London demands a lot from its drivers, so finding the right car for the task is essential. Never has the saying ‘great things come in small packages’ been more true. But after deciding to go small, you’re faced with a mind boggling array of choice.
Driving in London doesn't just offer all the stresses of city driving, it goes that little bit further and throws the congestion charge into the mix too. So if you don’t want to be heading to and from the office before 7am in the morning and after 6pm at night, but you also don’t want to be forking out for the privilege of sitting in traffic, life just got a little bit harder. The emission level to qualify has plummeted to a tiny 75g/km of CO2. These days to qualify, the only real option is electric.
Now, until recently that option just hasn’t been practical. There is the frighteningly high up front cost and the small range before recharging. But there is a new generation of electric cars appearing.
The VW Golf GTE Hybrid costs around £28,000 after the government grant. For that price, you get a car that feels surprisingly fun to drive. With its 38g/km CO2 emissions, it’s safely below the latest tightening of emissions, so much so, it feels like it is likely to be safe the next time they change the rules on the congestion charges too. You also don't have to pay road tax, which with its price tag, is a welcome saving. You’ll also be getting a nicely high spec, fun to drive car. It’s true, its 1.4 litre engine isn't going to ever feel like the racy option but it does deliver a satisfying drive. This is one of the new breed of electric/petrol cars that are leading the way in practicality and eco credentials.
But if you assumed an electric car always meant an expensive car, it's time to think again. The Renault Zoe comes at an ordinary super-mini price tag of £13,000 after the government grant. This is a ground breaking price for an electric car designed from the ground up, which also offers by far the largest range between charges of around 100 miles. Throw in its speedy battery recharging time and this might just be the game changer in electric cars. Here is a car that feels nippy in city traffic while giving a smooth drive, along with a good sized boot. ‘How do they do it?’: you might wonder. Well, you’re buying the car, not the battery: that you lease from Renault for around £70 a month. Renault are gambling that customers will opt for a mobile phone contract approach to their electric car, with a nice cheap up front price to sweeten a monthly cost. And they might have a point, especially when you compare £70 a month with £55 every working week in congestion charges.
If electric isn't how you want to go, the other solution to surviving the London roads is to get a small car that you'll love driving, even when you’re hunting for that elusive parking space or sat in traffic jams. Also, if you opt for a super mini, you’ll also be buying a car that can cope with weekends in the country or the motorway's fast lane. And when browsing for the right super mini for you, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
The Skoda Citigo is the cheapest car in the range, with used listings coming in around £4,299. It is fantastically reliable and both easy and fun to drive. The ride and seats are comfortable with good head and leg room and boot space. The visibility is excellent, which makes it easy to park, and you’ll also get around 60 mpg. It feels like you’re getting a lot more car for your cash.
The Mazda 2 is a good looking, underrated car, carrying a used price tag less than £4,199. Its interior is stylish and well designed, with spacious leg room and a decent amount of storage space in the boot. With emissions of 117g/kg, road tax will cost just £30 a year and you’ll enjoy a decent 50 mpg. The Mazda is a satisfying car to drive with great handling and a quality feel, which promises to make even driving in London fun.
The Toyota iQ spent five years in development and it shows in its design, but also in its price, starting at £4,229. This car is the same size as a smart car and has four seats, all be it, with not too much leg room in the back. The 1.0 litre engine has 99g/km emissions and has zero road tax. The car is reliable and very safe, with a total of 9 air bags. It has been designed for the urban environment and features an unbelievable turning circle and power steering for a comfortable ride. The only downside is that it’s wider than its rivals and, although there is technically a boot, it almost exists in name only. However, this is a car with its own character and that urban flair.
So, even if the speed of traffic has not really changed much in 100 years, a new generation of electric cars and the even more fun to drive super minis could offer the perfect solution to surviving that London commute.