for the contract length and a full manufacturer’s warranty. If you prefer to take the car ownership route, then petrol cars made since 2006 should be ULEZ compliant and the starting price point for emission-zone-friendly cars is pretty low – for now at least.