Best road-tax-free cars

Last updated: Jan 2, 2014

The number of cars that qualify for free road tax – producing 100g/km of CO2 or less – is truly surprising and almost all manufactures have at least one model that is tax exempt.

So, to get on our top ten list of road-tax free cars, just having an efficient engine is not enough. All the cars on our list are comfortable to sit in, practical, and even fun to drive. It's a tough sector with established cars like the Volkswagen Golf encountering stiff competition from Korean manufacturers, Kia and Hyundai. Meanwhile Skoda and SEAT, which use many Volkswagen parts, are building models that are good enough to beat their German parent company's models.

To sum up, if you’re in the market for an accomplished low-emission car then your options have never been better, keep reading for our rundown of the best on sale today.

Skoda Octavia estate

That the Skoda Octavia estate is one of very few cars on our site to earn a Carbuyer five-star award is a sign of how far Skoda has come since being bought by Volkswagen. In estate form, the Octavia has it all: excellent practicality, a spacious cabin, superb build quality, fun handling and comfortable suspension (although, it is worth noting that the Octavia hatchback is cheaper to buy and got an impressive 4.9-star rating). Add to that an asking price that’s lower than similar competition, plus economy of 74.3mpg and emissions of 99g/km, and it is small wonder that the Octavia tops our list. Read more.

Key points

5.0 / 5
Price 
£17,115 - £28,665

Skoda Citigo hatchback

The Skoda Citigo is a cheap car to buy and run, with economy of up to 68.9mpg possible and CO2 emissions of as little as 96g/km. But the Citigo is more than just cheap. It feels beautifully built and is excellent to drive, too – with a thrumy engine note that sounds good, and suspension that strikes a balance between being comfortable and making the car fun to drive. The Citigo’s low price means that basic models get poor levels of equipment though and, as a city car, it is not ideally suited to long journeys on the motorway, although neither of those are areas we would expect a car like this to excel in. Read more.

Key points

4.9 / 5
Price 
£8,210 - £11,045

SEAT Mii hatchback

Whether you choose the Skoda Citigo or the SEAT Mii is a matter of personal preference, they are basically the same car, so it could be worth checking if either manufacturer is offering a discount that might help you make up your mind. As with the Citigo, the SEAT Mii is good-looking, well built, fun to drive, and extremely cheap to run with emissions of 96g/km of CO2 and economy of up to 68.9mpg. Although the SEAT is both cheap to buy and run, its strongest asset is that it never makes you feel like you’re driving a budget model. Read more.

Key points

4.8 / 5
Price 
£8,195 - £11,345

Ford Fiesta hatchback

Like the cars that come before it, the Ford Fiesta is a strong performer in all areas. It is better to drive than most of the cars on this list, with minimal body lean in the corners and suspension that still keeps comfort in mind. While the Fiesta’s interior may not have the rock-solid construction of the Skoda Citigo or the SEAT Mii, it is far more stylish and the Fiesta’s higher list price means it has standard kit including an AUX plug, electric front windows and central locking. The Fiesta’s efficiency figures are also hugely impressive, with economy of 85.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 87g/km possible. Read more.

Key points

4.7 / 5
Price 
£9,995 - £17,995

Hyundai i30 hatchback

The first of the Korean entries comes in the form of the Hyundai i30. If you had told us 20 years ago that Hyundai would be building cars good enough to compete with the Volkswagen Golf then we wouldn’t have believed you, but it has. The Hyundai i30 has a comfortable cabin that works well with the car’s soft suspension to make it extremely relaxing for passengers. Combine that with fuel consumption as low as 76.3mpg, CO2 emissions of 96g/km, generous levels of equipment, plus an excellent five-year warranty, and the Hyundai is an extremely desirable package. Read more.

Key points

4.7 / 5
Price 
£14,605 - £23,530

Volkswagen Golf hatchback

If you can afford the extra money to buy a Volkswagen Golf then it is still slightly better than the Hyundai. Like no other car, the Golf delivers all the best parts of a conventional family hatchback, but with a classless image and excellent attention to detail. The Golf’s cabin and dashboard ooze a sense of quality that isn't matched by cars costing twice as much. The Golf manages to combine its sturdy build with handling that strikes a good balance between comfort and fun driving characteristics. Economy and CO2 emissions are excellent too, with headline figures of 88.3mpg and 85g/km, respectively. The VW will also hold its value better than most of its rivals. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
Price 
£16,975 - £30,845

Kia Cee'd hatchback

The Kia Cee’d shares many of its parts with the Hyundai i30, so it’s no surprise to find it on our top ten list of tax-busting cars. Like the Hyundai, the Cee’d can compete with the best European hatchbacks. The Kia also offers a seven-year warranty that’s better than Hyundai’s and some people may prefer the Kia’s more distinctive looks. Five people can fit inside comfortably and there is very little cabin noise, although the Kia could be more fun to drive. CO2 emissions of just 97g/km and economy of 76.3mpg, however, secure the Kia’s place on our list. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
Price 
£14,600 - £24,000

SEAT Leon hatchback

The SEAT Leon is another car that shows the benefits of sharing parts with an established manufacturer like Volkswagen. The SEAT is based on the Volkswagen Golf, which means it has a solid and stylish cabin, is comfortable on the motorway and fun to drive on twisting country roads. The SEAT is also significantly cheaper to buy than the Volkswagen Golf and many will prefer its sharper looks, although they do harm rear visibility for reverse parking. Economy of 74.3mpg and emissions of 99g/km mean it is cheap to run and SEAT matches most of the other cars here in having a five-star Euro NCAP rating. Read more.

Key points

4.8 / 5
Price 
£16,115 - £24,170

BMW 1 Series hatchback

If you want a prestigious badge on a car that is cheap to run, the BMW 1 Series is worth a look. Like most BMWs, the 1 Series is excellent to drive – the best here if a fun driving experience is important to you – and has a well-built cabin and stylish good looks. The BMW does cost significantly more than all of the cars here and its cabin cannot offer quite the same space as models such as the VW Golf. Nonetheless, the BMW will likely hold its value better than the others, and economy figures of up to 74.3mpg and emissions of 99g/km are hard to ignore. Read more.

Key points

4.3 / 5
Price 
£17,775 - £31,375

Skoda Fabia hatchback

Our top ten list of road-tax beating cars began with a Skoda and it finishes with another one – the Skoda Fabia. Like the Octavia, the Fabia combines Volkswagen build quality with a price that easily undercuts its main rival, the Volkswagen Polo. It has a solid cabin, good looks, and is fun to drive, and the five-door only Fabia is also extremely practical. The Skoda Fabia GreenLine can return economy of 83mpg and emissions of 89/g/km, although you might find the diesel engine a bit noisy. Basic models also have spartan levels of equipment, but the Skoda Fabia is still a winner in our book. Read more.

Key points

4.3 / 5
Price 
£8,995 - £15,700

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