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How much do Britain’s best-selling cars cost to tax?

Car tax has got confusing. A change to Vehicle Excise Duty, including new charges for diesel cars in the budget, mean costs are increasing. We tell you how much it costs to tax the nation’s best-selling cars.

After years of promoting the uptake of low CO2 emitting cars, through low tax rates and grants on the cleanest plug-in hybrids, the Government has opted to shake up the Vehicle Excise Duty system, removing much of the incentive for choosing a cleaner vehicle. Every car registered after 1 April 2017 is now subject to a GBP140 standard rate from the second year onwards, regardless of emissions. In addition, there’s an extra GBP310 to pay on top of the standard rate in years 2-6, on all new cars with a list price of over GBP40,000.

Following on from this month’s budget statement[1], from 1 April 2018 buyers of new diesel cars that don’t pass the latest RDE act 2 (Real Driving Emissions) test, which is conducted in real-world driving conditions, will also be subject to a further penalty of being moved into the next highest emissions band for first-year tax rates. So what does this mean for you? If you’re about to take the plunge and buy a new car, the changes to vehicle tax can be bewildering.

Below we’ve detailed how Britain’s ten most popular cars (sales figures supplied by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) are affected. Read our expert guide to car tax[2] for all of the latest information on changes to Vehicle Excise Duty. Keep reading or jump directly to the car you need to know about: Ford Fiesta[3], Volkswagen Golf[4], Ford Focus[5], Nissan Qashqai[6], Vauxhall Corsa[7], Vauxhall Astra[8], Volkswagen Polo[9], Mercedes-Benz C-Class[10], Mini Hatchback[11], Mercedes-Benz A-Class[12].

What you need to know about new diesel cars

The latest RDE tests aren’t due to come into effect until September 2019, but it’s likely that most new diesel models sold after 1 April 2018 will meet its requirements.

This is particularly true of all-new model generations, which have to comply before 1 April. Ford Fiesta

The Ford Fiesta[13] has long been a prominent feature on UK sales charts, and the introduction of the all-new seventh-generation new Ford Fiesta[14] has done little to dent its appeal. All available engines produce low CO2 emissions, but it pays to choose carefully. For instance, go for the brand’s 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine with an automatic transmission instead of the manual, and you’ll pay GBP160 instead of GBP120 in the first year, thanks to its increased emissions.

On paper, it’s the low-power (85hp) 1.5-litre diesel that’s the cheapest to tax. But with the new diesel penalty, its first-year bill is the same (GBP120) as the 125hp version of the much more responsive 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol motor. Summary annual tax costs for a 1.5-litre diesel Ford Fiesta emitting 82g/km CO2, first year/standard rate:

  • If bought new on 1 April 16 (old CO2-based tariff): GBP0/GBP0
  • If bought new from 1 April 2017: GBP100/GBP140
  • If bought new from April 2018, without RDE2 test compliance: GBP120/GBP140

Volkswagen Golf

With a large range of engines, ranging from a frugal 1.6-litre diesel, to a thunderous, high-performance 2.0-litre petrol, CO2 emissions for the Volkswagen Golf[15] range from 106g/km to 180g/km.

Those looking to reduce their environmental impact may be dismayed to hear that both these models now cost the same to tax after the first year, though the 2.0-litre Golf R is subject to a first year tax bill of GBP800. The diesel, however, will now cost owners GBP120 more each year than under the pre-April 2017 tax tariff.

Ford Focus

One of the consequences of the new tax system is that it offers no incentive to buy a low CO2 car beyond the punitive first year tax costs. The Ford Focus[16], one of the most common sights on UK roads, is a case in point.

In efficiency-biased ‘Econetic’ trim, its 1.5-litre diesel engine emits just 88g/km – which would have meant tax free motoring under the old tariff. Now it costs exactly the same after the first year as the high performance Focus ST model, which emits nearly double the CO2 at 159g/km. New ST buyers are stung by an eye-watering GBP500 first year tax bill, however.

