Best cars with low CO2 emissions: the not-so dirty dozen

12 of the best cars with low CO2 emissions

James Mills
Dec 6, 2018

What driver doesn’t want their car to be as clean and efficient as possible? Even those changing from one sports car to another will compare the fuel economy and CO2 emissions of different models, while buyers of vehicles of all shapes and sizes care about what impact their car is having on the environment and their wallet.

Needless to say, doing your bit for the environment and keeping a close watch of the household budget shouldn’t have to mean driving a car with all the charisma of a vacuum cleaner. There are some outstanding new cars available that will make you feel good and deliver the required low CO2 emissions and running costs.

We’ve shortlisted 12 of the best to help drivers get their search off to a flying start. However, if these don’t quite meet your needs, there’s a quick and easy way to view the CO2 emissions of every car on sale, in one place. The Vehicle Certification Agency ranks cars by their CO2 output, which means you can quickly see which are the cleaner makes and models.

Best cars with low CO2 emissions

1. DS 3 

Best low CO2 car for styling it out on a budget

Model: PureTech 110 S&S Parthenon Cream (petrol)
CO2 emissions: 100g/km
Fuel economy: 65.7mpg

Latest DS 3 deals from £6,000
Finance from £92 per month

It’s easy to miss DS Automobiles, especially for drivers who’ve not heard of the designer-chic offshoot of parent company Citroen. But the company is worth your attention, as its Mini-rivalling DS 3 lets you style it out on a budget and cut CO2 emissions in the process.

That’s because it uses something called the PureTech engine. It’s a three-cylinder petrol engine that sips fuel (up to 65mpg) yet never feels underpowered – partly why it’s won its category in International Engine of the Year for four years in a row. It sounds nice and pulls enthusiastically from just 1500rpm, making light work of day-to-day driving.

As for the DS 3, it’s a good-looking car that turns more heads than most in this class. You’ll need to opt for the Parthenon Cream trim level for the optimum blend of stylish design and frugal motoring.
DS 3 buying guide

2. Ford Fiesta

Best low CO2 car for a terrific all-round package

Model: 1.5 TDCI 85PS (diesel)
CO2 emissions: 82g/km
Fuel economy: 74.3mpg

Latest Ford Fiesta deals from £4,998
Finance from £94 per month

Small cars and diesel engines are an increasingly rare combination. Car makers are slimming down their models ranges, arguing that consumer demand and efficiency improvements in petrol engines mean there’s no longer the need for diesel in small cars. Ford is one of the few to go against the tide, and the numbers speak for themselves.

Pair the latest generation Fiesta with the 85PS version of the 1.5-litre diesel engine and it emits just 82g/km of CO2 and can make every forecourt fill-up last further than most, thanks to economy of 74mpg.

The driving experience remains impressive – the Fiesta is one of the most accomplished cars of any size or price. But some rivals, including the Seat Ibiza and VW Polo, are showing Ford how to do it when it comes to making a classy, comfortable interior. But if you can live with a slightly smaller package, the Fiesta won’t disappoint.
Ford Fiesta buying guide

3. Audi A1

Best low CO2 car for a posh badge at an affordable price

Model: A1 30 TFSI (petrol)
CO2 emissions: 108g/km
Fuel economy: 58.9mpg

Latest Used Audi A1 deals from £7,399
Finance from £118 per month

The second generation A1 has just arrived in Britain’s showrooms, and it’s a rather handsome looking thing. But more significantly, you’re getting a premium brand car at an affordable price, something neither BMW nor Mercedes can offer.

With the entry-level, 30 TFSI petrol engine fitted, the A1 is one of the cleanest small petrol cars going – especially if you want one that comes with a wow factor. It emits just 108g/km and can achieve nearly 59mpg, and all the while the three-cylinder turbocharged engine pulls eagerly and gives a spritely turn of speed.

Although a Mini Cooper or Ford Fiesta are a little more fun to drive, they can’t match this car’s upmarket feel. The classy and strikingly designed interior is somewhere drivers will be very happy to spend time racking up the miles.
Audi A1 buying guide


4. Toyota Yaris

Best low CO2 car for best-in class emissions

Model: Hybrid
CO2 emissions: 84g/km
Fuel economy: 76.3mpg

With emissions of just 84g/km, the hybrid-powered Toyota Yaris is the car to turn to if all you care about is having a petrol-powered runaround with the lowest possible emissions.

