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Best used ULEZ-compliant SUVs for less than £20,000

London's Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) has expanded, but there are still a number of diesel SUVs that comply and are exempt from the daily levy. Here's our top 10...

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by
Oliver Young
Updated08 November 2021

The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London was expanded on 25th October 2021 to include all roads inside the North and South Circular. Diesel cars that don’t meet Euro 6 clean car standards and petrols that don’t comply with Euro 4 attract a daily levy of £12.50 for driving in the zone (on top of the £15 Congestion Charge).

Birmingham has a similar scheme and there are plans to introduce charges in other major cities around the UK, including Derby, Manchester and Newcastle. In other words, it's not just people who live or work in London that need to be aware of the rules – and how much your choice of car can affect the day-to-day cost of driving it.

So, for those of you who live in or regularly hop in and out of these areas and are thinking of buying a used SUV, we’ve compiled a list of our top 10 ULEZ-compliant favourites. They come from a variety of different SUV categories, but all are diesel-powered for maximum economy, and all can travel into and out of the current zones without paying the ULEZ charge.

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Our pick: 1.6 T-GDi HEV Edition 5dr Auto

0-62mph: 9 sec
MPG/range: 38.2mpg
CO2 emissions: 168g/km
Seats: 7
Boot: 608 litres
Insurance group: 31D

Strengths

  • Big and practical interior
  • Well equipped
  • Good towing ability

Weaknesses

  • Vague steering
  • High CO2 emissions
  • Cumbersome handling

The third-generation Sorento is a big, practical, large SUV with just one engine option. It's a 197bhp 2.2-litre diesel unit that's reasonably punchy and fuel efficient – you can expect to achieve around 41.5mpg according to the official WLTP testing. It rides well and its handling is safe, if a little uninspiring. It also has four-wheel drive, for a bit more security on difficult roads.

We found: 2016 Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDI KX-2, 39,146 miles, £19,995

Our pick: 157kW Allure 73kWh 5dr Auto

0-62mph: 8.8 sec
CO2 emissions: 0g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 520 litres

Strengths

  • Upmarket interior
  • Standard safety kit
  • Practicality

Weaknesses

  • Vague controls
  • Popular, so can be pricier than other used rivals
  • Slow infotainment system
  • Reliability a bit mixed

The practical 3008 is an eye-catching family SUV inside and out. Its 1.6-litre diesel engine is a fine choice because it's very refined, produces useful low-down grunt to help you make relaxed progress and officially achieves a very frugal 70.6mpg (NEDC). This engine has been replaced on newer versions with a 1.5-litre unit that can average 55.1mpg under the newer WLTP testing. 

We found: 2017 Peugeot 3008 1.6 BlueHDI 120 GT Line, 40,470 miles, £18,300

Our pick: 1.6 TGDi Hybrid 230 SE Connect 5dr 2WD Auto

0-62mph: 8 sec
MPG/range: 50.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 127g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 616 litres
Insurance group: 18E

Strengths

  • Plenty of space
  • Lots of equipment
  • Relatively cheap to buy used

Weaknesses

  • Plasticky interior
  • Firm ride
  • Some thirsty engines

You get a lot for your money with the Tucson family SUV. For example, SE Nav models have sat-nav, a rear-view camera, rear parking sensors, cruise control, climate control and heated front seats. The driving experience isn’t particularly engaging, but it's comfortable enough and its light steering takes the stress out of parking. With the 1.7-litre diesel engine, power is punchy and running costs are low. 

We found: 2018 Hyundai Tucson 1.7 CRDI Blue Drive SE Nav, 38,320 miles, £16,905

Our pick: 1.6T GDi 157 48V ISG 3 5dr

0-62mph: 9.9 sec
MPG/range: 42.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 149g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 562 litres

Strengths

  • Spacious and practical interior
  • Good value for money used
  • Neat steering

Weaknesses

  • Diesel engine can be noisy
  • So-so ride and handling
  • No automatic emergency braking on some models

The Sportage is a practical and good value family SUV. It's good to drive too, and all its controls are light and easy to manage. The ride is firmer than on some rivals, but as long as you stick with mid-range models on 17in wheels, it won't be uncomfortable. Kia's 1.7-litre diesel engine is a good match for the Sportage because its extra low-down torque suits relaxed driving. 

