Driving in London: 5 ULEZ-compliant cars to beat the charge

Date Posted 3rd November 2021
Read Time 6 min read
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London ULEZ cars and the roads covered by the charge
Source: tfl.gov.uk

The latest in UK automotive news saw the capital face changes to the area covered by London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ). The ULEZ surcharge now applies to an area including all of the city’s North and South Circular roads. What does this mean for drivers? Any car that isn’t exempt from the regulations for driving inside the zone will be subject to a £12.50 daily charge. The charge is applied to combat the vehicle’s effect on air quality, in addition to the Congestion Charge of £17.50 a day. Some 300,000 motorists have been affected. 

However, there is still hope in the form of a wide range of cars that are available for drivers – cars that qualify for exemption status under ULEZ rules. Petrol-powered cars that meet at least Euro 4 emissions’ standards will avoid the charge. As Euro 4 became legally mandatory in 2005, the good news is that a huge number of modern vehicles and classic favourites remain exempt from the ULEZ.  

For diesels, the requirement is Euro 6 emissions standards, and most models in this category cover those from 2015 onwards. Just to be on the safe side, drivers can use Transport for London’s (TfL)’s registration plate checker to see if the car they drive is exempt from ULEZ laws. There’s also a useful ULEZ filter for vehicle searches on Auto Trader; this gives drivers an insight into the current prices and models of used cars that remain exempt. 

ULEZ Charging Times

London ULEZ cars: a map of areas affected and the charging times
Source: tfl.gov.uk
  • Congestion Charge (CC): Operates 07:00-22:00 every day of the year, except Christmas Day (25 December).
  • ULEZ: Operates 24 hours a day, midnight to midnight, every day of the year, except Christmas Day (25 December).
  • LEZ: Operates 24 hours a day, midnight to midnight, every day of the year.
  • Direct Vision Standard (DVS) and HGV Safety Permit: Operates at all times for lorries over 12 tonnes gross vehicle weight.

If you’re in London and looking to avoid the fees, here are five cars you can buy or lease to beat the ULEZ charge:

Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Year: 2007 onwards

Mercedes-Benz C-Class

There are few cars on the market that merge sporty with sophisticated. The Audi A4 Saloon, and the Jaguar XE come to mind. However, both are often outclassed by the iconic Mercedes-Benz C-Class. This stylish car has been an executive favourite for its comfort factor and premium features. Most post-2007 models score 5 for Euro Emissions Standards. And if you’re a business, the C-Class’ efficient engines mean a reduction in your Benefit-in-Kind (BIK) tax bills. For personal users, this roomy and practical car not only has a sleek exterior, it’s also packed with great kit. 

Jaguar I-Pace

Year: 2018 onwards

London ULEZ cars: Jaguar I-Pace

Is it any surprise that one of the sleekest electric cars on the market has made it onto this list? The I-Pace alongside its electric comrades, is the direction in which the UK government plans to push drivers. And the new ULEZ rules are just one example of driving the EV strategy forwards.

Jaguar is the first luxury automotive brand to launch a zero-emissions vehicle that not only fulfills environmental goals but also gives drivers the same opulent experience as its petrol-powered models. With a long-range of 300 miles and the ability to seamlessly reach 0 to 60mph in 4.5 seconds, the I-Pace is a commodious car with an intelligently-packed powertrain. A side note here – Jaguar is also one of the few manufacturers whose majority of diesel vehicles are fully compliant with all EU emissions regulations, scoring a 6. You can check if the Jaguar you’re interested in is ULEZ compliant here

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Year: 2019 onwards

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

If you’re not quite ready to go fully electric, there are a number of petrol-hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars that also remain exempt from the ULEZ charges.  One of the standouts is the Toyota RAV4 hybrid, which is rated as a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle – and for a good reason too. The RAV4’s pioneering spirit is underpinned by the first use of Toyota’s new GA-K platform in an SUV. Its low centre of gravity and significantly increased body rigidity allow for superior handling, ride comfort, a spacious interior, and class-leading load space (580 litres VDA with rear seats in place).

The RAV4 has a self-charging, hybrid powertrain. The new 2.5-litre petrol hybrid engine, offers 215bhp in front-wheel drive form and 219bhp with all-wheel drive. Delivering step-changes in power, responsiveness and efficiency, with best-in-class fuel economy and emissions levels, the RAV4 Hybrid is a great choice for drivers who love strong SUVs.

Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI 110 Match 5dr

Year: 2015 onwards

London ULEZ cars: VW Golf

Is there a car make and model that is as popular as this one in the UK? When it comes to leasing, the VW Golf ranks in the top five cars to receive the most enquiries – and most deals – at Hippo. And rightly so. The do-it-all hatchback is a staple on UK roads. The 1.6 TDI 110 Match comes with a facelift that gives it even more of a premium feel.

With affordable running costs, and a strong engine that allows the car to achieve a Euro emissions standard rating of 6, the 1.6 TDI is the cleanest engine in the regular range. It puts out 99g/km CO2 and returning as much as 74.3mpg combined. This model does however, come with a five-speed manual as standard, not a six-speed gearbox like the other units in the range. 

There’s a 380-litre boot (up to 1,270 litres if you fold the rear seats) and tons of smaller details like a low loading lip and adjustable boot floor. All of which add to the list of practicality for daily driving. 

AUDI A4 Saloon 

Year: 2004 onwards

London ULEZ cars: Audi A4

The Audi A4 sedan is a great-looking, understated vehicle. It’s compact, elegant and comes with a raft of features. Notably, its single-piece headlights give it a clear-glass look. While fog lights have been relocated in the lower front bumper, and the heated windshield washer jets are concealed. Exterior mirror housings, side turn indicator repeaters and body-coloured side moldings improve the car’s sculptural profile. This slick hauler has good cargo capability with smooth curved rear roof pillars, adding to the upscale design. Few sedans can match its clean, distinctive styling. And with it being Euro 4 on the emissions radar, it meets the exemption criteria.