Supermini MPVs buck the growing trend
PEOPLE carriers seem to be following the trends of many consumer products, like hi-fis, DVD players and mobile phones, by getting smaller and smaller as time goes on.
In direct contrast to every other vehicle segment, the mini-MPV gets more compact, and the selection of vehicles here illustrates how crowded this sector within a sector is getting. A lot of it is down to practicality – optimum space efficiency is the key with these MPVs based on superminis, and many use sliding seats and extra storage compartments to achieve this.
But it’s not just about space. Cheap running is important, and that means a small, economical engine, low service, maintenance and repair costs coupled to a decent return at disposal.
The ideal combination of these will result in low contract hire rates and the chance for company car drivers lower down the ladder to have a car that comes without many of the shortcomings and lack of space of superminis.
However, just because these cars look taller than their supermini counterparts, it needs further investigation. Some are no more than jacked-up small cars, others are the real thing.
Fiat Idea 1.4 Dynamic
P11D price: £11,057
2004 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £414/£752
2004 VED bill: £160
LeasePlan Fleetline: £270
Lex Vehicle Leasing: £242
Custom Fleet: £237
Lloyds TSB autolease £251
Ford Fusion 1.4 2
P11D price: £10,907
2004 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £408/£742
2004 VED bill
LeasePlan Fleetline: £246
Lex Vehicle Leasing: £236
Custom Fleet: £231
Lloyds TSB autolease: £248
Honda Jazz 1.4 i-DSI SE Sport
P11D price: £11,357
2004 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £375/£681
2004 VED bill: £160
LeasePlan Fleetline: £244
Lex Vehicle Leasing: £221
Custom Fleet: £243
Lloyds TSB autolease £257
Renault Modus 1.4 Privilege
P11D price: £11,937
2004 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £473/£860
VED bill: £160
LeasePlan Fleetline: £242
Lex Vehicle Leasing: £248
Custom Fleet: £226
Lloyds TSB autolease £234
Toyota Yaris 1.3 VVT-i T3
P11D price: £10,657
2004 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £375/£682
2004 VED bill: £160
LeasePlan Fleetline: £250
Lex Vehicle Leasing: £234
Custom Fleet: £227
Lloyds TSB autolease: £245
Vauxhall Meriva 1.9 1.6V Life
P11D price: £11,232
2004 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £395/£719
2004 VED bill: £160
LeasePlan Fleetline £241
Lex Vehicle Leasing £226
Custom Fleet £218
Lloyds TSB autolease £227
Head of LeasePlan Fleetline
This is a sector that from a slow start is becoming increasingly important to the contract hire market. It is particularly appealing to drivers and fleet managers looking for fuel and tax-efficient vehicles that maintain the ability to carry four ‘reasonably’ sized adults or the driver’s family.
Renault is the latest entry to the sector with the Modus, which copies the distinctive styling already seen across the other members of the Renault range.
With a strong residual value and excellent rates on contract hire, this looks like being a strong contender in an ever-increasing marketplace.
To succeed, the Renault will have to compete with two other favourites in the class, the Honda Jazz and Ford Fusion 2. Now well established in the market, these two models continue to be among the most popular available to company car drivers. Vauxhall and Toyota also have strong ‘supermini MPV’ contenders with the Meriva and Yaris.
Consultancy manager, DaimlerChrysler Services Fleet Management
Supermini MPVs aren’t by their nature a popular fleet vehicle. Aiming more at the retail market, the manufacturers have managed to squeeze another segment into their line-up and indeed the marketplace.
These models have been realised by utilising the already existing supermini platform, pushing the wheels to each corner and combining the low floors with tall doors, resulting in a vehicle that’s big enough to carry five adults plus hand luggage, however still possessing the small and versatile characteristics of the supermini.