And with a hard-earned reputation for reliability, Toyota’s hybrid system shouldn’t be dismissed by those who have never owned this type of car. It’s straightforward to drive and doesn’t require anything from the driver; you simply drive as normal and the car takes care of everything, from recharging the battery (used to drive the electric motor) to deciding when to use the petrol engine or the electric motor or combine the two.

A plus point is that the Japanese car maker provides a five-year, 100,000 mile warranty as standard. But given the hybrid system’s reputation for reliability, hopefully owners won't have to call it on it.
Toyota Yaris buying guide

5. Audi A4

Best low CO2 car for a soothing journey

Model: 2.0 TDI ultra
CO2 emissions: 99g/km
Fuel economy: 74.3mpg

Latest Audi A4 deals from £10,100
Finance from £152 per month

Want a car that will make you feel relaxed? The latest generation A4 represents Audi at its best, creating wonderfully quiet and comfortable cars that can make a 1,000 mile journey seem like a quick trip to the shops.

The engines are barely audible, the noise of the tyres and roar of the wind hardly make it inside, and the seats do a first class job of keeping aches and pains at bay.

Choose the 2-litre diesel model in ‘ultra’ specification and the 17 inch alloy wheels and this large, comfortable car will also prove surprisingly frugal and clean. Its CO2 emissions of just 99g/km make it a favourite with company car drivers, and the rest of the package is just the icing on the cake.
Audi A4 buying guide

6. Ford Focus Estate

Best low CO2 car for carrying cargo

Model: 1.5 EcoBlue 95PS
CO2 emissions: 96g/km
Fuel economy: 78.5mpg

When it comes to carrying cargo, it’s hard to beat a good old-fashioned estate car. They are lower to the ground than an SUV, which means putting in the pet pooch or loading up luggage in the boot is less of a workout. And with 575 litres of space, or 1620 litres when the seats are lowered, the Focus estate is more than capable of making light work of family life.

To achieve the lowest level of emissions with this estate, however, you’ll be needing to choose the smallest and least powerful version of the Ford EcoBlue diesel engine. And if we’re being honest, it’s no ball of fire – 0-62mph takes nearly 12 seconds, and that’s before all the seats are filled with passengers and the boot’s bursting with luggage.

Still, if those who are happy to make slow but steady progress can enjoy the other attributes of the latest Focus. Good to drive, packed with useful technology and safe, it’s a good all-rounder that gives the VW Golf a run for its money.
Ford Focus buying guide

7. Hyundai Ioniq

Best low CO2 car for a competitively priced hybrid

Model: Hybrid
CO2 emissions: 79g/km
Fuel economy: 83.1mpg

Latest Hyundai Ioniq deals from £13,990
Finance from £211 per month

Think hybrid and the chances are you’ll think of the Toyota Prius. But since 2016, Hyundai has been muscling in on the Japanese giant’s patch, with the Ioniq. Available as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or pure electric car, the least fancy-pants hybrid is actually a jolly good starting point at a jolly competitive price.

Its eco credentials speak for themselves: CO2 emissions are 79g/km, when you choose a version with 17-inch alloy wheels, and there is the potential for 83mpg. In other words, it’s game-on with the Prius.

Unlike its main rival, however, the Ioniq looks relatively normal and has a smarter interior. And when you factor in the price, which will save you several thousand pounds, the Korean contender looks like a smart buy.
Hyundai Ioniq buying guide

8.Merc A-Class

Best low CO2 car for ice-cool interior and tech

Model: A180d SE
CO2 emissions: 108g/km
Fuel economy: 68.9mpg

Latest Mercedes A-Class deals from £14,500
Finance from £188 per month

These days, it’s often said that there’s no such thing as a bad car. Which may well explain why Mercedes went to town on the interior design and technology of the new A-Class. The designers and engineers figured that this is where customers could really appreciate a difference between the A-Class and, say, a VW Golf or Audi A3.

