Five zippy Ulez-friendly cars if your budget won’t stretch to a Tesla

With London’s plans to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone colliding with a cost of living crisis, many thousands of car owners in the capital and beyond are needing to ditch their pre-2006 petrol vehicles and pre-2015 diesels for something greener – but can’t afford a £45,000 Tesla.

Second-hand will be the best way forward for most, but here are five shiny new options that are eco-friendly without being deathly dull or ridiculously pricey.

Citroën Ami

Cheap and cheerful car made for the city (Picture: Citroen)

A cute-as-a-button, practical to park, all-electric two-seater that’s just £7,695 – with leasing companies offering it from under £20 per month! This is the coolest little car to have come out of France since the Renault Twizy, or maybe even the 2CV.

The only downside is the top speed: 28mph. This means you won’t be leaving the city, but as everyday metropolitan transport it’s pretty unbeatable (battery range is a decent 46 miles), and other road users will smile and wave.

Volkswagen Up

You could get a discount on this car as it’s soon to be discontinued (Picture: Uli Sonntag)

This five-seat three-cylinder petrol supermini is built to a very high standard and costs just £14,620, with very affordable finance options. And despite being the most highly rated car in its class (five-stars, says Auto Express), it’s soon to be discontinued – and that should lead to some alluring dealer discounts.

The standard spec comes with a 1.0-litre 64bhp engine, which does the job, but for £2,500 extra you can get the exciting GTi with natty check upholstery, alloys, spoiler, skirts and, at 113bhp, nearly double the horsepower.

Dacia Jogger

A practical choice with lots of cargo space (Picture: Dacia)

Consider this seven-seat family estate a cut-price Volvo V90 Cross Country. The Volvo is £54,000. The Dacia? A much more reasonable £17,145. Thanks to its lack of bells and whistles, and subsequent light weight (just 1,200kg) the Jogger, which is powered by a 1.0-litre, 109bhp Renault engine, hits 0-62mph in 11.2 seconds, and is genuinely quite fun around the corners.

With the two rear rows of seats down, it boasts 1,807 litres of cargo space. It’s a practical and rugged lifestyle wagon that your friends will assume cost you twice as much as it did.

Kia Niro

A German-made car without the hefty price-tag (Picture: Kia)

Hybrids are the best of both worlds or an ungainly compromise, depending on your point of view. For most people, it’s the practical solution – zero-emission cheap motoring in town or on the commute, and anxiety-free road-tripping outside it. And SUVs, naturally, do a good job of hiding the extra weight.

Kia has come an awfully long way in the past decade and is now a match for the Germans when it comes to build quality. This is a Gen-Z BMW X3, and at £33,325 it’s more than ten grand less than the Beamer. It’s got an electric-only range of 33 miles and it’s 180bhp propels it from 0-60mph in a sprightly 7.3 seconds.

Mazda MX-5

A remake of the iconic original (Picture: David LF Smith)

Net-zero threatens to kill off the lightweight sports car, so get in a roaring two-seat roadster while you still can. The Mazda MX-5 is an icon – created in 1989 as a Japanese reimagining of the little Lotus Elan (of The Avengers/Emma Peel fame), it has evolved into the modern beauty you see here, and has lost none of its pep and fizz. It’s state-of-the-art, but also simple and pure.

Its 1.5-litre engine powers its sun-kissed occupants to 60mph in 8.3 seconds, and it feels a whole lot quicker (which the 2.0 upgrade is). This is the most enjoyable new car drive you’ll find for less than 50 grand – and, actually, it’s only £25,800.

What is a CVT gearbox? Leo Wilkinson, automotive editor for Cazoo, explains…

Leo Wilkinson has the answer (Picture: Supplied)

CVT stands for ‘continuously variable transmission’ – it’s a type of automatic gearbox you’ll find in some cars. You use a CVT in the same way as you would a ‘conventional’ automatic – selecting ‘drive’, ‘reverse’ or ‘park’ as necessary – but it operates a bit differently.

Unlike most gearboxes, a CVT isn’t full of metal cogs and has no individual gears as such – instead it uses a belt that constantly moves up and down between two cone-shaped pulleys.

CVT gearboxes are usually found in hybrid cars (Picture: Getty/Shutterstock)

Driving a car with a CVT gearbox can feel a bit strange if you’re used to a manual or a ‘conventional’ automatic because the engine noise doesn’t rise and fall when you change gear.

CVTs are very efficient, however, and because of this – and their simplicity – they’re often used in small cars or hybrids.

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