Fleet News

Mitsubishi L200 4Life double cab – 1,150 miles

Mitsubishi

Review

COMPANY car drivers seeking refuge from the new benefit-in-kind tax rules in a pseudo-commercial vehicle should proceed with caution.

While 'double cabs' based on pick-up trucks seem to be all the rage, your local Inland Revenue office must see evidence that you need a commercial vehicle in the course of your business travel in order to take advantage of the BIK tax benefits on offer from running a 'van'.

Mind you, the rules are by no means clear. A call by Fleet News to four Inland Revenue offices around the country produced a variety of views on whether the vehicle would be treated as a van or a car for tax purposes.

The good news is that if you can prove you need the extra carrying capacity of the vehicle, BIK tax is paid on a flat rate liability of £500 instead of on a percentage of the vehicle's £16,000 list price, so even the highest earners in the 40% income tax bracket will pay just £200 a year. These vehicles are not tested for carbon dioxide emissions.

And with a maximum payload in the rear compartment of more than 1,000kg, VAT can be reclaimed by businesses.

For example, the head of a small business who was occasionally needed to help with deliveries using his or her own car would probably succeed in convincing the local tax office of the need for a Mitsubishi L200, particularly if his previous car had been a four-wheel-drive workhorse.

It was under such circumstances that Fleet News decided to include a Mitsubishi L200 4Life on its long-term fleet, and it will be interesting to see whether other drivers will get on with what is essentially a pick-up truck with a low-tech diesel engine and some car-like additions in the cabin.

The L200 is the UK market leader with a 49% share of the pick-up sector, but the first 500 miles in the Mitsubishi have been a sobering experience for me. Although the 4Life has a softly-furnished interior, twin airbags, running boards, two-tone paint, alloy wheels and a CD/radio, there is no air conditioning and no ABS.

You would need to spend an extra £2,000 (ex-VAT) for a special Animal edition for a version that includes such creature comforts.

Our car is equipped with an optional 'Fullbox' cover – a dealer-fit accessory, priced at £1,400 ex-VAT, which is effectively a lockable, hinged lid for the cargo section of the vehicle but also includes a stylish rear spoiler behind the cab.

The L200 is powered by a 113bhp 2.5-litre direct injection turbodiesel, for which few performance and no fuel economy figures are available – this is a commercial vehicle, after all. However, from the first few hundred miles it would seem a 0-60mph time of about 16 seconds feels about right while the top speed is a claimed 94mph.

It also has selectable four-wheel drive with a low ratio facility and huge ground clearance.

Its early running has resulted in a low 25.6mpg average on test, although we would expect some improvement in this as the mileage increases.

I'm sure the Mitsubishi will come into its own for the occasional jobs by the Fleet News editorial team where large or unusual loads need to be shifted.

However, if I was a company car driver in this vehicle and was refused commercial vehicle BIK rates, I would feel hard done by because it is a very different animal from a sport utility vehicle, let alone a typical rep-mobile.

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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