London Congestion Charge exempt cars

Last updated: Oct 13, 2014

For some motorists, driving in London can be very expensive due to the captial's Congestion Charge. It costs £11.50 per day to drive into the city centre, which can easily amount to thousands of pounds per year if you use the city streets on a daily basis. In the past, hybrid vehicles were exempt from the London Congestion Charge, but the rules quickly changed to only allow vehicles emitting less than 100g/km of CO2 to travel in the zone for free.

However, at the end of June 2013 the rules changed again. Now only vehicles with CO2 emissions below 75g/km can pass through the city free of charge. Although more qualifying cars are on the way, at the moment there's not much to choose from thanks to the new more stringent regulations. Nevertheless, here are our picks of the best ten Congestion Charge beaters currently on sale.

BMW i3 hatchback

The BMW i3 is set to become a regular sight on UK roads and its ability to beat London’s Congestion Charge only broadens its appeal. Its futuristic looks are a big lure, but the i3 also has a luxurious interior – something that's almost unheard of in this kind of car. The i3 is genuinely quick and fun to drive, too. Although the boot is small, the cabin is spacious, thanks to a totally flat floor. Built to be driven in the city, the electric i3 has a range of 80 to 125 miles, but spend £3,000 more on the petrol range extender model and around double that should be possible. Read more.

Key points

4.4 / 5
Price 
£30,680 - £33,830

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SUV

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV blends that high driving position with four-wheel drive and the promise of 148mpg. What's more, the PHEV emits just 44g/km and is capable of driving off road. That's thanks to an electric motor which, from a full charge from a mains electricity supply, allows the Outlander to travel up to 32 miles before the petrol engine kicks in. Plus, once you've deducted the government's £5,000 electric-car grant, it's about the same price as a diesel Outlander. Read more.

Key points

4.0 / 5
Price 
£33,304 - £40,054

Vauxhall Ampera hatchback

While the Vauxhall Ampera may have fallen to third place in our list of Congestion Charge beaters, with fuel economy of 235mpg and emissions of just 27g/km, it’s still an extremely impressive car. The Ampera is also one of the most stylish ways to be kind to the environment, with space-age looks inside and out. But the clever thing about the Vauxhall is that it combines these looks with a spacious (and very quiet) interior. Best of all, as a range-extending hybrid, it can cover distances that an electric car can only dream of. Read more.

Key points

3.5 / 5
Price 
£33,750 - £35,495

Toyota Prius hybrid hatchback

The original Toyota Prius may have been the first hybrid to sell in big numbers, but things have moved on since then and it’s no longer Congestion Charge exempt. The Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid is, though, and combines everything we like about the original car, with emissions of just 49g/km and economy of 135mpg. Its boot is bigger than that in a Volkswagen Golf and the interior has plenty of useful storage spaces. While the range on electric power alone is 15.5 miles, the Prius can call on its 1.8-litre petrol engine to recharge its batteries when they run out of power. However, downsides include a hefty premium over the standard car and a firm ride. Read more.

Key points

3.2 / 5
Price 
£21,995 - £33,395

Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid

The Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid is like any other Volvo, with a hugely comfortable interior, a logically laid-out dashboard and class-leading safety features. The electric motor means the V60 emits just 49g/km of emissions and has an all-electric range of 32 miles. While the car’s powerful diesel engine powers the front wheels, the electric motor turns the rear wheels, giving it four-wheel drive and plenty of grip in slippery conditions. It is also impressively quick. If it wasn’t for the huge price tag, the hybrid V60 would be an obvious competitor to the BMW 3 Series or Audi A4 estate. Read more.

Key points

3.0 / 5
Price 
£49,775 - £51,675

Porsche Panamera hatchback

Not every Porsche Panamera is cheap to run, but opt for the S E-Hybrid model and you'll be buying a very quick car that is also free from the London Congestion Charge. Like any other Panamera, the hybrid model combines a fun driving experience with a practical interior that is also beautifully finished. The E-Hybrid adds to this with impressive economy and the ability to cover up to 22 miles on electric power alone. The boot is smaller than the standard car’s and the price is high but it looks better value when compared to upmarket cars such as the Aston Martin Rapide and Maserati Quattroporte. Read more.

Key points

3.0 / 5
Price 
£63,913 - £131,152

Smart ForTwo Electric Drive

The standard Smart ForTwo was built specifically for city driving, so it’s hardly surprising that this is also where the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive excels. The electric version is actually better to drive, thanks to a 60 percent increase in power. A single charge should give a 90-mile range, which ought to be more than enough for a cross-London commute free from the Congestion Charge. The ForTwo also features a smart phone app that allows you to begin charging the car remotely, avoiding peak electricity costs. A whirring noise from the gearbox is less impressive and the payoff for the Smart’s tiny size is that it only has two seats. Read more.

Key points

2.8 / 5
Price 
£16,243 - £21,870

Renault ZOE hatchback

Only the near-silence as a Renault ZOE drives past would give away that it is in fact an electric car. That’s exactly what Renault wanted, though, with the ZOE combining zero emissions with the practicality of a normal family hatchback. While it isn’t completely silent (Renault deliberately built in some noise to warn pedestrians of its presence) the ZOE is extremely quiet inside, even at motorway speeds. Don’t venture too far though, because it has a range of just 100 miles. Read more.

Key points

2.7 / 5
Price 
£18,443 - £20,043

Nissan Leaf hatchback

As the UK’s first conventional all-electric car, the Nissan Leaf deserves its place on our list of Congestion Charge beaters. It’s here on merit, though, thanks to the practicality of having five doors and a boot that’s bigger than you'll find in a Vauxhall Astra. Fewer moving parts than a conventional car should give strong reliability, too, while it's also worth mentioning the Leaf’s impressive five-star Euro NCAP rating. Its soft suspension, light steering and quiet electric motor lend it well to city motoring, but beware of its 124-mile range. As with other electric cars, that range can be significantly reduced in cold weather that saps battery power. Read more.

Key points

2.0 / 5
Price 
£21,490 - £30,490

Peugeot iOn micro car

Despite its small size, the Peugeot iOn micro car does at least offer the practicality of five-doors, even if the rear seats are only suitable for carrying full-size adults on short trips. The boot, meanwhile, can take three or four bags of shopping, which should be more than enough for most city-dwellers. The Peugeot's saving grace is its compact exterior dimensions that make the Peugeot perfect for threading through city traffic. A charge costing £2 should give the iOn a range of around 90 miles, but things have moved on since the iOn was launched and it’s starting to look quite pricy. Read more.

Key points

2.0 / 5
Price 
£26,216

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