Charge busters: Best three cars to dodge the congestion charge

Believe it or not, it’s now nearly been 12 years since the London congestion charge came into effect, under the stewardship of then-Mayor Ken Livingstone.

One of the most controversial pieces of transport legislation in recent times, the introduction of the congestion charge has divided opinion amongst officials and drivers alike, with some viewing it as a necessary evil and others condemning it as just another government revenue-generator.

In terms of generating revenue, however, it has been a resounding success. Bringing in approximately £252 million each year, the charge has generated over £1.2 billion in total in the past 11 years.

Of that amount, £960 million has gone to improving the bus network, £102 million towards roads and bridges, while £70 million has been spent on road safety.

Along with that, the government has reported serious drops in pollution levels and congestion between the operating times of early Monday morning to Friday evening.

As a result, councils around the rest of the country are starting to look at introducing their own congestion charges to reduce traffic, improve air quality and generate some money to help improve road and transport conditions.

Just some of the councils considering introducing the congestion charge include Dartmouth, Portsmouth and Glasgow, despite mixed reactions from drivers.

Currently, any car that emits anything more than 100g/km of CO2 is liable to pay, meaning that if it’s introduced in other parts of the country, there could be plenty of folks facing the daily charges.

However, with the increased focus from manufacturers on creating frugal cars, there are now plenty of models on offer with emissions below the 100g/km mark. As a result, you won’t have to face any charges , and you could save some serious money at the same time.

Here’s our rundown of the top three models that we reckon are the best options for beating the congestion charge.

Nissan LEAF

As of this week, Nissan’s all-electric LEAF model is the top-selling electric vehicle in the world. With nearly 150,000 of them finding homes around the world since the LEAF’s debut in 2010, the electric supermini has also gathered its fair share of critical acclaim.

If that wasn’t enough to convince you, the LEAF also features some seriously surprising performance figures. Boasting an impressive 108bhp from its electric motor, the LEAF has a top speed of 89mph and a 0-62mph of just over 11 seconds.

Due to the fact that it’s powered exclusively by electricity, the LEAF costs extremely little to run and has absolutely no CO2 emissions whatsoever, meaning that you won’t pay a single dime towards congestion charges.

Far from a soulless piece of electric-powered plastic, the all-electric LEAF features a unique and cute styling integrated into its aerodynamic bodywork, and comes with an impressive array of kit.

Automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers and keyless entry are all fitted as standard, as is a reversing camera, Bluetooth connectivity and a SatNav.

There’s enough room in the back for three adults to sit comfortably, while a 370-litre boot has enough capacity to carry plenty of luggage and shopping. Finally, it can be charged from a home charging point and manages up to 120 miles before needing powered up again.

Using public fast-chargers, which are becoming more and more common around the UK, will reduce its charging time from eight hours to just half an hour, perfect for when you need a little extra juice on the fly.

Pricing for the car starts at £26,490 outright, however buyers can get the LEAF for as little as £16,490 when choosing a battery leasing deal and factoring in the Government’s £5,000 plug-in grant.

Mondeo Hybrid

One of the most common and best-loved names in the UK, Ford’s Mondeo has continued to be a strong-seller for the two decades that it’s been on sale.

The last-generation Mondeo was introduced in 2007, meaning that it was high time for a new model to surface.

It took a little longer to swing round than most would have liked, but it appears that the new model has been well worth the wait, as Ford has come out swinging with a new range of ultra-capable Mondeos to suit every need and taste.

The major talking point of this newest generation has been the introduction of an all-new hybrid model, the first ever hybrid ever available wearing the Mondeo nameplate.

Ford’s biggest selling family car has a list of awards long enough to warrant a guide of their very own, but this new hybrid has wasted no time in accruing an accolade of its own, having been named the Best Large Family Car by Next Green Car.

Mixing all the capability and familiarity of the Mondeo that we’ve come to know and love, the new hybrid takes the model into the modern era with a brand-new ultra-frugal powertrain.

Powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine specially developed for the model, in addition with a 1.4kWh lithium ion battery that powers two separate electric motors, the Mondeo Hybrid boasts a combined output of 185bhp.

That’s a pretty strong figure for a hybrid, especially when hybrids are still seen by many drivers as being underpowered or “soft”, and Ford claims that it can travel up to 85mph using its electric motors alone.

Unlike the all-electric LEAF, you’ll still have to fuel it up now and again, but official fuel economy figures clock in at an incredible 100.9mpg, meaning that you won’t have to get too familiar with the staff at your local fuel station.

With all that power on tap, you might think that emissions would be high, but Ford has engineered the hybrid specifically to be as clean as possible, with a mere 99g/km of CO2 emitted. Sayonara, congestion charge!

Not just that, but the Mondeo Hybrid will also benefit from all the technology that’s available on the rest of the new Mondeo range, which will include an ultra-lightweight body structure, plus LED head- and tail-lights.

Equipment will include Ford’s voice-activated SYNC2 infotainment system, plus a wide range of driver assistance technologies, including pre-collision assist which uses special cameras to identify obstructions in the road ahead.

Available from next month onwards, prices for the new Ford Mondeo Hybrid start at a more than reasonable £24,995, a serious bargain considering the amount of kit on offer.

Jaguar XE

Arguably one of the most hotly-anticipated Jaguar models to come out in the past few years, the XE is the British marque’s response to small sports saloons such as those offered by Jaguar’s German rivals.

Sleek, sharp and stylish, Jaguar has engineered the XE specifically to break boundaries; the baby Jag is the lightest and stiffest saloon model made to date, and is also the most fuel efficient Jaguar ever.

Modelled with low coupe-style proportions, the XE features a sculpted bonnet and high waistline on its aluminium-intensive monocoque, and also sports unique LED J-blade running lights.

The biggest talking point of the XE, however, is its engine range. Powered by a range of four- and six-cylinder petrol engines, the XE also features engines from Jaguar’s all-new Ingenium diesel range.

Available in outputs of 161bhp and 178bhp, the turbocharged 2.0-litre Ingenium units give the XE unprecedented performance, with efficiency that’s equally impressive. Jaguar states that the XE saloon will manage 75mpg, with CO2 emissions of only 99g/km.

The 99g/km figure is a huge selling point for Jaguar, meaning that drivers can afford a bona-fide Jaguar model without the limitations typically associated with larger gas-guzzling engines.

Not only does this mean that an Ingenium-equipped XE is free from congestion charges, it should also prove extremely popular with company drivers, aiming to crack into the company car market typically dominated by German marques.

Five trim levels are available: SE, Prestige and Portfolio, plus R-Sport and the range-topping S.

Standard kit across the range includes an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, satnav, cruise control and 17-inch alloy wheels, plus DAB digital radio and a leather steering wheel.

Higher trims will add features like leather upholstery, xenon headlights, sports suspension and 18-inch alloy wheels, while the range-topping S trim adds a rear spoiler, red brake callipers and larger alloys.

Due to go on sale next year, the Jaguar XE range will be priced from £26,995, meaning that it’s not just well-equipped and surprisingly frugal, but it’s also competitively priced against even the stiffest of competition.