Best high-emission cars

Don’t be too quick to dismiss a car with high emissions. Many of them come with other benefits – and they could be cheaper to purchase

Gavin Braithwaite-Smith
Oct 25, 2021

You may have read our guide to the best cars with low CO2 emissions - cars that do their bit for the environment while putting less strain on your household budget in terms of fuel costs. A number of family hatchbacks are now capable of producing less than 100g/km of CO2 while returning more than 50mpg.

However, you may not want to rule out getting a high-emission car - especially if you enjoy driving cars with bigger engines that sound distinctive or those that offer rapid acceleration. They might cost more to fuel, but they’re often cheaper to buy or finance. As a result, if you drive less than 10,000 miles per year, you may be able to actually save money by choosing something with higher emissions in some cases.

As our list shows, you’ll be missing out on some desirable cars by restricting your car search to vehicles with lower emissions. Our handy search filter includes the option to search by CO2 emissions; there are some cracking cars and vans in the ‘201+ g/km CO2’ category. Click on the button above to start your car search.

You can find the right car for you with a few clicks of a mouse, and then pay in full with cash or spread the cost with car finance through BuyaCar. Then sit back and wait for your new car to be delivered to your door within 10 working days. Keep reading to find the best high-emission car for you.

High-emission car deals

1. Ford Kuga

Our pick Ford Kuga 1.5 EcoBoost
Used deals from £9,995
Monthly finance from £0*

The previous-generation Ford Kuga was one of the most popular family SUVs in the country. Drivers love its spacious interior, long list of standard equipment and the way it drives. It was a little pricey when new, but that’s not an issue when you’re picking up a used model.

Two-wheel drive diesel versions deliver excellent fuel economy. Things are a little different in the four-wheel drive petrol version, with the 1.5-litre 'EcoBoost' emitting 205-209g/km of CO2. That’s because the automatic transmission and four-wheel drive system combine to make it less efficient than the two-wheel drive Kuga.

This isn’t necessarily an issue. Having four-wheel drive provides reassurance in wet weather and on slippery roads, while any tax disadvantages would have been swallowed by the first owner. That's because if you buy a Ford Kuga registered after 1 April 2017 you’ll pay the same flat-rate tax as models with lower emissions.


2. Kia Stinger

Our pick Kia Stinger 3.3 T-GDi GT-S
Used deals Limited stock

The Kia Stinger GT-S produces a whopping 229g/km of CO2. This means the original owner will have had to pay a hefty £1,850 in tax when the car was new. That’s just £325 less than the amount paid by owners of the fastest and most exotic sports cars.

Because the Stinger GT-S costs more than £40,000 when new, owners do have to pay a £325 surcharge every year for five years from the second time the car is taxed. This is on top of the standard rate of £150. This is worth considering when you’re looking at a used Kia Stinger, as it is more costly to tax than cars with lower initial prices.

It’s not all bad news, though, because the Stinger is an excellent used purchase. You can buy a 2019 example for less than £30,000 - a saving of £10,000. In return you get a stylish, well-equipped four-door family car with the remainder of a seven-year warranty, meaning that even used models should have plenty of warranty cover remaining. So, you're unlikely to give the high emissions a second thought.


3. Ford Mustang

Our pick Ford Mustang V8 Fastback
Used deals Limited stock

We doubt many Ford Mustang drivers have studied the CO2 emissions of their cars, as one of the main selling points of the Mustang is its enormous, gas-guzzling 5.0-litre V8 engine. In truth, the Mustang V8's emissions are not great. Mustang owners, prepare yourself, this is going to get messy. It might be time to plant a few trees; a bit of carbon-offsetting could be good for the soul.

With CO2 emissions of 287g/km, the 5.0-litre V8 Fastback Bullitt is the worst offender. Next up is the 5.0 V8 Convertible with a manual gearbox (284g/km), followed by the 5.0 V8 Fastback manual (278g/km), 5.0 V8 Convertible 10-speed automatic (273g/km) and 5.0 V8 Fastback 10-speed automatic (268g/km). At 204-209g/km, even the 2.3-litre EcoBoost models, with their much smaller engine, are relatively inefficient.

