10 Cars with Low Emissions
There are many good reasons for choosing a low emission vehicle. Firstly, there’s being socially responsible: why choose to pollute our fragile atmosphere more than necessary? Then there are the financial incentives.
The less polluting the car, the lower its vehicle excise duty (road tax). Cleaner cars attract lower benefit in kind (BIK) tax too, so it also makes sense for company car drivers. And of course, emissions are linked to how much fuel is used so efficient engines or electric solutions can help keep down costs.
Lastly, living or working in an Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) also means your car must meet the standards or you will have to pay a daily charge (currently £12.50 for London with other cities set to follow suit).
How do I choose?
Choosing the right car is not quite as simple as looking at the manufacturer’s figures. Vehicle specifics and your regular driving pattern play a very important part too.
A small petrol engine, for example, can be quite efficient around town but in a larger, heavier model doing many higher speed motorway miles, it can work out much less efficient - and therefore more polluting - than say a modest-sized diesel engine.
All-electric and plug-in hybrids can be good too, but if you don’t have anywhere to charge one, you can still consider a regular hybrid.
Let’s look at some different usage types and select our top models for those particular applications.
City Machine | Renault ZOE
All-electric works for the city with multiple charging points available so the petite Renault ZOE is ideal. It has a decent range of up to 250 miles with the larger 41kWh battery giving maximum electric flexibility.
Commuting when you have somewhere to charge | BMW i3
If you have a space to charge an electric car, the quirky, compact and well-made BMW i3 is ideal for the run into town. The latest models are all-electric (no longer with a range extender) and promise a sensible 182-mile range.
Commuting without somewhere to charge | Toyota Corolla
If you don’t have a space to charge your car, a regular hybrid still makes use of electric drive when in stop-start traffic. Toyota has been building hybrids for years and its new Corolla is one of the best.
Executive | BMW 330e
With the average journey being less than 10 miles* BMW’s claimed electric range of 37 miles for its 330e plug-in hybrid should cover most trips. The new 3-Series will also satisfy those demanding good vehicle dynamics and respectable performance.
Load-lugging/towing | Volvo XC60 T8
When it comes to load-lugging, it’s all about torque. The good news is electric motors are great at this so a plug-in hybrid makes sense. For its practical size, AWD and plug-in hybrid technology, the Volvo XC60 T8 ticks our boxes.
High mileage motorway users | Ford Focus
The latest, Euro 6 compliant diesel engines do a decent job of keeping emissions such as the Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) down while delivering good economy so for those doing 20,000+ miles a year, the diesel can still be practical. We’ll pick Ford’s comfortable and refined Focus 1.5-litre diesel.
Sporty SUV | Jaguar i-PACE
Move over Tesla, we’ll take the striking Ian Callum-designed Jaguar i-PACE. The multi-award-winning i-PACE is remarkably quick and has a promised 298 mile range.
Rural locations | Škoda Karoq
The latest range of small petrol engines is astonishing and there are plenty to choose from. Turbocharging means they produce the power of engines twice their size only a couple of decades ago. The Škoda Karoq 1.0-litre will satisfy those who need something with good ground clearance along with decent economy.
All-rounder | Kia e-Niro
The Kia Niro is a sensible shape and size for most family needs. Pick the plug-in hybrid or extremely refined and rapid new all-electric e-Niro with its range of up to 282 miles.
Hi-tech | Audi e-Tron
All electric vehicles use new technology but the Audi e-Tron adds a tier of refinement and pleasing build quality. And - love them or hate them - there is the option of funky door cameras instead of mirrors.
About the Author
Andrew is a freelance motoring journalist with a background in IT and the vehicle leasing industry. With a lifetime’s passion for all things automotive, he can be found behind the wheel of everything from vans to supercars. In addition to reviewing the latest vehicles and technology, Andrew also runs a couple of classic British motors. He lives at the edge of the Peak District with his son and cat.
*Department for Transport statistics, national survey 2016/17