Fleet News

Upper-medium diesel sector

Toyota

Review

We've put it to the test against the Fleet News Award-winning Avensis and the newly diesel-engined Vectra to see if it has got what it takes.

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When it comes to depreciation, the Vectra can't throw off the shackles of steep loss, even with this trick new engine. Dropping value at 19.64 pence every mile means that it would lose £11,784 over 60,000 miles.

The 407 has marginally better figures, but for a new car with bold looks, it is disappointing that it's not predicted to do considerably better than the Vectra. It would lose about £400 less than the Vauxhall, suggesting that once a Peugeot upper-medium car, always a Peugeot upper-medium car, sharky design flourishes or not.

The Avensis is more solid, losing £10,218 over the same period, which would be a substantial saving over a decently-sized fleet.

When it comes to service, maintenance and repair, there is nothing much between all three cars, although the 407 is marginally more expensive, which could well be down to the costlier tyres needed for the 17-inch wheels, while the other two are on 16-inch wheels.

The Avensis proves to be marginally cheaper at 2.20ppm and as it's a Toyota it is not likely to break down either.

Fuel costs are hardly a game-breaker here, although as with the other two categories the Avensis edges ahead.

Its pence-per-mile cost of 8.44 is slightly better than the 8.58ppm the Vectra and 407 share, but after 60,000 miles, that 0.14ppm means £84 less in fuel, so there's nothing much to split them.

But all these little victories add up to a decent winning gap overall. The Avensis totals 27.76ppm, while the 407 is second – and a fairly distant second at that – at 30.14ppm and the Vectra third by dint of its residual weaknesses, at 30.55ppm.

Those figures applied over 60,000 miles mean that the Avensis is nearly £1,500 cheaper, which in such a competitive sector is quite a lead.

There is a caveat to that, though: these cars are from manufacturers with tremendous fleet businesses, so expect discounts and deals and apply those carefully to the wholelife costs.

For the driver, all these cars are Euro IV-compliant and have low emissions, making them very tax-efficient. All are in the 17% benefit-in-kind tax band.

And with the lowest P11d value of £16,662, the Avensis is the best of the lot again. It would cost a 22% tax-payer £623 this year, while the Vectra would cost £644 and the 407 £646.

But what do drivers get for their money? All have CD players, while the Avensis and the 407 get rain-sensing wipers. The Vectra has cruise control and the 407 has climate control, while all three have an impressive list of safety equipment. There's really not much between all three of them on this front.

Toyota Avensis T3-X 2.0 D-4D

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THE Toyota Avensis is this year's Fleet News Award winner and it's not hard to see why: solid running costs, well built and cheap in tax for the driver as well.

Delivered price, standard car (P11d value): £16,662
CO2 emissions (g/km): 155
BIK % of P11D in 2004/05: 17%
Graduated VED rate: £135
Insurance group: 9
Combined mpg: 48.7
CAP Monitor residual value: £5,700/34%
Depreciation (17.03 pence per mile x 60,000): £10,218
Maintenance (2.20 pence per mile x 60,000): £1,320
Fuel (8.44 pence per mile x 60,000): £5,064
Wholelife cost (27.67 pence per mile x 60,000): £16,602
Typical contract hire rate: £338 per month

Vauxhall Vectra Club 1.9 CDTi 16v

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THE new 1.9 CDTi diesel in the Vectra has given the car the oomph it never had before. Alongside solid handling and excellent ride, it is really worth a look for diesel user-choosers.

Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £17,212
CO2 emissions (g/km): 159
BIK % of P11D in 2004/05: 17%
Graduated VED rate: £135
Insurance group: 10
Combined mpg: 47.9
CAP Monitor residual value: £4,575/27%
Depreciation (19.64 pence per mile x 60,000): £11,784
Maintenance (2.33 pence per mile x 60,000): £1,398
Fuel (8.58 pence per mile x 60,000): £5,148
Wholelife cost (30.55 pence per mile x 60,000): £18,330
Typical contract hire rate: £381 per month

Peugeot 407 SE 2.0 HDi

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PEUGEOT'S new 407 aims to bring some flair to the sector and is claimed as a driver's car. However, it will need to deliver on running costs as well to be a top fleet runner.

Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £17,277
CO2 emissions (g/km): 155
BIK % of P11D in 2004/05: 17%
Graduated VED rate: £135
Insurance group: 10
Combined mpg: 48.7
CAP Monitor residual value: £5,100/30%
Depreciation (18.94 pence per mile x 60,000): £11,364
Maintenance (2.62 pence per mile x 60,000): £1,572
Fuel (8.58 pence per mile x 60,000): £5,148
Wholelife cost (30.14 pence per mile x 60,000): £18,084
Typical contract hire rate: £382 per month

  • Toyota Avensis T3-X 2.0 D-4D

    THE latest Avensis is a world apart from the model it replaced last year, with substantial improvements in quality both inside and out.

    When it was designed, Toyota engineers had the Volkswagen Passat in their sights and hoped to improve on the level of perceived quality found in the Volkswagen.