Do you care? With prices starting at less than £30,000, it’s almost impossible to buy a car that offers such a tempting blend of style, performance and theatre. And if you want a car that sounds as good as it looks before everything turns electric, we can't think of much better than a Mustang.


4. Nissan 370Z

Our pick Nissan 370Z
Used deals Limited stock

The Nissan 370Z is the kind of sports car your parents owned before your arrival prompted a switch to something more practical. Big engine at the front, power sent to the rear wheels and an evocative soundtrack are the hallmarks of a classic sports car.

Power is sourced from a large 3.7-litre V6 engine, producing a substantial 328hp in standard form or 344hp in Nismo guise. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they emit 284/gkm and 285g/km of CO2 respectively, although the seven-speed automatic gearbox sees this drop to 259g/km.

Fuel economy isn’t a strong point for the 370Z; you can expect to achieve around 20mpg on a good day, or less if you’re having a really good day behind the wheel. More positive is that you can get a 2019 example on BuyaCar for less than £25,000. That's not much for such a distinctive, high-performance and relatively new machine.


5. Volkswagen Amarok

Volkswagen Amarok front three quarters view

Our pick Volkswagen Amarok 3.0 V6 TDI
Used deals Limited stock

Wander over to our vans section and you’ll find commercial vehicles of all shapes and sizes. The double cab pick-up is a popular choice, with buyers appreciating its ability to mix business with pleasure. A decent pick-up can be a practical workhorse during the week and a lifestyle vehicle at the weekend.

The Volkswagen Amarok is one of the best at mixing work and play. It features a car-like cabin, the type of equipment you’d associate with a VW family car, a huge load bay and a wading depth that makes it perfect for dealing with flooded roads without fuss. Little wonder many people prefer pick-ups to SUVs that typically prioritise style over substance.

CO2 emissions are high. The latest 3.0-litre 'V6 TDI' diesel engine emits up to 231g/km, although the earlier 2.0-litre diesels were slightly more efficient. The 2.0-litre 'TDI' emits 205g/km, while the 2.0-litre 'BiTDI' emits 211g/km. That’s the price you pay for a tough and practical pick-up.


6. Hyundai i800

Our pick Hyundai i800 2.5 CRDi
Used deals Limited stock

Hyundai is a brand you might associate with practical, affordable and efficient family cars. The i800 ticks two of those boxes, but efficiency isn’t a strong point, with the 2.5-litre 'CRDi' diesel automatic producing CO2 emissions of 225g/km.

You can opt for a lower-powered version, but the manual gearbox that comes with this makes driving it a bit of a chore, and the engine struggles for power when you’re loaded with passengers and their luggage.

There are seats for you and up to seven passengers, with access to the back made easier thanks to the sliding rear doors. Not to be left out, the driver enjoys a high driving position, excellent visibility, plus a heated and fully adjustable seat. A 2018 i800 could be yours for the price of a new city car. Not bad for an eight-seater that comes with the balance of its manufacturer five-year warranty remaining.

7. MG 3

Our pick MG 3 1.5 VTI-Tech
Used deals Limited stock

The MG 3 isn’t the worst CO2 offender on this list. On the contrary, CO2 emissions of ‘just’ 147g/km make the supermini seem like a tree-hugger compared with the other cars we’ve mentioned.

It’s just that it’s inefficient in the company of rival superminis. Cars like the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa are powered by small turbocharged petrol engines, making them cheap to run and own. The MG 3 has a relatively large 1.5-litre non-turbocharged petrol engine under its bonnet, which makes it a bit of a dinosaur by modern standards, as most manufacturers use turbocharging to ensure the greatest balance of power and fuel economy from their cars.

Not that this makes it unappealing. The MG 3 is fun to drive and comes with a long list of standard equipment. A comprehensive update in 2018 means the MG 3 is better than ever, with an improved interior and even more kit. All cars registered after 1 September 2019 came with a seven-year warranty, too, so pick one of these and you could get a top-value used car with more manufacturer warranty cover left than what comes with many brand new cars.


*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.


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