Fleet News

Contract hire survey: French lower and upper-medium diesels

THE German manufacturers have the premium sector sewn up, leaving the French makers to battle it out in the UK's fleet heartland.

As one of the two European superpowers when it comes to making cars, the French have a strong hold in the British fleet industry.

But while the other superpower, the Germans, have the premium market pretty much sewn up, the French are left to battle it out in the volume fleet market. One advantage they may well have though is an historical link with diesel engines. Peugeot was bringing in viable and refined diesel units long before most other manufacturers.

So this month we are looking at what the French have to offer to fleets in the key lower- medium and upper-medium diesel sectors within a £14,000 price limit.

Between Citroen, Renault and Peugeot there are models which span the past seven years. The Peugeot 406 has been around since 1996 and had a revamp in 1999, but it is the old stager here. With a new model due early in 2004, there should be some good deals for fleets looking to tool up their drivers for as little cost as possible.

The Citroen Xsara is almost equally as long in the tooth, having been launched in 1997, with a facelift a couple of years ago. No replacement is yet inked in – perhaps the thought of having to name it C4, a kind of plastic explosive, is putting the firm off. The model here, the 2.0 HDi 110 SX, has the cheapest P11d value and also has the joint-lowest CO2 emissions, on 138 g/km.

The Xsara shares its super-clean 110bhp engine with the Peugeot 307, launched to great acclaim in 2001. Last year the 307 was the second best-selling fleet diesel of the cars here, with more than 15,800 units, only 200 or so behind the 406. The Xsara was next with about 11,500 registrations, pipping the Laguna by 300.

The fourth car here from the Peugeot-Citroen group is the C5, which uses the older 90bhp diesel engine. Despite being the least powerful car here, the Citroen C5 is the largest, and is aimed at drivers wanting comfort and a wafty ride.

Renault's two cars in the survey both use variations of its well-received 1.9-litre dCi common rail unit. At the lower end of its range, the Laguna uses the 100bhp version, while the 1.9 dCi engine in the Megane is tuned to 120bhp, without worsening the fuel economy and CO2 emissions.

The Megane is the newest here, going on sale late last year, and providing a genuine change in style and approach with its big-bottomed rear. Whether the leasing companies will be able to confidently predict its appeal to drivers, and subsequent residual values after a three year fleet life is another matter though.

Alan Hale
Customer services director, Inchcape Fleet Solutions
'These cars are perfect for fleets, coupling comfortable driving conditions with reasonable rentals and room for the family at the weekend. The new European styling being introduced by Renault is turning heads and making the new Megane a firm favourite with the image conscious. Peugeot's 307 is proving itself to be a worthy successor to the 306, finding its niche with those searching for a fun family hatch.'

Andrew Cope
Managing director, Zenith Vehicle Contracts
'This sector accounts for the vast majority of company cars, with a veritable feast of vehicles available catering for most drivers' personalities and requirements. At one end of the scale there is the prestige badge driver (A3/Golf), those who want ride and handling (Focus) and at the other end the more size-conscious driver (307/C5). Unfortunately, no one car ticks all the boxes but the Laguna has a good go.'

Tracy McMahon
Pricing manager, Lloyds TSB autolease
'This month's survey considers the three French manufacturers – Citroen, Peugeot and Renault. In my opinion they have all produced some good quality cars but if I was to pick a current favourite it would have to be Renault. The styling it has used, especially on the new Megane, is excellent. It looks different from any other cars you see but yet is still comfortable, practical and also affordable.'

Richard Schooling
Commercial director, Alphabet
'You look to the French manufacturers for diesels that are stylish and fun but they've been playing it safe for the past few years. Now they've returned to making enjoyable tax-beaters like the Megane, which is a real breath of fresh air. The new Megane is the pick of the bunch here if you're a driver into having fun on the road. Let's hope for still more of the famous French je ne sais quois in this key sector.'

David Harnett
Head of LeasePlan Fleetline
'An interesting comparison this month, looking at three French vehicle manufacturers who have evolved in very different ways over the past decade. From the practical and functional Citroen C5 to the innovative and daring new Renault Megane there is a real variety of vehicles to look at. All of the vehicles here have their own appeal but it is those that appeal to the masses that will be the most successful.'

