Only sub-£40,000 zero-emissions cars are exempt from tax under new rules: Here are five of the best tax-free models you can buy

Only zero emissions new cars are now exempt from having to pay car tax as part of a revised government strategy to limit pollution – or to increase revenue from motorists, depending on your point of view.

That means any new car bought from now on that emits 1g/km of carbon dioxide or more from its tailpipe will be subject to the new rates, which includes a standardised fee of £140 a year for petrol and diesel models.

Throw into the equation that any vehicle – including zero emissions cars – with a retail price of £40,000 or more gets hit with an additional £310 premium-model tax for five years and the choice of tax-free cars rapidly diminishes.

However, there are a few that still qualify under the stricter requirements. Here are the five best-rated new models as tested by What Car?.

5. Kia Soul EV, from £29,995*


According to What Car?, the Soul EV is better to drive than the standard petrol-powered Soul, despite it being Kia’s first attempt at an all-electric model.

It dropped a star rating for having a fairly cheap interior considering the price tag. It also has a fairly short range of 132 miles per full charge.

Once you factor in the £4,500 Plug-in Car Grant subsidy provided by the government, the Soul EV is just £5 shy of £30,000 – that’s twice the price of the cheapest petrol model (£14,310).

4. Hyundai Ioniq EV, from £24,995*


Hyundai’s Ioniq is the only car on sale today that can be bought as a conventional hybrid, plug-in hybrid or fully electric model – the choice is yours, though only the latter is free to tax.

The EV version has a claimed range of 174 miles, enough acceleration to feel sprightly in town and a modern-feeling interior.

It’s bigger than the Soul EV above and £5,000 cheaper once you’ve factored in the government incentive.

3. Volkswagen e-Golf, from £27,180*


Like the Kia Soul EV, VW has wedged an electric drivetrain into an existing model in its conventional range to create a zero-emissions offering. The good thing is that the car in question is the Golf – one of the nation’s favourite models.

It beats rivals above with a 186-mile claimed range on a full charge.

Priced from £27,180 – once you deduct the £4,500 car grant subsidy – it’s almost the same price as the cheapest high-performance Golf GTD, making the electric version seem not all that expensive.


Emissions (g/CO2/km) First-year rate Standard rate 0 £0 £0* 1-50 £10 £140* 51-75 £25 £140* 76-90 £100 £140* 91-100 £120 £140* 101-110 £140 £140* 111-130 £160 £140* 131-150 £200 £140* 151-170 £500 £140* 171-190 £800 £140* 191-225 £1,200 £140* 226-255 £1,700 £140* over 255 £2,000 £140* * cars over £40,000 (listed as Premium) pay an annual £310 supplement for the first 5 years at the standard rate (excluding the first year rate)
Vehicles built and purchased before 1 April 2017 will not be affected by these rates.

2. BMW i3, from £28,570*


The i3 is one of two cars that make up BMW’s alternative-fuel ‘i’ range alongside the £100,000 hybird i8 sportscar.

What Car? said the smart interior and great handling make this one of the most appealing electric cars on sale today, while its groundbreaking use of super-light carbonfibre and aluminium offset the weight of the battery pack that’s mounted beneath its floor.

This weight saving translates to a range of 125 miles, which is short of all the rivals here. However, it makes up for it with an unmatched premium feel.

1. Renault Zoe, from £18,170*


The Zoe is the only model What Car? gives a full five-stars to. With a claimed range of up to 250 miles, that’s no surprise. However, it’s not quite as black and white as it seems.

You have two main options – buy the car and lease the battery from Renault for an annual fee or buy both the vehicle and battery together. And then there are different powered batteries available, meaning the range can be from 145 miles to 230 and the lengthiest 250 miles.

At just over £18,000, the Dynamique Nav is the cheapest model available that includes ownership of the battery and has the longer distance range.

The Model 3 won’t be available in the UK until 2018, but it could be worth waiting for

* all prices are ‘On the road’ prices inclusive of the £4,500 Plug-in Car Grant incentive.

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