A quote from Swan National has put the three-year/60,000-mile rate, with maintenance, for the 1.9TD SX at ú284.51. This is almost ú40 less than Swan's quote for the Xsara 1.6i SX hatchback, which it rates at ú320.92 over the same period. The reason for this is purely residual value. Swan values the 1.6i at ú4,452 at the end of the period - 32.25% of its new price of ú14,360 (including ú330 for CD autochanger and ú520 for ABS). This compares with 45.4% for the estate at ú6,581.
Fleets may be left scratching their heads as to why to even consider a 1.6i on the basis of these figures, and Swan says it is surprised at the difference. But that is the quote in black and white, up there in Golf residuals territory, so as far as contract hire goes the diesel estate looks like a good option. As a workhorse it's great. But the main problem is that the whole vehicle seems to exude shyness. The last thing it wants is to stand out in the crowd.
The car is functional, comfortable and out on the open road a pleasure to drive, just point it and go. It's a little sluggish in first and second gear, but once into third the power is all there for the taking. Inside the styling is routine, offering nothing memorable, which could also be said about the whole vehicle's design.
A little boring it may be but the estate provides an ample 528 litres of room with the seats up and 1,512 litres with them down, and has handy hideaway packets behind the wheel arches. A cargo net holds loads in position and a roll out cover provides extra security. To do a job, get to your destination in relative comfort, while also making big savings on the contract hire bill, may see the Xsara estate making inroads into fleets. Just don't expect the neighbours to notice it.