Fleet News

Fiat Stilo vs Ford Focus vs Peugeot 307

Fiat

Review

Trying to find a convincing wholelife cost winner between these three cars, the Fiat Stilo 1.2 Active, Ford Focus 1.4 LX and Peugeot 307 1.4 LX is a nightmare.

The Stilo has the cheapest P11D value by £160 on the Focus and £625 on the 307, although current special offers on the Fiat have seen almost £1,600 cut from its official on-the-road price.

But with all three cars taxed on their official P11D price and in the 15% of P11D value band for benefit-in-kind tax, - with drivers in this sector generally charged at the 22% rate of income tax - such a price differential will make hardly any difference.

At the end of the year a 22% tax-payer opting for the Stilo over the Focus will be £7 better off. It would cost £369 in tax for the Stilo and £375 for the Focus.

Opting for the Italian over the French 307 – at £390 a year – brings the reward of £10.99. So the differences in tax are minimal, although wine quality is improved.

Even if the driver was a 40% tax-payer, there would still only be a £3 a month difference between the cheapest and the dearest. It is that close.

Then there is fuel consumption. The 307 and the Focus are the bigger engined cars, at 1.4-litres, but have less horsepower (74bhp) than the Stilo. As a result of their volume, they have marginally worse combined fuel economy figures.

Although it is the smallest unit here, at 1.2-litres and 80bhp, the Stilo has the best fuel consumption at 43.5mpg.

There is only one category in which any of the three cars is markedly different to the other two – depreciation.

The Fiat Stilo's residual value after three years and 60,000-miles, according to CAP Monitor, is £3,475/31%, compared to £4,000/35% for the Focus and £4,200/36% for the 307.

Considering its lower P11D value and the fact it is the newest car here, this must be disappointing for Fiat, and serves to illustrate a lack of confidence in the brand by the second-hand market in terms of reliability and desirability.

Yet overall there is so little difference in all the running costs, even over three-years and 60,000-miles.

The Focus and the 307 slug it out, pound for pound, in nearly every category to the point where, at the final bell, it's a tie.

Contract hire quotes from HSBC Vehicle Finance put the two at £247 a month each. The Stilo is £1 a month more expensive than the other two under contract hire, which is not likely to lose it any customers.

When it comes to wholelife costs the Focus edges ahead marginally in three-year/ 60,000-mile costs with a total of £13,518, but it is not enough of a gap to guarantee it stays ahead should the other two prove to be better on the road, better equipped or more spacious.

Fiat Stilo 1.2 5-dr Active

The newest car on the lower-medium block and the one with the most to prove, taking over from the unloved Brava/ Bravo. Styling follows the current Germanic trend, build quality is much improved. Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £11,190
CO2 emissions (g/km): 155
BIK % of P11D in 2002: 15%
Graduated VED rate: £120
Insurance group: 4
Combined mpg: 43.5
CAP Monitor residual value: £3,475/31%
Depreciation (11.74 pence per mile x 60,000): £7,044
Maintenance (2.25 pence per mile x 60,000): £1,350
Fuel (8.77 pence per mile x 60,000): £5,262
Wholelife cost (22.76 pence per mile x 60,000): £13,656
Typical contract hire rate: £248 per month

Ford Focus 1.4 LX 3-dr

Best lower-medium car at the Fleet News Awards for three years running, best-selling car in Britain ... what more can you say? Excellent driving dynamics and striking styling are main plus points.

Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £11,350
CO2 emissions (g/km): 158
BIK % of P11D in 2002: 15%
Graduated VED rate: £120
Insurance group: 4
Combined mpg: 42.8
CAP Monitor residual value: £4,000/35%
Depreciation (11.49 pence per mile x 60,000): £6,894
Maintenance (2.12 pence per mile x 60,000): £1,272
Fuel (8.92 pence per mile x 60,000): £5,352
Wholelife cost (22.53 pence per mile x 60,000): £13,518
Typical contract hire rate: £247 per month

Peugeot 307 1.4 LX 5-dr

Peugeot has followed the Honda Civic's quasi-mini-MPV lead with a tall, spacious car. International Car of the Year winner for 2002 and majors on safety: all models get ABS with brake assist.

Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £11,815
CO2 emissions (g/km): 159
BIK % of P11D in 2002: 15%
Graduated VED rate: £120
Insurance group: 4
Combined mpg: 42.2
CAP Monitor residual value: £4,200/36%
Depreciation (11.75 pence per mile x 60,000): £7,050
Maintenance (2.12 pence per mile x 60,000): £1,272
Fuel (9.04 pence per mile x 60,000): £5,424
Wholelife cost (22.91 pence per mile x 60,000): £13,746
Typical contract hire rate: £247 per month

Fiat Stilo 1.2 Active 5-dr

THE Stilo is Fiat's renaissance car, banishing memories of its slightly oddball predecessor, the Bravo/Brava range.

But it is not just the more conventional styling that sets the Stilo apart. Its range of engines offer something for all levels of company driver in the lower-medium segment, from refined and frugal JTD diesels to the hot 2.4-litre five-cylinder Abarth model.