Nissan Qashqai

Crossovers such as the exceedingly popular Nissan Qashqai[17], which are normally bought with diesel engines, have been particularly badly hit with the shake up to the car tax system.

For instance, if you’d bought Nissan’s best-selling 1.5-litre diesel before April 2017, you’d have enjoyed tax-free driving for life, thanks to its official CO2 emissions of 99g/km. Under the new tax system, you’ll now pay GBP140 per annum (GBP120 in the first year), despite it officially being the cleanest engine in the range.

Vauxhall Corsa

As a cheap, relatively frugal car with a low-powered 1.4-litre petrol engine, you’d expect the Vauxhall Corsa[18] to be light on the wallet. Buyers who bought before the April 2017 watershed would certainly agree, shelling out just GBP30 per annum on tax, after the free first year.

Now, though, the Corsa is liable for GBP160 VED in its first year, before the flat GBP140 annual rate kicks in.

Vauxhall Astra

The rise in tax is less severe for the bestselling Astra[19] model, the 150hp 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol. With official CO2 emissions of 128g/km, it would have cost GBP115 after its free first year. First year tax costs have now risen to GBP160.

Volkswagen Polo

Volkswagen has just launched an all-new Polo, but thanks to the new tax rules, buyers won’t be able to enjoy annual bills as low as that of the outgoing model[20].

Official CO2 emissions are yet to be confirmed for much of the range, but at the time of publication the cleanest version is the 1.0-litre petrol, which emits 101g/km CO2 according to official figures. This means a first year rate of GBP140 – a significant rise over the GBP20 a similarly polluting version of the old Polo model would have cost to tax.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Diesel’s popularity is particularly apparent in the compact executive saloon sector, with buyers attracted to upmarket models without the running costs to match. However, the tax changes mean the party is well and truly over.

If you’d bought the best-selling Mercedes C-Class[21] 220d AMG Line model before April 2017 you’d have enjoyed tax bills of just GBP30 per year after a gratis first year. Buy now and it’s GBP160 for the first year alone.

Mini Hatchback

It’s not just diesel drivers who are being penalised under the next tax system. A petrol supermini, such as the popular Mini Cooper hatchback[22], makes the most sense for city driving.

Fuel economy can rival diesel models, but usually without as much NOX or particulate emissions. However, the tax bill for the 1.5-litre Cooper model will rise by GBP120 after April 2017, with new owners liable to pay GBP140 each year.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

The lure of cheaper costs has meant that diesel has pervaded every area of the new car market, including smaller hatchbacks, which have traditionally been powered by petrol. Mercedes’ upmarket A-Class[23] is most popular in turbocharged diesel guise, with the automatic A180d Sport proving a hit with buyers.

While it was once completely exempt from car tax, the new rules will see annual tax bills rise to GBP140 after a first-year rate of GBP120.

Want to know which car you should buy?

See our round-up of the top cars for 2017[24].


  1. ^ budget statement (
  2. ^ car tax (
  3. ^ Ford Fiesta (
  4. ^ Volkswagen Golf (
  5. ^ Ford Focus (
  6. ^ Nissan Qashqai (
  7. ^ Vauxhall Corsa (
  8. ^ Vauxhall Astra (
  9. ^ Volkswagen Polo (
  10. ^ Mercedes-Benz C-Class (
  11. ^ Mini Hatchback (
  12. ^ Mercedes-Benz A-Class (
  13. ^ Ford Fiesta (
  14. ^ seventh-generation new Ford Fiesta (
  15. ^ Volkswagen Golf (
  16. ^ Ford Focus (
  17. ^ Nissan Qashqai (
  18. ^ Vauxhall Corsa (
  19. ^ Astra (
  20. ^ outgoing model (
  21. ^ Mercedes C-Class (
  22. ^ Mini Cooper hatchback (
  23. ^ A-Class (
  24. ^ top cars for 2017 (

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