Vital statistics: how our models compare

Average monthly rental rates
Peugeot 406 £278
Renault Megane £292
Citroen Xsara £299
Peugeot 307 £301
Citroen C5 £305
Renault Laguna £305
Average based on results from our leasing panel

Average maintenance costs (3years/60,000 miles)
Renault Megane £1,605
Citroen Xsara £1,623
Peugeot 406 £1,656
Renault Laguna £1,730
Citroen C5 £1,733
Peugeot 307 £1,764
Average based on results from our leasing panel

RV forecasts (3years/60,000 miles)
Peugeot 307 £4,448/31%
Renault Megane £4,158/29%
Renault Laguna £3,779/26%
Citroen Xsara £3,433/24%
Citroen C5 £3,603/24%
Peugeot 406 £3,321/22%
Average based on results from our leasing panel

CO2 Emissions (model and g/km/tax band)
Citroen Xsara 138/18%
Peugeot 307 138/18%
Renault Megane 144/18%
Renault Laguna 144/18%
Peugeot 406 148/18%
Citroen C5 152/18%
Source: Vehicle Certification Agency (2003/04 tax year)

Combined mpg
Citroen Xsara 54.3
Peugeot 307 54.1
Renault Megane 52.4
Renault Laguna 52.4
Peugeot 406 50.5
Citroen C5 49.6
Source: Vehicle Certification Agency

Citroen Xsara 2.0 HDi 90 SX

Cope: 'Provides value for money and is performing well alongside the likes of Skoda. Unfortunately, despite good performance, in a market of new styles and exciting designs the Xsara is viewed less favourably.'
Harnett: 'One of the older models in this sector, the Xsara will appeal to the driver that wants value for money. Although the rentals are not the cheapest, the Xsara has a decent standard specification level, the lowest CO2 emissions rating and the highest economy.'
McMahon: 'Good value for money and very economical to run at 54mpg. It has the joint lowest CO2 emissions with the Peugeot 307, with a BIK band of 18%. Styling is now looking a bit dated but it is due for replacement with the C4.'
Schooling: 'A value-led package but it lacks the appeal of newer rivals, especially in terms of road manners and the quality of the interior.'
Hale: 'Not a new kid on the block but continual updates have helped it keep up with the game. Interior lacks the space of the 307 and the trim needs an update, but recent price slash means the Xsara provides a great deal of car for its price.'

Average monthly rental: £299
P11D price: £14,060
Average net price: £11,496
Average maintenance £1,623
Average RV £3,433/24%

Rental Rates
Inchcape £300.21
Zenith £295.77
Alphabet £294.40
LeasePlan £308.71
Lloyds TSB autolease £298.34

2003 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £557/£1,012
2003 VED bill: £110

Citroen C5 2.0 HDi 90 LX

Harnett: 'With the most expensive rentals in this sector, the C5 needs to deliver in every area. It's a great tourer with excellent load space and towing capability.'
McMahon: 'The C5 is a very practical car and it is one of the biggest in its class. There is a large amount of passenger and luggage space and the hydraulic suspension remains level no matter what the load. However the C5 is let down by the styling.'
Schooling: 'The C5 is a lot of car for the money. A cost-aware driver can have one for less than £5 a month more in BIK than a Xsara – although, if I had the choice, I'd pay a little extra for a 2.2-litre.'
Hale: 'An impressive contender in the family car market. Diesel gives a good performance and is well refined. There is ample space for five adults with plenty of head and legroom. An excellent performer over long distances.'
Cope: 'Provides very good interior space and great value for money. Unfortunately its quirky design and large appearance are not to everyone's tastes, and will affect its take-up within fleets.'

Average monthly rental: £305
P11D price: £14,840
Average net price: £11,963
Average maintenance: £1,733
Average RV: £3,603/24%

Rental Rates
Inchcape £301.93
Zenith £299.62
Alphabet £298.26
LeasePlan £318.84
Lloyds TSB autolease £305.63

2003 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £588/£1,068
2003 VED bill: £130

Peugeot 307 2.0 HDi 110 Rapier

McMahon: 'Good levels of equipment and loads of room due to its mini-MPV style. Styling is not to everyone's taste but does mean the car is spacious with a large boot.
Schooling: 'It's neither exciting nor dull to drive but it does have excellent fleet credentials. High levels of safety and security, plenty of space, lots of gizmos and strong residuals add up to a good package.'
Hale: 'The much-loved 306 is a hard act to follow but the 307 has made a masterful start. The spacious interior is coupled with a high level of quality and the power and efficiency of this model have been well received.'
Cope: 'The 307's great looks seem to be very popular with fleets and its performance is very similar to that of the Xsara due to them sharing a similar engine. Despite the appearance of volume, the interior space is somewhat disappointing. Still a credible alternative to the Ford Focus.'
Harnett: 'A rival to the class-leading Focus, the 307 is an attractive car with emphasis on safety and practicality. Excellent CO2 and strong residuals mean that 307 is an attractive proposition.'

