It is the point where petrol is still less of a tax burden than diesel, and pricing strategies mean the better fuel economy of diesel is dented by its higher list price.
And there is no shortage of choice, either, despite the growth of compact MPVs and the decline of the traditional repmobile.
The key model in this sector over the last few months has been the new Vauxhall Vectra, which lines up against the Ford Mondeo, Renault Laguna, Nissan Primera, Citroen C5, Mazda6, Peugeot 406, Toyota Avensis and many others.
The old Vauxhall Vectra never really recovered from early criticism about its dullness and average driving experience.
But the new Vectra could not afford to be dreary again, particularly as so many other manufacturers have spiced up their act in the sector.
Therefore the 1.8 LS hatchback comes with air conditioning, a CD player, steering wheel mounted audio controls, electric front windows, various airbags, ABS and other safety features.
It virtually matches all its rivals for specification, but is the only car in our running costs comparison to offer cruise control as standard.
Vauxhall promises extra space in the new Vectra and most of the gains have been made by making it taller and wider inside at shoulder height.
It certainly does not feel much smaller than an Omega from the inside, and that gives the impression of getting a lot of car for the money.
It's just that on the outside the Vectra looks plain compared to most rivals.
There is some neat detailing, and the design has a solid quality, but it will not turn heads in the same way as a Mazda6 and is a world apart from the radical looking Primera.
The 1.8-litre engine is carried over from the previous model and the figures show that it is no slower than its rival from Ford.
It does offer one or two concessions to the more spirited driver, but it was not designed with the enthusiast in mind.
Handling is much improved over its predecessor and the steering is both communicative and sharp enough to hustle the Vectra through twisty B-roads.
Fitted with something called cornering brake control, the Vectra has an advanced stability programme which applies the brakes on three wheels when the car slides out of shape.
The long-throw gearchange slows down upshifts and kills any boy-racer instincts the driver might have, and progress with the 120bhp engine is smooth rather than swift.
The ride is supple and in my opinion better than the Mondeo, which seems keen to sacrifice comfort for more grip with larger wheels, particularly higher up the range.
Overall, the Vectra seems to offer the best all-round package for the high mileage driver. Comfort and refinement are excellent and it has most of the toys needed to while away the motorway hours.
standard car (P11D value): £14,480
CO2 emissions (g/km): 184
BIK % of P11D in 2002: 18%
Graduated VED rate: £140
Insurance group: 7
Combined mpg: 36.7
CAP Monitor residual value: £4,100/28%
Depreciation (15.70 pence per mile x 60,000): £9,420
Maintenance (2.20 pence per mile x 60,000): £1,320
Fuel (10.40 pence per mile x 60,000): £6,420
Wholelife cost (28.30 pence per mile x 60,000): £16,980
Typical contract hire rate: £321 per month
Three rivals to consider
IT could hardly be any closer in the heart of the fleet sector. The Vectra's arch rival, the Mondeo, has a lower P11d value because its lower emissions put it in a lower VED band – £155 compared with £140. The Primera and Laguna offer slightly lower P11d prices, but are probably not so significant as to be crucial to choice. Fleet deals are normally done on a large scale and transaction prices bear little relation to P11d when discounts are taken into consideration.
The Vectra benefits from being at the cheaper end of our quartet for service, maintenance and repair costs. It is only bettered by the Primera, and has a comfortable margin over the Laguna and the Mondeo. With up to 20,000-mile service intervals for petrol models, according to the service indicator, the Vectra should make a significant contribution to cutting maintenance costs.
Vauxhall's main target with the Vectra is the Ford Mondeo, and the company must have been pleased to beat the Mondeo on the combined fuel consumption figure.
However, there is a greater gap between the Vectra and the Laguna. The Nissan Primera proves to be even more miserly.
The Primera is the only car here to achieve more than 38mpg on the combined cycle, with the Laguna on 37.6 and the Vectra on 36.7. The Mondeo's figure equates to 36.2mpg.
The upper-medium sector has taken a hammering in recent years when it comes to used values. Even those cars at the cheaper end of the spectrum are lucky to retain 25% of their original value after three years on a fleet.
As the new kid on the block the Vectra seems to do well, retaining an advantage of 0.56ppm over the Primera. Meanwhile the Mondeo brings up the rear, with 0.07ppm separating it from the Laguna. The Vectra's advantage might diminish in future as the new model becomes more common.
THE new Vectra is just pipped in the running costs battle by the Primera. It seems strange that the car with the most radical design could be so close overall to the most conventional looking.
However, the Vectra's stronger residual forecast is offset by the Primera's lower SMR costs and fuel consumption. The biggest surprise is that both cars are more than a penny per mile cheaper to run than the equivalent Ford Mondeo - the current leader in the sector.
Emissions and BIK tax rates
WITH P11d prices so closely matched, the difference in the benefit-in-kind tax burden should be negligible - as long as emissions are similar. However, there are a few differences that make the Vectra appear more favourable compared to the Mondeo. The Vectra is in the 18% tax bracket (19% for the Mondeo), along with the Laguna. The Primera, in the 17% bracket, costs a 22% taxpayer just £45 a month.
THE Vectra is an impressive all-rounder, offering lower running costs than most rivals in a roomy and well-equipped, if uninspiring, shape. However, my instinct would prompt me to follow our running cost figures and go for the Primera, which to my eyes has a more interesting and attractive shape. But the Vectra is not disgraced and in this comparison at least scores an emphatic pence-per-mile victory over the Mondeo.