The Xsara has some tough competition in the lower medium sector, most obviously from the big two: Ford with the Focus and Vauxhall with the Astra. And with carbon dioxide-based benefit-in-kind tax looming ever closer on the horizon, any fleet manager worth his or her salt will need a good mixture of lower medium cars on the choice list. Why? Compared to upper medium models, cars such as the Xsara offer a lower price and will therefore be more tax-friendly for drivers looking to downsize and cut their BIK liability.
The model chosen for test here should be the obvious fleet choice - HDi diesel power, five-door hatchback practicality and middle-range LX trim level. For rivals, we have chosen the Ford Focus TDi in CL guise, the Vauxhall Astra with the relatively new 1.7 DTi 16-valve diesel in Envoy trim and Volkswagen's Golf E SDI. The Golf is the odd one out here being non-turbocharged and the base model so while it will be outgunned in the performance stakes it makes up for this with the lowest list price of our quartet.