Fleet News

Fiat Punto, Toyota Yaris and Nissan Micra

Nissan

Review

The models on test here are all mid-spec, diesel-engined versions with price tags hovering around the £10,000 mark. As well as being cheap to buy, they are also cheap to run and, used often enough, would probably negate the need for a fleet to use short-term daily rental hire. But which of this new breed of supermini will prove to be the most cost-effective car for your fleet?

In terms of front-end price, the Toyota Yaris is the cheapest of our trio to buy, with a P11d value of £9,590, followed by the Nissan Micra at £10,155, with the Fiat Punto the most expensive at £10,235.

All three are closely matched on P11d value, but the story is not the same when it comes to depreciation. As well as being the most expensive to buy, the Punto has by far the lowest residual value prediction. CAP estimates it will retain 31% of its cost new after three years/ 60,000 miles, compared with 38% for the Micra and Yaris.

With the highest servicing costs as well, the Fiat's wholelife cost challenge fails, resulting in a total cost of 19.82 pence per mile over three years and 60,000 miles. The Micra and Yaris are more evenly matched (and have identical SMR costs), but the fuel economy advantage of the Yaris (64.2mpg on the combined cycle verses 61.4mpg for the Nissan), gives it the lead.

Factor in less cash lost because of its lower front-end price and the Yaris takes the wholelife cost victory, at 17.31ppm – almost a penny per mile less than the Micra. Where the Micra does out-score its Japanese rival is in monthly rental costs. HSBC DriverQuote will charge £217 a month for the Yaris, based on a three year/60,000 mile contract, while the Micra will cost £192. In comparison, the Punto is the most expensive at £226 a month.

But the Punto does have an ace up its sleeve – because its engine is Euro IV-compliant, it avoids the 3% diesel supplement for benefit-in-kind tax. This means a 22% tax-payer will pay £28 a month for the Punto, £32 for the Yaris and £34 for the Micra.

Fiat Punto 1.3 Multijet Dynamic

RECENTLY updated, the Punto is Fiat's bread and butter car. Front and rear styling is sharpened up but a question mark remains over interior quality.

Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £10,235
CO2 emissions (g/km): 119
BIK % of P11D in 2003/04: 15% (Euro IV)
Graduated VED rate: £85
Insurance group: 5
Combined mpg: 62.8
CAP Monitor residual value: £3,125/31%
Depreciation (11.29 pence per mile x 60,000): £6,774
Maintenance (2.37 pence per mile x 60,000): £1,422
Fuel (6.16 pence per mile x 60,000): £3,696
Wholelife cost (19.82 pence per mile x 60,000): £11,892
Typical contract hire rate: £226 per month

Nissan Micra 1.5 dci SE

THE friendly face of the supermini sector, with a well-designed and built interior. However, 65bhp dCi diesel engine is noisy and struggles to match its rivals on performance.

Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £10,155
CO2 emissions (g/km): 122
BIK % of P11D in 2003/04: 18%
Graduated VED rate: £115
Insurance group: 2
Combined mpg: 61.4
CAP Monitor residual value: £3,825/38%
Depreciation (10.08 pence per mile x 60,000): £6,048
Maintenance (1.87 pence per mile x 60,000): £1,122
Fuel (6.30 pence per mile x 60,000): £3,780
Wholelife cost (18.25 pence per mile x 60,000): £10,950
Typical contract hire rate: £192 per month

Toyota Yaris 1.4 d-4d T3

QUALITY is the watchword with the Yaris – the interior looks and feels solid, with clever design touches. Interior space and performance are the best here.

Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £9,590
CO2 emissions (g/km): 117
BIK % of P11D in 2003/04: 18%
Graduated VED rate: £85
Insurance group: 3
Combined mpg: 64.2
CAP Monitor residual value: £3,650/38%
Depreciation (9.41 pence per mile x 60,000): £5,646
Maintenance (1.87 pence per mile x 60,000): £1,122
Fuel (6.03 pence per mile x 60,000): £3,618
Wholelife cost (17.31 pence per mile x 60,000): £10,386
Typical contract hire rate: £217 per month

Fiat Punto 1.3 Multijet Dynamic

LOOKED at in isolation, the recently-revised Punto offers a competitive supermini proposition.

The new front and rear-end styling keeps the Fiat looking fresh, while the upgraded interior with its two-tone finish certainly brightens up things inside.

It is priced competitively, is not unattractive, is Euro IV-compliant and has a strong list of equipment as standard, including electric door mirrors, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, single-slot CD player, air conditioning and power steering with a special 'city' button that offers more assistance for parking.

