London’s ultra low emissions zone (ULEZ) is expanding, meaning thousands of motorists could suddenly find they have to pay extra to drive in and around the capital.
From October 25, it will expand up to, but not including, the North and South Circular Roads. If your vehicle is not compliant, you’ll face a £12.50 charge.
The current standards for exemption are Euro 3 for motorcycles, Euro 4 for petrol cars and vans, and Euro 6 for diesels. For petrol, that generally means those built after 2005, or September 2015 for diesels.
If you regularly travel within the new ULEZ zone but your vehicle is not compliant, here are some of the best options for those on a lower budget.
Under £1,000 – Ford Fiesta
Fortunately, petrol models almost two decades old are compliant with ULEZ regulations, meaning you don’t have to spend thousands to get a car that won’t face a daily charge.
There are plenty of options within this price segment, including the brilliantly reliable but extraordinarily dull Honda Jazz, but our pick would be the Ford Fiesta. It’s a best-seller for a reason, being great to drive, reliable and practical.
Under £2,000 – Volkswagen Golf
There are dozens of great choices at this price range, but we’d have to say the Volkswagen Golf makes for a compelling choice. It’s one of the biggest success stories of the modern automotive era because it does everything a car needs to.
It’s good looking, has great badge appeal, space for a small family and will be inexpensive to run.
Under £3,000 – Audi A3
Audi is an aspirational brand, but for £3,000 you could easily find yourself into a smart-looking late 2000s A3 that’s ULEZ-compliant.
The A3 is a great size for urban families as it has decent space without being too big in traffic. If running costs are important, we’d lean towards a 1.4-litre engine, though the more powerful 2.0-litre engines are also available.
Under £4,000 – Nissan Qashqai
The car that started the crossover boom, the Nissan Qashqai is a great option at this price point. If you need to carry the kids and the shopping in something spacious and SUV-like that won’t be too big and intimidating to drive, the Qashqai has you covered. Running costs might be quite high, but otherwise it’s a fantastic all-rounder.
Spend most of your time in the car alone? Smaller options such as the Suzuki Swift or Volkswagen Polo might be better.
Under £5,000 – BMW 3 Series
This budget opens up a lot of options from superminis to SUVs, but we’re going to go with a saloon. The BMW 3 Series is another great all-rounder, offering decent practicality, badge appeal and a pleasant driving experience.
You’re looking at a 2.0-litre engine so it has a decent amount of power, but resist the urge to floor it and running costs should be reasonable.
Diesel car under £5,000 – Mazda6
With diesel cars having to meet more recent regulations, ULEZ-compliant prices start quite a bit higher for oil-burner cars, but it’s possible to get a decent motor for less than £5,000 if you do a lot of motorway miles and want a diesel.
You’ll find the odd Volkswagen Passat and Volvo S60, which are great choices, but for us it would be the Mazda6. It’s not the most common sight on UK roads which gives it that cool rarity factor, but it’s also handsome and great to drive with a spacious, well-equipped cabin.