Low emission cars for the ULEZ 2020

  • All the best low-emission cars
  • What is the Ultra Low Emission Zone? 
  • What euro emission standard is your car?

Emissions are still a hot topic of motoring conversation and attempts in the UK to clean up the environment have been led by London’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ) to try to turn the screw on pollution. The next step in the fight against emissions is the new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which was introduced on 8 April 2019.

This comes following the announcement of the government’s air quality plan last year, which will see the sale of new purely petrol and diesel cars banned from the year 2030.

What is a Low Emission Zone (LEZ)?

LEZs are designated areas intended to reduce pollution in city centres by discouraging the use of vehicles that produce the most emissions. These tend to mean drivers of restricted vehicles have to pay an additional charge for use of the roads.

There are currently LEZs in London, Brighton, Norwich, Nottingham and Oxford, but up until now these have only concerned larger vehicles such as pickups and 4x4s weighing over 1.205-tonnes, LCVs and HGVs.

Is my car affected by Low Emission Zones?

From October 2021, London's ULEZ extends from covering the congestion charge zone to a much larger area within the North and South Circular. That covers a significant portion of the city.

The point of this new initiative is to encourage the use of newer, more eco-friendly cars. Petrol engines will need to meet the Euro 4 emissions standards - generally speaking, that’s any petrol car registered since 2006.

Diesels are much more stringently regulated, as they will need to meet the Euro 6 standards, which is generally achieved by cars registered since 2015. Anyone not meeting these requirements will be obliged to pay a £12.50 daily charge on top of the standard congestion charge.

What Euro emission standard is my car?

You can generally work out the Euro emission standard of your car by checking when it was first registered. The Euro 4 standard was introduced in 2005, and any new car being registered since then was required to meet that standard.

Euro 5 has been enforced since 2011 and Euro 6 since 2015. There are some exceptions to this rule, so we recommend checking your vehicle on a car emissions checker to be absolutely sure before driving in the ULEZ.

What if my car doesn’t meet the required standard?

Be prepared to pay the charges and be sure to do so on time as the penalties for not paying are hefty. But there is another alternative. You could buy a greener, eco-friendly car that saves you money in more ways than one. We’ve put together this list of the best low-emission cars currently available in the UK to help you choose.

Which are the best low-emission cars on sale in the UK 2021?

Scroll down to discover all the best low-emission cars currently available to buy in the UK for 2021, or, click below to jump to your favourite: 

1. Toyota Prius
2. MG 5 EV
3. BMW i3
4. Volkswagen ID.3
5. Hyundai Kona Electric
6. Jaguar i-Pace
7. Renault Zoe
8. BMW 330e
9. Audi E-Tron
10. Kia e-Niro

1. Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius - the best low-emission cars

As one of the earliest adopters of hybrid technology in a road car, the Prius has become recognised as a benchmark in the hybrid market. There are two options: a standard ‘self-charging’ hybrid or the much more expensive plug-in, which we believe is hard to justify considering the larger batteries take space—and a seat – away. Either way, the Prius remains one of the cheaper alternatives on this list and comes well-equipped even at entry level, and it’s surprisingly practical in its five-seater guise. The engine is well refined and the handling is deceptively good. The latest Prius has become a much more convincing proposition, if perhaps not the most desirable.

New price: £24,245 - £28,350
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Used price: £14,510 - £25,140 
Emissions: 22g/km – 76g/km
Fuel economy: 78 – 83 mpg 
Road tax cost: £0 - £130 
Insurance group: 14 - 22

Read our full Toyota Prius review

2. MG 5 EV

MG 5 EV- the best low-emission cars

If you're looking for maximum practicality, the MG 5 EV is the only electric estate you'll find on this list. In fact, you'll struggle to find many EVs in this bodystyle on sale at all - the Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo is the only other one.

You can have up to a claimed 250-mile range on a full charge too, so when you factor in the sprightly performance, generous cabin space and standard kit, the MG 5 EV is a strong value-for-money contender.

New price: £27,595 - £31,495
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Used price: £17,820 - £23,595
Emissions: 0g/km
Fuel economy: n/a 
Road tax cost: £0
Insurance group: 32

Read our full MG 5 EV review

3. BMW i3

BMW i3 - the best low-emission cars

Offered as either a pure electric or previously as a range-extender (REX) versions, the i3 offers the best of both worlds and a genuine alternative to the likes of the Nissan Leaf. As a zero-emission electric vehicle, the i3 is an attractive option, with a workable (if not overly impressive) 186 miles of range. Its tall frame opens up a huge amount of space inside while the lack of a transmission tunnel gives the interior a light and airy feel. But due to that upright stance, the i3 doesn’t drive especially well; it’s quick off the mark though, and perfectly comfortable for everyday use.

New price: £35,180 - £39,670
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Used price: £8,970 - £30,555 
Emissions: 0g/km – 13g/km
Fuel economy: n/a 
Road tax cost: £0 - £310 
Insurance group: 21 – 29

Read our full BMW i3 review

4. Volkswagen ID.3

VW ID.3- the best low-emission cars

The ID.3 is Volkswagen's offering of a Golf-sized EV. Replacing the much more conventional e-Golf, this futuristic-looking hatch attempts to combine all the latest tech into a package that isn't too daunting for everyday use. It's ambitious, and the interior can be tricky to master at first, but the ID.3 is otherwise incredibly easy to drive on the road.