We found: 2018 Kia Sportage 1.7 CRSI ISG 2, 25,633 miles, £17,999

Strengths

  • Good to drive
  • High-quality interior
  • Spacious and practical

Weaknesses

  • Lots of road noise
  • Fairly pricey

BMW can do practical SUVs just as well as it can do sporty saloons, and the X1 is proof of this. It's a well thought out family SUV with sliding rear seats for either increased leg room or boot space, a flexible 40/20/40-split folding rear bench and a powered tailgate all as standard. The X1 is good to drive too, with precise steering and copious amounts of grip, and the 18d engine is punchy enough for all situations. 

We found: 2017 BMW X1 SDrive 18d XLine, 66,230 miles, £19,000

Strengths

  • Good to drive
  • Refinement
  • Smart interior

Weaknesses

  • Rearmost seats in the Allspace model are very tight
  • Handsome, but not very exciting to look at
  • Reliability average

The second-generation Tiguan builds on all the best bits of the original model while giving buyers more space inside, an improved infotainment system and big-car refinement. Few family SUVs are as relaxing to drive, whether you’re stuck in traffic or cruising down a motorway. Grip is good and the ride deals with the initial shock of potholes and speed bumps without bothering you.

We found: 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI 150 4Motion SE Nav, 54,076 miles, £19,831

Our pick: 35 TFSI Sport 5dr

0-62mph: 8.6 sec
MPG/range: 47.9mpg
CO2 emissions: 133g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 405 litres
Insurance group: 20E

Strengths

  • Classy and user-friendly interior
  • Tidy handling
  • Excellent infotainment

Weaknesses

  • Not as spacious as rivals
  • Firm ride
  • Four-wheel drive reserved for top models
  • Reliability mixed

Audi’s smallest SUV is a classy car with a pleasingly premium interior. The Q2 is also pleasant to drive, with a well-judged steering weight, and offers plenty of grip. The gearbox is slick and helps make the most of the 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine. Add in decent fuel economy and a surprising amount of practicality and you've got a very tempting package. 

We found: 2017 Audi Q2 1.6 TDI Sport, 27,450 miles, £19,995

Our pick: 1.5 TSI EVO SE 5dr

0-62mph: 9 sec
MPG/range: 45.6mpg
CO2 emissions: 141g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 510 litres
Insurance group: 18E

Strengths

  • Spacious interior
  • Class-leading handling
  • Boot space pips rivals
  • Good value used

Weaknesses

  • Some rivals offer more flexible seating
  • Interior isn’t that plush
  • One or two are more economical

The Ateca is remarkably good to drive, comes with plenty of equipment and has all the space you could want in a family SUV. Plus, it gets a range of efficient, refined engines, including a 1.6-litre diesel unit with 115bhp that's great for motorway miles as well as stints in ULEZ zones. With that engine, the Ateca is punchy and economical. Used prices are temptingly low, too. 

We found: 2017 Seat Ateca 1.6 TDI Ecomotive SE Technology, 23,000 miles, £16,750

Our pick: 1.5 TSI SE L 5dr

0-62mph: 8.9 sec
MPG/range: 46.9mpg
CO2 emissions: 137g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 521 litres
Insurance group: 19E

Strengths

  • Spacious and practical interior
  • Comfortable ride
  • Punchy engines

Weaknesses

  • A little bland to drive
  • Not as efficient as some
  • VarioFlex seats optional on some models

The Karoq family SUV covers all bases. For example, parents will appreciate the thoughtful touches such as the wide door openings that make it easier to put a child into a booster seat. The interior is also well made and features good-quality materials. Light steering makes parking easy and the supple ride at speed allows you to tackle big trips with minimum fatigue. It's also great value.

We found: 2018 Skoda Karoq 1.6 TDI SE L, 30,777 miles, £19,500

Strengths

  • Stylish and practical inside
  • Decent ride and handling
  • Flexible seating

Weaknesses

  • Not as well equipped as some rivals
  • Head room limited by panoramic roof
  • Slow-witted infotainment

With a raised-up driving position and rugged looks, the 5008 large SUV has plenty of style, and fortunately that's matched with a lot of substance. It's very practical and can seat seven people. There's a range of fuel-efficient diesel engines, with later cars available with an excellent 128bhp 1.5-litre unit. Combine all that with good equipment levels and road manners, and it's no wonder it won our overall 2022 Used Car of the Year award. With prices rising, you might have to shop around to get one within our £20,000 budget.

We found: 2018 Peugeot 5008 1.6 BlueHDI 120 Allure, 77,348 miles, £19,997