Changes to the London Congestion Charge mean that vehicles which fall above the 75g/km CO2 emissions threshold will soon be charged for going into the capital.
Now standing at £10 a day, the fee is levied on motorists who enter the area bounded by London’s inner ring road on weekdays between 7am and 6pm. Those who fail to pay up risk getting their number plate snapped by the ANPR cameras that surround the zone, and paying a £130 fine.
Since 2008, cars with emissions of less than 100g/km CO2 have been exempted from the charge. From this month, however, some of those vehicles place above the new threshold, and so will have to pay the charge. Worry not, however, because the Government has implemented a 'sunset period' lasting until July 2016 for those owners to either pay up, or find a new car.
If you are in the market for a super-frugal, congestion charge-beating car, here's Autocar's top picks.
These triplets are all based on the chassis of the Mitsubishi i-Miev. As with Mitsubishi's city car the small footprint, good visibility and tight turning circles found in these models make them ideal for the city. The 63bhp electric motor in the i-Miev provides good acceleration to 30mph but isn’t at home outside of stop-start city traffic. Faster driving, especially in winter, will see a signification reduction from the claimed range of 93 miles.
2. Nissan Leaf - £25,990 – 0g/km CO2
The Nissan Leaf enjoys high levels of comfort and refinement, despite losing some of its space to large battery packs. Equipment includes a sat-nav that shows charging points along the route, and air conditioning that can be controlled from your smartphone. The second generation version has a claimed range of 124 miles, and can be fully recharged in just four hours when using a fast-charger.
3. Renault Twizy - £6795 – 0g/km CO2
Officially, the Renault Twizy is classed as a quadricycle rather than a car. With a top speed of 50mph, and a range of just 50 miles, it’s definitely designed for the city. Windows, and even doors, are optional extras, while luxuries like air-conditioning, a heater and even a radio just aren’t available. But if any car deserves the label ‘go-kart handling’, it’s this. What the car lacks in practicality, it makes up for in fun and personality.
4. Renault Fluence - £17,495 – 0g/km CO2
The Fluence is part of Renault’s four-pronged electric vehicle line-up, along with the Twizy, Zoe, and electric Kangoo Van. It has strong acceleration, but is limited to 84mph to conserve energy. The 1605kg weight means it’s not suited to sporty driving, but rather encourages a more relaxed style. The range is 125 miles, and a full charge costs less than £3.
5. Renault Zoe - £17,793 – 0g/km CO2
With the UK’s preference of hatchbacks over saloons, Renault expects the Zoe to be a stronger seller here. 0-62mph takes 13.5 seconds, but using that acceleration the whole time won’t see you achieve the claimed 130 mile range. Handling is tidy, but those heavy batteries bring the weight to 1,468kg, making this a heavy supermini.
6. Smart ED - £15,395– 0g/km CO2
The second generation Smart ED is appreciably more accomplished than its predecessor. With 140kg to lug around, and just 40bhp to do it, it isn’t quick off the line, but the seamless torque makes it a cinch to drive in town. Charging the batteries works out at a mere £1, but that’ll only get you 60 miles before you need to plug it in again.