Next year's carbon dioxide emissions-based company car tax changes has put the fleet spotlight firmly on diesel, with demand in the UK increasing daily and European requirements also high, factories are finding it tough to satisfy the need.
Hence Volkswagen is urging fleet managers not to forget that apart from fuel-efficient and CO2-efficient diesel-engined cars it also has top-notch petrol power.
Fleet News Net is putting the 150bhp 1.8 20V Turbo Passat Estate in SE trim through its paces. The car is lively - it should be with 150bhp on tap through the front wheels - and supremely functional. One gripe would be that the space between the clutch pedal and the centre console is tight.
However, I can see no reason for a fleet manager to choose the 1.8T over the 1.9 TDI PD 130bhp diesel version -assuming you can get one.
Our test car costs £18,340 on-the-road and the equivalent 130bhp manual diesel estate is £18,710. However, that additional £370 can easily be recouped through fuel and tax savings, not to mention a saving on Vehicle Excise Duty.
The 1.8T offers fuel economy on the combined cycle of 32.8mpg against 47.9mpg for the diesel and has a CO2 figure of 206g/km (23% tax in 2002/03) against the oil burner's 157g/km (18% including the 3% diesel tax penalty). For a 40% taxpayer, running the diesel equates to an annual tax bill of £1,347.12 against £1,687.28 for the 1.8T — a saving of £340.16 in the first year of the new tax system.
Add in that the diesel engine has significantly better low-down torque — 210lb-ft at 1,750rpm compared to 155lb-ft at the same speed for the 1.8T - a top speed of 125mph (133mph for the petrol version) and 0–60mph acceleration time of 10.2 seconds against 9.4 - and I believe the diesel is a better bet.
Our 1.8T offers pretty much everything a driver could want, including 495-litres of luggage space with the rear seat upright. Standard specification includes ABS, two front and side airbags, multi-function computer, alloy wheels, CD player/radio/cassette and electronic climate control.
The updated Passat entered UK showrooms in January and is starting to make its mark in the fleet sales chart. Fleet News Net has always believed the Passat to be a top-notch company car - although the absence of a hatchback limits its appeal.
With added chrome and a continuation of its solid and surefooted ride — as well as forceful and sturdy on-the-road appearance - Volkswagen's upper-medium sector contender should be on fleet choice lists.
But while the sporty 1.8T is far from being a fleet flop -indeed it is robust and functional - the calculator shows that the diesel choice is best.
It is up to Volkswagen and its component suppliers to make sure supply meets demand.