We are one of the biggest markets in Europe for soft-tops (more than 70,000 cars are sold in the UK annually), and the SLK’s two-in-one coupe and convertible body has made these cars much more practical for buyers thanks to the absence of a fabric roof and the security implications that go with it.
And now Vauxhall is getting in on the act with the Tigra, a two-seater based on the Corsa chassis with a clever hard roof which retracts into the body at the touch of a button.
It works on the same principle as the SLK’s, with a double hinged boot which either opens conventionally to allow access to the luggage compartment, or tilts the other way to let the roof fold into its home.
With the roof in place the Tigra is a cosy two-seater coupe, which means there’s none of the wind roar associated with fabric roofs. With its silver coloured rear window surround, it also looks really stylish.
And with the roof folded away, the smart looks continue as it disappears flush under the large bootlid to leave a slick convertible with a pair of silver roll-over hoops behind the headrests.
Inside there’s a very simple cabin with all the controls located on a silver slab of plastic in the centre console. Allied to silver rimmed instruments and a chunky three-spoke steering wheel, the Tigra makes for a pleasant place to be. In 1.8-litre guise as tested, the Tigra offers 125bhp, which equates to brisk acceleration – 0-60mph takes nine seconds. Its key rival, Peugeot’s 206CC, has 138bhp but in reality feels little quicker.
As well as sharing similar performance, both share something else – a poor gearbox. On the 206 the change is long and wobbly with no real feel, while the Tigra’s ’box really doesn’t like to be rushed.
For slow changes it works well, but when you want to press on and enjoy some spirited driving, it baulks at quick changes and several times I had to force it into third gear.
An over-light steering rack is another minus point – it’s nicely weighted for urban driving but there’s a real absence of feel at higher speeds.
But these criticisms are, in many ways superfluous. The Tigra isn’t designed as a driver’s car – it’s a cool coupe-cum-cabriolet for young (mainly female) buyers looking to add a slice of panache to their company motoring.
And as it’s a Vauxhall it will be a safe bet for fleets – as well as issues such as reliability and parts supply, there are hundreds of dealers around the country, something which can’t be said for soft-tops from other less omnipresent manufacturers.
Think of the Tigra as an SLK for those on a less generous company car allowance and you won’t be far wrong.
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £15,667
CO2 emissions (g/km): 185
BIK % of P11D in 2005: 24%
Graduated VED rate: £150
Insurance group: 12D
Combined mpg: 36.7
CAP Monitor residual value: £5,750/38%
Depreciation 16.19 pence per mile x 60,000: £9,714
Maintenance 2.62 pence per mile x 60,000: £1,572
Fuel 10.89 pence per mile x 60,000: £6,534
Wholelife cost 29.70 pence per mile x 60,000: £17,820
Typical contract hire rate: £338
At a glance
We don’t like
Three rivals to consider
ONLY Peugeot offers a car with a similar folding metal roof arrangement to the Tigra, so we’ve chosen small soft-top cars to compete. The Ford StreeetKa costs the least here even in Luxury trim, but with 94bhp it lacks the power of the others. The MINI is competitive, but most come loaded with extras, such as the Chili Pack, which will push the price up. Higher up, the Vauxhall and Peugeot are similarly priced.
THE MINI offers the cheapest service, maintenance and repair costs over three years and 60,000 miles, costing £1,200. But it could be even cheaper still if fleets opt for the TLC pack which gives free servicing for five years and 50,000 miles for £150, or the TLC XL pack which costs £450 for eight years and 80,000 miles. The 206 and Tigra are third and fourth, perhaps because of their complex folding metal roofs.
ALL four cars are closely matched in fuel terms, with top and bottom being separated by 3.4mpg. Assuming drivers meet the manufacturers’ claimed economy figures, the MINI will cost a fleet the least in fuel over three years and 60,000 miles at £6,198. The Tigra is just behind on £6,534 and the Ford is third on £6,702. In last place is the Peugeot, the most powerful car here with 138bhp, which will cost £6,798.
BMW appears to have found the holy grail of car making – building cars in serious numbers yet still managing to make them exclusive, thus guaranteeing strong residual values. It’s the same story for the MINI – there are thousands of them about, and judging by the number of convertibles I saw during my time with the car, the open top will be just as popular. CAP estimates the MINI will retain 50% of its price new after three years/60,000 miles, compared with 43% for the Ford, 38% for the Tigra and 37% for the Peugeot.
WITH such a big advantage in depreciation costs it was always going to be difficult for any car to beat the Cooper convertible, so it’s no surprise that the MINI is the cheapest car for a fleet to run. Over three years/60,000 miles it will cost £14,664. Its nearest challenger in wholelife cost terms is the Ford StreetKa, which will cost £15,810. Of the folding roof convertibles, it’s the Vauxhall Tigra which comes out on top, costing a fleet £17,820. The Peugeot finishes last, £366 further back from the Vauxhall, thanks to having the highest front-end price and the lowest residual value forecast from CAP.
Emissions and BIK tax rates
ANOTHER sector and another win for the MINI. For company car drivers the Cooper is the cheapest way to enjoy top-down driving. A 22% taxpayer will pay £58 a month to have one of Oxford’s finest on their drive. In second place is the Ford, with the same person paying £63 a month in benefit-in-kind tax. Third spot goes to the Tigra, which will cost £69, while the Peugeot finishes fourth with a BIK bill of £72 a month.
IF this contest was purely down to cars with clever folding metal roofs, the Tigra would win. It’s better to drive than the Peugeot, costs less for a fleet to run and offers lower company car tax bills. But in this test there’s a clear winner. The MINI lacks the metal roof, although its own set-up is very good, has bags of image, and the lowest running costs and BIK bills.
WINNER: MINI Cooper convertible