Driving around the nation’s capital can be quite the adventure, for the unseasoned driver it can also be an intense place to navigate and get around in. That is why choosing the right car can make all the difference on the road. We have selected our top picks of cars primed for the streets of London and guarantee you get the most from your driving experience.
Rise above the traffic
The key to navigating around London is making sure you’re always one step ahead of what’s out in front of you. The Land Rover Sport is a powerhouse that allows you to keep up with the ebb and flow of the traffic but keeps you in seamless control amidst all the activity around you.
The luxury SUV has the option of seven seats (which you’d be lucky to find on the London Underground) and the newer model is now lighter than its predecessor, giving it surprising agility to get you in and out of those tight spots.
The range is built around the best-selling engine, Land Rover’s 3.0-litre SDV6 turbo diesel. The road tax friendly hybrid version also uses this engine, you can also find a top of the line 4.4 litre V8 turbo diesel and the more popular 5.0-litre V8 supercharged petrol. All engines use an eight-speed auto transmission allowing you to really stay focus on what’s ahead of you.
Cars that turn heads
With so many rivals in the compact saloon range, the Mercedes C-Class does really well to stand out and build its reputation as the most comfortable, luxurious and efficient drive.
The C-Class was the first car to be built using Mercedes’ new rear-wheel drive architecture (called MRA). This cuts 70kg from the body as it uses only 50 per cent aluminium in its construction, and the shedding in weight vastly improves the driving experience and efficiency in the C-Class.
You can choose between four modes to travel around London: Comfort, Eco, Sport and Sport+. They all give you a comfortable or sportier drive depending on your mood. Ride quality depends on which type of suspension your model has, but even the SE does a good job in absorbing those tricky bumps and pot holes.
And there’s a superb range of engine choices to keep you up to pace, the C-Class engine range starts with a C200 turbocharged petrol which gives you 62mph in 7.5 seconds and manages fuel economy of 50mpg. If you want even more performance the C43 AMG 4Matic is the car to go for and the great news is you won’t run up a huge cost running it. The more environmentally conscious C300 Bluetec diesel-electric Hybrid gets 78.5mpg and has a low UK road tax band, making it a popular choice with those who really want to get the most out of their car.
Nippy hatchback, London’s best seller
The Golf is to hatchbacks what the Mercedes C-Class is to luxury saloons, so it’s no surprise they both make this very illustrious list of cars to drive in London.
For many mainstream carmakers, the Volkswagen Golf has been the benchmark for family hatchbacks. The Golf has an air of solidity, classy and understated looks, peerless refinement and good performance.
The range kicks off with an 84bhp three-cylinder 1.0 litre (TSI) petrol engine that generates 62mph in 11.9 secs. The four-cylinder petrol with 123bhp 1.4 gives more of an effortless ride but when it comes to performance there are two coveted GTI editions – one with 227bhp and performance pack model with 242bhp or the range topping R model which really does require its very own lane when you’re out on the road.
The all electric e-Golf and plug in hybrid Golf GTE are incredibly effective at low speeds making them the perfect choice for nipping around the city.
It’s very easy (understandably) to rave only about the Golf’s performance, but we won’t be doing it any justice if we didn’t mention the ride it also produces, the VW Golf rides more comfortably than all other family cars, noticeably smoother than an Astra and there’s a suspension supple enough to handle the sort of scarred and patched up surfaces you find in some of the road work heavy areas.
Ultimate Crossover for the City drive
The Nissan Qashqai is the car that started the small SUV trend, from the conventional hatchbacks the Qashqai has done plenty to rejuvenate the family car market for city drivers.
The Qashqai is traditionally a fun drive, but the newer models have taken on a more mature edge. Levels of noise and vibration have been vastly improved in the cabin and the new designs cut the noise of busy built up areas. The Qashqai is definitely more composed than its rivals, there’s the electrically assisted steering which is direct and weighty in feel with a solid grip so manoeuvring around the city doesn’t have to be arduous.
The Nissan Qashqai comes with two petrol and two diesel engines. The 110bhp 1.5litre diesel, capable of 74mpg, is a great match for the more laid back driver. The 115bhp 1.2 litre petrol is a better option for the brisk city run around and you’ll get a good return on fuel at 50mpg.
When it comes to safety, the Qashqai does well to retain its five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP thanks to more recent updates to its safety systems. This includes the automatic emergency braking, a welcome feature for those who are all too familiar with facing those abrupt obstacles that are all too persistent on London roads.
Beat the Congestion Charge
You’d be forgiven to think the Toyota Prius only just appeared on the roads yesterday but in fact, the Prius is now into its fourth generation and the current model marks a significant step forward for the world’s best-selling hybrid car.
The Prius is the ultimate city car because it’s designed for negotiating the give and take traffic conditions of urban streets, the hybrid drivetrain also brings plenty of benefits. You can drive up to 36mph using the electric motor alone and you can achieve this without the noise or vibration that comes from the dormant engine, which makes for a relaxed drive.
The majority of the focus when it comes to this hybrid will be on its fuel economy, the regular Prius claims to return an incredible 94.1mpg and you can rack the miles with comfortable front seats equipped with electric movement. The rear leg room is better than in many big saloons and head room is adequate despite a sloping roofline.
For those of you who have ever been in an Uber in the city, chances are you have found yourself marvelling at the centre console with touch screen panel for stereo, sat nav and air con controls.
A huge win for the Toyota Prius is the money you save by being exempt from paying road tax and the London congestion charge. Maintenance costs are low too, plus it has a battery pack that promises to last for at least 10 years.
18 years on from when it was introduced to the market, the Toyota Prius still proves to be in a league of its own for hybrid cars.