London’s ULEZ (Ultra Low Emissions Zone) is growing every year. Inside of it, cars must meet certain strict emissions regulations, otherwise they’ll face a daily penalty of £12.50 (excluding Christmas Day, likely to accommodate traveling visitors). That might not seem like a huge fee but for people that live in the ULEZ, it could cost over £4,500 per year to own a car that doesn’t comply. So what about classic cars? Most classics do not comply with ULEZ emissions but there are a few and the E21 BMW 3 Series is one such car.

According to Top Gear, the E21 3 Series is exempt from ULEZ fines, making it perfectly OK for Londoners to own. Which should be good news for London-based BMW enthusiasts, as the E21 is a great little car for city life.

The E21 3 Series was the first-generation of 3 Series ever, replacing the iconic BMW 2002. It was the car that ultimately earned BMW the Ultimate Driving Machine moniker, at the direction of then-BMW CEO Bob Lutz. It was also the BMW that set the brand in a specific design direction that last nearly two decades, thanks to styling penned by the legendary Paul Bracq. The E21 doesn’t get the same amount of love as the E30 or E46 generations but it’s arguably every bit as good looking, if not better looking.

Of course, the E21 isn’t quite as sharp to drive as the E30 that succeeded it and is most likely the least thrilling 3er to drive. However, it’s still a light, tossable, engaging car, with the charm of classic BMWs. For city life, it’s perfect.

No, the E21 3 Series won’t handle a canyon road like a modern car but it’s light curb weight, compact footprint, tall windows, excellent outward visibility, and accurate steering make it perfect for slicing through city traffic and snagging tight parking spots.

There were two engines available for the E21 3 Series, the M10 four-cylinder and M20 inline-six. Both were offered in several different variations and displacements. There were also three different transmission options, depending on the model you bought, a three-speed auto, four-speed manual, and five-speed manual. Obviously, six-cylinder engines with manual transmissions were the most fun and the ones enthusiasts continue to seek out.

If you’re a Londoner and want to own a classic sports coupe, something that has vintage styling and old-school handling, but don’t want to worry about ULEZ tax, the E21 3 Series could be the car for you.

[Source: Top Gear]