In the 1.2-litre guise tested here, the Stilo has the smallest engine but is also the most powerful. With 80bhp and a standard six-speed manual gearbox, this is a lively little car that thrives on being revved. But this doesn't harm fuel economy, being the most fuel efficient car on test.

The Stilo has adopted the angular, Germanic styling that is the current favourite among car designers, giving it a clean, fresh look. But unfortunately, the Stilo has also inherited the Achille's heel of some German cars – their driving dynamics.

The steering on the Stilo is overlight and the gearbox is a long-throw affair which doesn't really reward enthusiastic driving. On the road, ride and handling are quite neutral and to live with day-in and day-out it will be a fine companion. But it lacks that sprightly feel of the Focus when you want to press on.

Inside, the Stilo is a bit of a disappointment – the mix of dark coloured seats and an overwhelmingly black fascia make for an oppressive cabin. The trim doesn't feel particularly hard-wearing in places either. Also, two of our taller road testers complained of feeling very uncomfortable while driving, although being more vertically challenged, I found no such problems.

At a glance

Plus

  • Frisky engine thrives on revs
  • Lowest front-end price
  • Standard six-speed gearbox

    Minus

  • Sombre styling inside and out
  • Disappointing residual value
  • Uncomfortable front seats

    Ford Focus 1.4 LX 3-dr

    FORD just can't go wrong with the Focus. We car journalists heap praise upon it for its driving qualities and private and company drivers buy the car in their droves.

    So in short, it's Britain's best-selling car and Britain's best lower-medium car to drive.

    Even in lowly 1.4-litre LX form, the Focus's main qualities shine through: delightful handling, crisp steering, revvy engine and sporty gearshift.

    With 74bhp, the 1.4-litre engine is no powerhouse and it does get a little on the coarse side when rside when revved towards the red line, but in normal driving it is a competent companion to the Focus's fine chassis.

    Another Focus strong point is its styling – probably the best example of Ford's most recent design direction with a mixture of swooping lines and very angular points such as the headlamp assembly.

    What is not such a triumph is the interior design which again tries to blend sharp lines and swooping curves, although this time with not so much success.

    The problem is that it looks messy and can be confusing when searching for certain controls.

    However, it is on the road that the Focus sets itself apart, always feeling ready to let loose and tear up a winding country lane, although you may want to discourage your drivers from doing this too often as the resulting increases in your tyre and fuel bill may not be to a fleet decision-maker's liking.

    However, the Focus is also right at home pottering around towns and cities, where its light steering, gearbox and clutch pedal action make stop-start driving a painless experience.

    The only real downside is the number of Focuses on the road and how much you want to stand out from the crowd.

    At a glance

    Plus

  • Best in class for ride and handling
  • Attractive exterior styling
  • Best wholelife costs – just

    Minus

  • Poor design of dashboard
  • Too popular for its own good?
  • Coarse engine when revved

    Peugeot 307 1.4 LX 5-dr

    PEUGEOT”S 307 is in the vanguard, along with Honda's Civic, of lower-medium cars evolving into a sort of quasi-mini-MPV.

    Rooflines are getting higher, bodies are getting wider and interior space is growing considerably. So much so that a couple with two young children will have all the space for people and luggage that they could ever need.

    This is all well and good, but it does impact upon driving enjoyment. The 307's predecessor, the 306, was widely praised for its driving quality in terms of ride and handling, but the 307 is not able to match this. While it may be a comfortable car to drive, its road holding and handling suffer from the car being taller than the normal lower-medium car.

    Again, this only becomes apparent when you are pressing-on behind the wheel. But something drivers will notice, no matter what speed they are travelling at, is the gearbox, which nestles on the vague and rubbery side of bad.

    It is something that a lot of Peugeot cars suffer from and we encountered the same problem on our Peugeot 406 Coupe HDi test car.

    The gearshift action is vague and gives no resistance, leaving you feeling as though you are stirring soup. This mars the driving experience because in all other aspects the 307 is a fine performer (certain interior plastics apart).

    It may not handle or ride with the flair of a Focus, and it may not feel as peppy as the Stilo, but as an all-round, cost-effective fleet package, the 307 makes a decent fist of things.

    For the majority of drivers in the majority of instances, the 307 is all they will ever need.

    At a glance

    Plus

  • Spacious cabin
  • High level of safety equipment
  • Only car with air-con as standard

    Minus

  • Vague gearbox action
  • Awkward driving position for taller drivers
  • Some 'flimsy' interior trim

    Verdict

    THERE is a clear winner here and, surprise, surprise, it wears a blue oval badge. The Focus is fractionally cheaper to run but where it really sets itself apart is on the road. We were unanimous in our decision – the combination of a sporting chassis, revvy engine and striking exterior styling make it our favourite.

    The 307 comes second – it does nothing badly but is not quite good enough to steal class honours from the Focus (although in diesel format it may be a different story). As for the Stilo, it is a marked improvement over Fiats of old, but the company still has more to do to catch up with the best in class.

    Gold: Ford Focus
    Silver: Peugeot 307
    Bronze: Fiat Stilo.

  • CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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