Love a fun older car but need to drive regularly in the Ultra Low Emissions Zone? These ULEZ compliant modern classics may just be the answer

Words: Craig Cheetham, Ian Cushway

In the wake of the extension of London’s ULEZ in August 2023, many enthusiasts have had to sell their pride and joy to avoid big charges. If you know where to look, however, there are still plenty of interesting options around.

To comply with ULEZ regulations in London, a vehicle needs to meet Euro 4 standards if it’s a petrol (which generally means cars made after January 2006), or Euro 6 standards if it’s a diesel, namely made after September 2015. You can check if they’re compliant on the DVLA website. Any car registered as ‘Historic’ can be exempted from ULEZ, but you do need to register it as exempt with TfL first, as a lot of classic car owners have already found out by accident.

At the moment, London’s ULEZ zone is the largest and most expensive in the country but similar schemes are gathering momentum. In Birmingham it costs £8 a day to drive a pre-Euro 4 (Euro 6 if diesel) car into the central area, while similar diesel penalties apply in other larger cities across the country.

If you aren’t quite ready to give up the privilege of driving an exiting car in the confines of the city, here are some top ULEZ compliant picks.

Jaguar XJ (X350)

Introduced in late 2002, the Jaguar X350-generation XJ was a hugely advanced and thoroughly lovely car. Luxurious, comfortable and well-appointed, the big XJ is a truly cossetting and enjoyable way to travel. What’s more, you can use it in affected urban areas with impunity – the 3.0 V6 and 3.5/4.2 V8 engines are all Euro 4 compliant and therefore ULEZ compliant, so you can drive them around the city with a guilt-free conscience.

Bentley Continental GT

With a weird, yet wonderful, 6.0-litre W12 engine and 550bhp on tap, the original Bentley Continental GT is a bit of a behemoth. Yet according to the rule-makers, the Bentley is ULEZ compliant despite its 14mpg fuel economy and ozone-busting CO2 emissions. It’s perfect for the job, too, with automatic transmission and the most comfortable leather seats this side of a Chesterfield sofa. Once a £150,000 car, you can now pick one up for a tenth of that!


BMW 745i

If you want something a little less expensive to run, how about a BMW 745i? Because the pre-2006 models all comply with Euro 4 emissions measures, it’s fully ULEZ compliant. You can cruise around the capital like a captain of industry at the wheel of a long-wheelbase 7 Series with massage seats and thumping big V8 upfront.

Ferrari 575M Maranello

If a Bentley Continental GT isn’t showy enough for you, then another car that cruises under the radar of ULEZ rules is the flagship Ferrari of the early 2000s. With CO2 emissions of 499g/km, the V12-powered Ferrari makes the Bentley look like it’s puffing daisies out of its exhaust, but that’s fine by the clean air legislators, at least for now. The only downside is that you’ll still need at least £70,000 to buy one!

Honda Civic Type R

If you want a car that’s fun to drive yet affordable and on a far more sensible budget, then the ULEZ compliant EP3-generation Honda Civic Type R is a good place to start. Drive it gently and the Honda will return 30mpg, plus it’s a Civic, which is the very definition of urban car nomenclature. Sure, it also spins up beyond 7500rpm and goes like a scalded cat, but that just adds to the fun. You can get a usable one from as little as £3000, or a good one with history from around £5000 upwards.

Mercedes-Benz S600

The Mercedes-Benz ‘W220’ S600’s CO2 emissions of 355g/km may seem tame compared to the 12-cylinder Ferrari and Bentley models featured in this round-up, but the crippling prospect of 13-14mpg at best is hardly good environmental husbandry. Nevertheless, this luxury titan slips under the ULEZ radar and with good examples available for well under £10,000, it’s a tremendous way to save yourself £12.50 a day.


On a more sensible note, how about an MG TF? A sports car with a three-decade-old engine under its bonnet is more than welcome within the confines of the London circular roads, as the K-Series was one of the very first engines to be configured for Euro 4. What’s more, it’s a genuinely efficient way to travel and thanks to its light weight, the TF can return around 40mpg. There are dafter ideas for sure.

Porsche Cayenne Turbo

Pre-2006 SUVs are rarely ULEZ compliant, as they were often tuned and geared for low-down torque which in turn would lead to greater emissions. That’s why a BMW 745i is ULEZ exempt, but a 4.4 V8 X5 of the same vintage isn’t, despite using the same engine. But fear not, because if you want a Chelsea tractor you can still have one, in the blingiest guise of them all. The Cayenne Turbo ticks all of the ULEZ boxes and won’t cost a penny in ULEZ congestion charges. You can get one for £5000 these days, too.

Saab 9-5 2.3 Aero HOT

If you want to slip completely under the radar, then a Saab is the perfect tool with which to do it. After all, the Swedish brand was always one for keeping its performance credentials under wraps. The 9-3 Aero HOT is an ULEZ-friendly performance car that nobody will notice, yet has 225bhp ready to unleash. And you can get a good one for under £2000. One caveat, though. Avoid a 1998 or 1999 model, as these weren’t Euro 4 compliant.

Volvo V70 T5

Finally, another under the radar option, and also from Sweden. The Volvo V70 T5 and its all-wheel-drive twin, the XC70, are both completely ULEZ-friendly in 210, 240 or 270bhp five-cylinder turbocharged petrol form, but not in D5 diesel form despite the gulf in efficiency. You can pick a good one up for under a grand these days if you know where to look, and they’re lovely to drive.