However, the materials used in the cabin do not feel as though they are built to stand the test of time, and the black and white dashboard scheme of our test car would surely show up the grime after a few thousand miles of use.

On the road, the Punto's 70bhp Multijet diesel engine is not exactly a ball of fire and is lacking that torque surge you expect of an oil-burning engine.

While initial acceleration and mid-gear push are lacking, the Punto's engine does offer decent acceleration in fifth gear at motorway speeds. Floor the accelerator at 60mph and you soon reach the legal speed limit.

Start-up engine noise is low but as speed increases so does the engine vibration. Coupled with the fact that 70mph equates to 2,800rpm, the Punto can get tiring on long journeys, although this is not what the car is designed for.

On a practical note, the Punto's interior is spacious, mirroring the trend for cars to get bigger, and the boot will easily hold a week's shopping.

At a glance

For

  • Euro IV-compliant
  • Well equipped
  • Fresh styling

    Against

  • Brittle interior plastics
  • High front-end price
  • Poor residual value forecast

    Nissan Micra 1.5 dCi SE

    IF there is one car that stands out from the supermini pack it is the Nissan Micra. With its funky styling and happy face, the little Nissan is the most cheerful car on the block.

    Ovoid headlights mounted high up on the front wings and a wide grille give the car's front a unique appearance for the sector. And the high-waisted design almost gives it a bubblecar look. This theme extends back to meet the more conventional rear lights and drops down into the tailgate, which is mounted low for easy loading.

    Inside, the Micra's funky theme continues, with a small, chunky three-spoke steering wheel with stereo controls mounted on it.

    All of the controls are fixed in a single housing that is mounted in the dash, level with the steering wheel, meaning you don't have to glance down to fiddle with the heating and ventilation controls.

    While the Micra's interior style is the pick of the bunch here, its driving experience is not.

    The 65bhp diesel engine under the bonnet struggles with the task of shifting the Micra along and makes its presence felt in the cabin.

    Bizarrely, Nissan offers a more powerful diesel Micra, with a far more useful 80bhp under the bonnet, for just £400 more.

    And even more strangely, this engine also offers better fuel economy than the model on test here (62.8mpg against 61.4mpg).

    This really negates the need to opt for the 65bhp model, but for the purposes of this test its price fits better with the other two rivals.

    The Micra will fit the bill for urban driving only, where its lack of oomph is less pronounced.

    At a glance

    For

  • Exterior styling
  • Well-designed interior
  • Cheapest monthly rental cost

    Against

  • Diesel engine under-powered
  • Styling not to all tastes
  • Better 80bhp model is £400 more

    Toyota Yaris 1.4 D-4D T3

    TOYOTA is renowned for building quality cars and the Yaris is no exception. Everything about it feels just right, from the noise the door makes when it closes to the feel of the buttons on the dashboard.

    And the dashboard is the talking point of the whole car, with its strange instrument binnacle. Instead of regular analogue instruments housed behind the steering wheel, the Yaris features digital instruments set deep back in a binnacle in the middle of the dashboard – providing a strange 3-D effect.

    This quirk aside, the rest of the Toyota's interior is first rate, with quality materials and plenty of space for front and rear seat occupants.

    On the road the Yaris continues to excel. With 75bhp, the engine is only just the most powerful unit here but it feels much more lively than its rivals.

    Acceleration is brisk and, once at cruising speed, it becomes obvious that Toyota's engineers have spent a lot of time working to suppress noise from the engine.

    With 90% of its power available from just 1,800rpm, the Yaris has instant power on offer in the lower gears, so you do not have to hunt around the gearbox looking for the right ratio to give you acceleration, as you do in the other two cars.

    Handling is also the best here, with a comfortable ride and a firm stance on the road, despite that heavy diesel engine up front, which usually means excessive understeer when you are driving quickly.

    Minor niggles include a gearbox that has a long throw action and seats which don't feel wide enough to accommodate people who are larger than average.

    At a glance

    For

  • Quality feel
  • Interior space
  • Best here for performance

  • Long throw gearbox
  • Quirky instrument display
  • Front seats not wide enough for some

    Verdict

    THE Yaris has this contest sewn up: it is the best to drive, the best built and best on wholelife costs, as well as being the cheapest to buy. Second place goes to the Micra, which scores points for its interior and exterior styling. The Punto takes third place – in this company it costs too much to run, is not as good to drive and the quality of the interior fittings does not match up to its Japanese rivals.

  • WINNER: Toyota Yaris 1.4 D-4D T3
  • 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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