Average monthly rental: £301
P11D price £14,525
Average net price £12,022
Average maintenance £1,764
Average RV £4,448/31%

Rental Rates
Inchcape £304.00
Zenith £301.33
Alphabet £286.03
LeasePlan £303.11
Lloyds TSB autolease £308.87

2003 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £575/£1,046
2003 VED bill: £110

Peugeot 406 2.0 HDi 90 LX

Schooling: 'With the 407 waiting in the wings, the 406 inevitably suffers in this group, especially on RVs. Even so, it's still a tireless and reliable choice for high-mileage drivers.'
Hale: 'A distinctive alternative to its rivals although it is looking slightly tired. Ride and handling are incredibly strong and the refinement is of a high quality. Low rentals and reasonable CO2 emissions are all in its favour.'
Cope: 'A well-established quality car, offering drivers comfort, economical and practical motoring. It is well-specified and offers drivers a simple and cost-effective car. Unfortunately it is now starting to look dated.'
Harnett: 'The oldest model in this sector. The 406, once a class leader, still offers the company car driver a very economical and practical choice with the lowest rentals and good specification level including sat-nav as standard across the range. It is now looking dated and would not appeal to those who are driven by looks and image over price.'
McMahon: 'Looking past its best now but its replacement is due out in 2004. It lacks the high-tech equipment levels that the Renault Laguna has but still has a great diesel engine.'

Average monthly rental: £278
P11D price: £14,860
Average net price: £11,529
Average maintenance: £1,656
Average RV: £3,321/22%

Rental Rates
Inchcape £273.64
Zenith £281.27
Alphabet £276.15
LeasePlan £275.88
Lloyds TSB autolease £281.47

2003 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £588/£1,069
2003 VED bill: £110

Renault Megane 1.9 dCi Dynamique

Hale: 'A breath of fresh air with its unusual styling. The look of this car may well induce a love or hate relationship but definitely stands out from the crowd. Interior, despite a high quality finish, is let down by a lack of space.'
Cope: 'Certainly turns heads and this is carried through into its performance. The diesel option delivers economical driving and quality performance. A great mid-range vehicle.'
Harnett: 'The newest model here and the most radical-looking, the Megane will appeal to the style-conscious driver. With strong residuals, low CO2 emissions and excellent MPG it is a sensible choice.'
McMahon: 'One of those cars you really like or you really hate. Personally I really like it as the new shape makes it stand out in the crowd. The seats are comfortable so if you're on the road a lot it is excellent, and the brakes are powerful. The only drawback being there is a lack of space in the rear.'
Schooling: 'Lovely 120bhp motor and well-spaced six-speed gearbox make the compact Megane the pick of the bunch here if you're into having fun. As for getting you noticed, nothing else can compare this month.'

Average monthly rental: £292
P11D price: £14,365
Average net price: £11,688
Average maintenance: £1,605
Average RV: £4,158/29%

Rental Rates
Inchcape £302.79
Zenith £293.84
Alphabet £282.05
LeasePlan £284.99
Lloyds TSB autolease £296.56

2003 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £569/£1,034
2003 VED bill: £110

Renault Laguna dCi 100 Authentique

Cope: 'A strong vehicle within this class. Its new styling and great performance provide drivers with an all-round high quality vehicle. All models are well specified and as the lead-in model the Authentique is a great option for lower level company car drivers.'
Harnett: 'The most stylish choice with sporting looks and a high level of standard specification. It is also a sound economical and efficient choice with low CO2 emissions, excellent MPG and strong residuals.'
McMahon: 'Excellent styling both in hatch and estate derivatives. Monthly rental is the highest but to compensate the BIK is at 18%. If its safety you are looking for the Laguna has achieved a five-star Euro NCAP rating.'
Hale: 'The Laguna is one of the safest family cars out there. A pleasant and comfortable drive although it does lack excitement. A great family or fleet car, although interior space is not as generous as with some other models.'
Schooling: 'It stands up well compared to the C5 and 406, though not so strongly against class leaders like the Mondeo. Time will tell whether the ambitious high-tech specification is matched by reliability.'

Average monthly rental: £305
P11D price: £14,620
Average net price: £11,894
Average maintenance: £1,730
Average RV: £3,779/26%

Rental Rates
Inchcape £317.91
Zenith £311.04
Alphabet £287.66
LeasePlan £299.53
Lloyds TSB autolease £309.72

2003 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £579/£1,053
2003 VED bill: £110

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