All models claim to achieve over 200 miles per full charge, but there's the longer range Tour if you need to travel further, offering 330+ miles on a full battery.

New price: £29,635 - £38,815
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Used price: £23,500 - £34,235
Emissions: 0g/km
Fuel economy: n/a 
Road tax cost: £0 
Insurance group: 18 - 29

Read our full VW ID.3 review

5. Hyundai Kona Electric

Hyundai Kona Electric - the best low-emission cars

Here we have something that should be turning the heads of any new car buyers, whether you are looking for an EV or not. The Kona Electric, winner of the Parkers Best Eco Car Award 2019, comes in two forms: the standard, 39kWh with a 180-mile range, and the award-winning premium, 64kWh with a 279-mile range. What’s interesting here is that the electric versions of the Kona are far superior to the petrol or diesel models that are also available. Not only that, we believe this small SUV is one of the best mainstream EVs on sale. It does plenty of things better than the Nissan Leaf, and not an awful lot wrong.

New price: £30,750 - £38,645
Used price: £19,060 - £31,920 
Emissions: 0g/km
Fuel economy: n/a 
Road tax cost: £0
Insurance group: 22 - 27

Read our full Hyundai Kona Electric review

6. Jaguar i-Pace

Jaguar i-Pace - the best low-emission cars

The Jaguar i-Pace represents a jump both in quality and price, but it has come in and shaken up the EV market. Consider this to be the first genuine challenger to the premium Tesla range. It sits in-between Jaguar’s F-Pace and E-Pace in terms of size, but it goes like a high-performance saloon and claims a range of 298 miles. The i-Pace’s handling is also extremely satisfying and pleasantly surprising considering its size. Charging is relatively quick too, with a 0-80% charge taking just under an hour and a half, but we’re still waiting on an adequate public charging system to remove any need for compromise as far as finding a charge point goes.

New price: £64,495 - £74,995
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Used price: £53,585 - £73,765 
Emissions: 0g/km
Fuel economy: n/a 
Road tax cost: £310 
Insurance group: 49 - 50

Read our full Jaguar I-Pace review

7. Renault Zoe

Renault Zoe - the best low-emission cars

What we have here is essentially a zero-emission city car. The Renault Zoe is seriously strong contender in the EV market. It has a decent range, claimed at 250 miles for the largest 41kWh battery - although take this with a pinch of salt as even Renault admit this is unlikely in day-to-day use - and it’s small enough and nippy enough to please drivers who spend the majority of their time navigating city centres. Considering that’s where you want a low-emission car, the Zoe puts itself in a strong position for that market.

New price: £21,920 - £31,520
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Used price: £7,150 - £18,625
Emissions: 0g/km
Fuel economy: n/a 
Road tax cost: £0  
Insurance group: 14 - 21

Read our full Renault Zoe review

8. BMW 330e

BMW 330e - the best low-emission cars

The figures for this BME 330e PHEV are quite remarkable. Not only is BMW claiming over 100mpg with emissions of 39g/km, there is also an electric-only range of 39 miles. The best part is that even with this new, eco-friendly focus, the 330e is still a very quick car - 0-62mph will take just 6.0 seconds. Therefore, if you still want all of the performance of a standard 3-Series while adhering to ULEZ standards, BMW has got you covered.

New price: From £33,610
Emissions: 39g/km
Fuel economy: 100+ mpg 
Road tax cost: £0 
Insurance group: 14 - 22

Read more about the new BMW 330e

9. Audi E-Tron

Audi E-Tron - the best low-emission cars

This is Audi’s first excursion into EV territory, with a new model that sits between their current Q5 and Q7 SUVs. Actively competing against the Jaguar i-Pace, the E-Tron is slightly more expensive than the British offering, yet it can’t match it for either speed or range. But that being said, the e-Tron does benefit from that Audi build quality, four-wheel drive and numerous clever systems that give it something of an edge over the rest of the EV market. It remains to be seen if the video door mirrors will catch on in the mainstream market though. The Audi has certainly brought a high-quality option to the eco-friendly table.

New price: £71,490 - £82,240
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Used price: £58,240 - £71,935 
Emissions: 0g/km
Fuel economy: n/a
Road tax cost: £310 
Insurance group: 50

Read our full Audi E-Tron review

10. Kia e-Niro

Kia e-Niro - the best low-emission cars

Another very good option in the green car market. The Kia Niro SUV comes as either a petrol hybrid, a plug-in hybrid or the newest, all-electric e-Niro. Exact emission figures will of course depend on which model you go for, but we recommend going for either the plug-in or the EV. While the Niro is spacious, practical and very well equipped, it’s a little bit rough in terms of the ride.

The e-Niro, however, is a different proposition altogether. It keeps all the good bits from the hybrid but adds to it with a smoother ride and sharper acceleration thanks to its electric motor. It is a little pricier than its direct rivals such as the Nissan Leaf or the Hyundai Kona, though, and be wary of prickly PCP deals, but the consistent range and overall package is hard to beat.

New price: £25,405 - £39,645
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Used price: £10,370 - £32,655
Emissions: 0g/km - 101g/km
Fuel economy: 53 – 201mpg (hybrid-PHEV)
Road tax cost: £0 - £145
Insurance group: 11 - 15 (20-29 e-Niro)

Read our full Kia e-Niro review

*Prices correct at the time of publication and are all subject to change.

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