But in the world of the sport utility vehicle (SUV), this theory is blown out of the water because the majority of these vehicles seem to be parked at designer stores or on the school run.
Which means there are some pretty wealthy housewives about, because not only do these cars cost a fair bit to buy but they also cost a fair bit to run, being heavy and about as aerodynamic as the Roly Polys.
Obviously money is no object for this particular social group, so I'm sure they will not really care that Jeep has introduced a revised diesel Grand Cherokee with better fuel economy and lower carbon dioxide emissions.
But this may sound like good news for a company car driver who wants one of these trendy SUVs but doesn't fancy the idea of remortaging his or her house to afford the accompanying benefit-in-kind tax bill.
Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but even though this engine is an improvement all round on its predecessor, it still attracts the highest level of BIK tax – hitting the maximum 35% of P11D price band from day one.
But if cash is no object, the revised Grand Cherokee diesel deserves closer attention. The Mercedes-Benz-sourced 2.7-litre common rail diesel unit is a peach, offering plenty of torque combined with strong performance, low emissions for the sector and good fuel economy.
Mated to an automatic gearbox it provides the best driving combination as you can just ride the torque without having to resort to that manual gear-changing nonsense. So instead, you sit up high in your leather-lined armchair and enjoy the panoramic view that the Grand Cherokee's high seating position grants you.
And while you are sitting up high, wafting along in surprising quiet, you have plenty of time to work out how you are going to tackle the approaching corner because, believe me, you do need to think about these things when driving a vehicle such as the Grand Cherokee.
I know I bang on about this every time I write a road test about a 4x4 or SUV, but it is an important point if you are going to be covering a lot of miles. The high centre of gravity makes driving a bit of a chore on anything but straight roads such as motorways and dual carriageways.
For a keen driver such as myself, I find the limited cornering ability of these cars a real pain, and I especially dislike feeling that I'm about to topple over when circulating a roundabout. But it is nice to sit up high when you're driving, and it does give you a feeling of superiority when you glance down on the ranks of lower and upper-medium cars on the road.
The list of standard equipment is a long one and includes almost everything you could possibly need, including exceptionally comfortable electrically-adjustable leather seats with memory function, CD player, air conditioning and a chunky set of alloy wheels which set off the Grand Cherokee's muscular nature.
So for your money you get a good looking car with bags of standard equipment . But the emissions performance gives the Jeep a tough job to do in convincing company car drivers.< Fact file
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £29,110
CO2 emissions (g/km): 257
BIK % of P11D in 2002: 35%
Graduated VED rate: £160
Insurance group: 16
Combined mpg: 29.1
CAP Monitor residual value: £10,725/37%
Depreciation (29.67 pence per mile x 60,000): £17,802
Maintenance (3.83 pence per mile x 60,000): £2,298
Fuel (13.13 pence per mile x 60,000): £7,980 Wholelife cost (46.80 pence per mile x 60,000): £28,080
Typical contract hire rate: £611 per month
All figures based on 3yrs/60,000 miles. Monthly rental quote from HSBC Vehicle Finance.
Three rivals to consider
WHAT does £30,000 buy you in car terms these days? Well, quite a lot of metal in the case of our four cars. The Mitsubishi is the largest car on test and is also has the cheapest front-end price of £28,310. The Jeep costs £800 more which, in my view, is money well spent as the level of standard equipment and overall desirability is better in the Grand Cherokee. However, the Mercedes-Benz offers reasonable value at £30,060, £570 more than the Audi.
THERE is a big difference between the most and least expensive cars here in terms of servicing, maintenance and repairs, with the Mercedes-Benz costing nearly twice as much over three years and 60,000 miles as the Mitsubishi. The Mitsubishi's 2.45ppm figure is excellent, comparing well with a 1.8-litre petrol upper-medium car. The Jeep is second on 3.83ppm with the Audi on 4.16ppm and the Mercedes bringing up the rear on a hefty 4.79ppm.
IN FUEL terms, this sector is where our quartet are the closest, with the Mercedes winning the day thanks to its combined fuel economy figure of 29.7mpg, resulting in a figure of 13.03ppm. The Audi is something of a disappointment, managing to record 29.4mpg despite being nowhere near as heavy and bulky as its rivals. The Jeep's 29.1mpg runs the Mercedes close, costing 13.30ppm while the Mitsubishi with the biggest engine brings up the rear on 26.4mpg.
PREDICTING future residual values may be something of a black art, but if the car is made in Germany, it's a pretty safe bet it will do well. And so it is that the Mercedes wins the RV contest easily, projected to retain 49% of its cost new after three-years/60,000-miles and costing 24.36ppm. More than 2ppm dearer is the Mitsubishi (41%) and 3ppm further back is the Jeep (37%). The Audi's poor residual value figure of 32% condemns its wholelife cost.
The three-pointed star is always a guarantee of strong running costs and the ML maintains that tradition. Costing 42.18ppm to run over three-years/60,000-miles, it narrowly beats the Mitsubishi. What helps these two is their strong residual value predictions from CAP, with both in the 40% band. The Jeep loses out here through its depreciation, although its RV is predicted to be 37%. The big surprise is the Audi with its lowly RV prediction of just 32%
Emissions and BIK tax rates
SUVs are always going to be knocking on the door of the top tax bandings, thanks to their weight and shape. So it is no surprise that the Jeep, Mercedes-Benz and Mitsubishi will attract the maximum 35% BIK banding for the first three years of the new system. For the Jeep this means a 40% taxpayer will pay £4,075 a year, or £340 a month. The Audi easily beats the others thanks to its lower emissions, being in essence a jacked-up A6 Avant rather than a traditional SUV.
THE Jeep in revised diesel guise is a vast improvement over its predecessor and offers a very complete motoring package. However, running costs cannot be ignored and the fact the Mercedes-Benz is so much cheaper to run means it gets our vote – and drivers will always choose to have the three-pointed star on their bonnet if at all possible.