    Some of the interior fittings feel upmarket for the volume sector, reminiscent more of a Lexus than a Toyota, but it is a shame Toyota was conservative with the exterior design.

    Some chrome helps continue the upmarket theme but, when viewed alongside the Peugeot 407, it appears just as plain as the Vauxhall Vectra. Toyota has always played it safe with its volume cars, so we shouldn't be surprised.

    The biggest disappointment with the Avensis comes from its 2.0 D-4D engine. The fact that it is the noisiest on start-up is the least worrying issue. The new 407 comes with 136bhp and 236lb-ft of torque, while a 110bhp 1.6-litre HDi is also offered.

    The Vectra, in its most powerful four-cylinder diesel form, offers 150bhp and similar pulling power to the Peugeot, while torque freaks can also choose a V6 diesel.

    Toyota only offers the diesel Avensis in 114bhp tune, with 207lb-ft of torque.

    That might be fine when viewed in isolation, but against its two rivals it always feels slow. Toyota can no longer play the Euro IV card with the Avensis either, as both other cars are Euro IV compliant.

    With fine motorway ability, a comfortable and roomy interior, strong safety credentials and pleasant-but-detached driving experience, it does not do enough to chalk up a win on the road.

    For

  • Overall quality
  • Strong residual values
  • Safety features

    Against

  • Uninvolving drive
  • Lacklustre performance
  • Plain looks

  • Vauxhall Vectra Club 1.9 CDTi 16v

    VAUXHALL's new 1.9 CDTi diesel engine finally puts the Vectra in the same class as the Peugeot's 136bhp unit for performance. But we had to choose Club specification – a very small step up from rental car spec – to match them on list price.

    Trying to match the Peugeot's SE spec would have meant choosing an SXi or Design model which is too rich for both the 407 and the Avensis, despite the more generous equipment levels in the other cars.

    However, at least cruise control and alloy wheels are part of the package.

    The new engine – part of the GM-Fiat powertrain alliance, but a development of a Fiat unit – is excellent and the extra performance is most welcome.

    It is occasionally caught out by the long-legged transmission resulting in a little turbo lag if you change up too early, and when you pick up speed on a motorway slip road with a view to joining, changing from fourth to sixth below 70mph results in a laboured slog for the last few miles per hour.

    The engine seems to be barely ticking over on the motorway, which means drivers should arrive at their destination in fine fettle. It also feels roomier than either the Avensis or the 407.

    The Vectra soaks up most of the bumps on UK roads as well as the Avensis and the 407, but the driver still feels remote from the overall experience, probably because the steering is reluctant to communicate – it does as it's told but offers nothing in return. As for the controversial steering columns stalks, after two years we know how they work.

    We have mastered every little intricacy of cancelling lane-change signals and operating the rear wiper and we still don't like them.

    For

  • Roomy and refined
  • Long-haul comfort
  • Gutsy engine

    Against

  • Diesel price premium
  • Poor residual values
  • Steering column stalks

  • Peugeot 407 SE 2.0 HDi

    PEUGEOT'S objective with the 407 was to remind drivers why they liked the 405 and 406 so much. It was meant to be better to drive than anything else in the volume upper-medium sector and, taking account of Euro NCAP, safety was also given renewed focus with the 407.

    Peugeot might have missed a trick on safety as the Toyota Avensis is still the only car in the sector to offer nine airbags as standard in the UK, whereas our test car offered seven as standard, with only the range-topping SVE model giving nine away for free.

    But it is difficult to fault the driving experience. You sit lower in the 407 than in the Vectra and the Avensis and feel more connected to the road.

    The new HDi engine and six-speed transmission are far better at hiding turbo lag than the Vectra's new CDTi and you really get the impression that the 407 was designed to be capable of far more demanding things than taking the long way home around the back roads.

    With superior levels of grip and meaningful dialogue from the steering wheel, the 407 instils far more confidence in the driver than either the Avensis or the Vectra.

    As well as its almost magnetic attraction to a chosen line around tight bends, the 407 reacts quickly and smoothly to sudden steering inputs.

    One or two things we dislike – the electric window switch for the front seat passenger seems too far away, and the rain sensor in the windscreen, happily obscured by the rear-view mirror in left-hand drive cars, sits alongside the mirror in right-hand drive models.

    Peugeot boffins should either have done their homework, or if they did, stumped up the extra cash for moving it to the other side on UK models.

    For

  • Looks different
  • Great to drive
  • Improved interior quality

    Against

  • Disappointing residual values
  • Rear compartment space
  • Flawed ergonomics

    Verdict
    ALTHOUGH the Vectra takes third place, its new engine is excellent. But the car is let down by its poor residual value, which can only be offset by substantial discounts from the manufacturer.

    The Avensis has a £1,500 per car advantage over the 407 in running costs, but cannot match it for driving pleasure. The answer is to challenge your Peugeot fleet contact to beat Toyota's asking price by £1,500 per car, but in this test, the huge cost lead makes the Avensis the winner.

  • WINNER: Toyota Avensis 2.0 D-4D T3-X
  • 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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