And what a difference. The interior of the A-Class stands out from its peers, with a seven-inch digital instrument display that extends to the centre of the dashboard via a seven-inch touchscreen. This is livened up with neat touches such as air vents that are illuminated and can change colour at the touch of a button, while the tech includes the latest voice-controlled virtual assistant, called MBUX, which is genuinely good at understanding a driver’s commands.

Stick to the entry-level A180d version and the emissions are low; however, if you can stretch to the A200d, give it some thought as it’s barely any less efficient but offers notably more performance.
Mercedes A-Class buying guide


9. Nissan Qashqai

Best low CO2 car for value for money

Model: 1.5 dCi 115
CO2 emissions: 100g/km
Fuel economy: 74.3mpg

Latest Nissan Qashqai deals from £8,299
Finance from £135 per month

Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are all the rage and when it comes to getting good value for money, the Nissan Qashqai is hard to beat. A solid all-rounder, it costs from less than £22,000 for the most clean and economical 1.5 dCi 115, which is pretty competitive pricing.

Putting your finger on the ‘value’ element requires a bit more than looking at the price and specs. Drive the Qashqai and you’ll be pleased to find it’s well-polished, with little engine or road noise, while the suspension gives a smooth ride.

The interior may not be the most stylish or original, but there’s lots of space for a family, especially in the back seats. The boot could be bigger and there’s no longer the option of extra seats in the back but Nissan has an answer, in the form of the X-Trail SUV.
Nissan Qashqai buying guide

10. Citroen Grand C4 Space Tourer 

Best low CO2 SUV for a seven seat family car

Model: BlueHDI 130 S&S EAT8 auto
CO2 emissions: 105g/km
Fuel economy: 70.6mpg

Latest Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer deals from £14,975
Finance from £203 per month

The original C4 Picasso was no oil painting, but the third generation model came good – ironically just as Citroen stopped using the Picasso name and switched to ‘C4 Space Tourer’.

It’s one of the most comfortable people carriers going, and even if you pile seven people aboard, it will cope admirably. If there are just five of you, then the boot holds up to 630-litres worth of shopping and pushchairs, or a holiday’s load of luggage.

With the 130 horsepower diesel engine fitted, and the eight-speed automatic gearbox, you can sit back and relax as the car takes the strain and makes effortless progress, while the emissions are exceptionally low for a seven-seat diesel car of this size. A comfortable ride from the suspension is an added bonus.
Citroen Grand C4 Picasso buying guide

11. Skoda Superb Estate 

Best low CO2 car for those who think bigger is better 

Model: 2.0 TDI 150 SCR
CO2 emissions: 115g/km
Fuel economy: 64.2mpg

Latest Skoda Superb estate deals from £12,300
Finance from £180 per month

It’s risky business naming a car Superb, but this one’s good enough to pull it off without being ridiculed. The clever thing about Skoda’s largest hatchback and estate range is that although it is quite a large car, it never feels unwieldy. The driving experience is responsive, the ride is exceptionally comfortable and refinement is impressive.

When you carry passengers, you can expect to be paid compliments about the comfort of the back seats and space in which to stretch out; this is a vast car with as much room in the back as models from a category above. And if you have children, it means they won’t be elbowing one another and bickering over seat space.

The company recently dropped the 1.6-litre diesel engine from its Superb range, which is a great shame as it was especially clean and frugal. However, the 2-litre TDI is still a good buy, and with emissions of 115g/km from one of the most spacious estate cars on the road, it’s still a great package.
Skoda Superb buying guide

12. Toyota C-HR 

Best low CO2 car for those that want a hybrid SUV

Model: Hybrid
CO2 emissions: 86g/km
Fuel economy: 74.3mpg

Latest Toyota C-HR deals from £17,199
Finance from £227 per month

If you dare to be different, then the Toyota C-HR has a lot to offer. It stands out of the crowd with edgy design and under the bonnet is a hybrid system that’s still a rarity in the SUV sector.

The combination of a 1.8-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine and battery-powered electric motor is well proven by Toyota; it has sold more than 10 million Toyota and Lexus hybrids to date. The silent running of the electric motor gives this car an appealing smug-factor, while the combined power of the engine and motor match a diesel for performance.

The emissions are impressively low, and there are far fewer associated pollutants if you choose this over a diesel. And in our experience, it should match the fuel economy of a comparably sized, diesel SUV.
Toyota C-HR buying guide


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