Each of the manufacturers here promotes their vehicle’s ability to carry the maximum load in a minimum space, such as the Meriva’s flexispace concept and the Modus Triptic rear seating. As well as their individual innovations, most of the vehicles featured here all provide a plethora of stowage areas and a handsome list of optional extras.
Pricing manager, Lloyds TSB autolease
Several new cars have been released in this sector recently. Many are a cross between small car and mini MPV. These types of cars will appeal to people with young families, probably being used for the school run, and people who prefer driving a small car but want that bit more room.
The Fiat Idea and Renault Modus are the newest additions to this sector. The Modus is quirky looking, following the styling of the rest of the Renault range. Its closest competitor would be the Vauxhall Meriva, which has a similar seating arrangement.
The Modus also has a ‘boot-chute’ allowing easier access to the boot without opening the tailgate. Although the Idea is cheaper than both the Modus and Meriva, aintenance budgets are higher and residual values lower, leading to a higher rental overall.
Another strong contender in this sector is the Honda Jazz. The cabin quality is good and the rear seat combination excellent. The SE and Sport models also come with alloy wheels. The mpg is the highest and the CO2 emissions the lowest in this sector.
Trade services manager, Custom Fleet
THE continuing emergence of the mini-MPV sector is virtually the creation of a niche within a niche, following on from the success of models like the Renault Scenic in the lower medium sector. It’s a classic case of the manufacturers trying to push as many customer buttons as possible and create blurred market sectors.
Therefore, it’s slightly surprising that it’s taken Renault quite so long to break into this sector, given the success of the Espace and the aforementioned Scenic in other areas of the market. With the new Modus, which really is the newest kid on the block, they seem to have got it right again, and the newly launched car takes the number one spot in the survey in our opinion. It has competitive rentals, strong RVs and a compelling front-end price for a car which also boasts an interesting design and a clever use of space.
The Vauxhall Meriva actually has the lowest monthly rental and although workmanlike in this company with styling that tends towards the bland, it has strong RVs and the lowest maintenance costs in the group.
The Toyota Yaris Verso has strong residual values and, like many Toyota models, has exemplary reliability, assets which are sure to make it a fleet favourite and a keen contender in this sector.
The pseudo 4x4 styling of the Ford Fusion doesn’t work for me personally, but that’s not to say that this model won’t be a success in its sector, and it is still a highly functional and effective performer.
The Fiat Idea suffers or benefits, depending on your point of view, from the rather idiosyncratic styling reminiscent of the larger Multipla MPV. There is still the continued overhang and question mark surrounding the Fiat brand while concerns about reliability mark it down, too.
The car that I actually think is the best built, most stylish and most desirable, the Honda Jazz, may struggle to find its way onto some fleet choice list. However, it is hampered by having the least competitive front-end price of the group by some considerable margin and the least attractive wholelife costs.
Pricing manager, Lex Vehicle Leasing
This month’s group of vehicles represents the first step on the company car ladder for many drivers and needs to provide the functionality of family transport in a smaller package.
Honda’s Jazz performs the task admirably with enormous load space in an attractive small car. The superb build quality, excellent reliability and good looks of the latest model finish the Jazz off nicely.
Renault’s Modus and Fiat’s Idea also benefit from excellent load capacity and the versatility to carry adults, their luggage or assorted DIY store clutter with ease. Both offer a good range of engines and decent specifications.
Vauxhall likes to present Meriva as a down-sized Zafira and it carries many of the same benefits – high driving position, versatile fold-flat seating and high roof line.
However the Meriva shares a problem with Ford’s Fusion and Mazda’s 2 – although very respectable cars in their own right, there’s too close a cross-over with the respective medium hatchbacks. New Astra, Focus and Mazda3 are so strong that it may be difficult for many people to walk away from the larger car.
Contract hire ranking
1. Renault Modus
THE new Modus proves a worthy winner with strong residuals, cunning design features and cheeky looks. It might be based on the ageing Clio, but the Modus is very modern.
2. Vauxhall Meriva
VAUXHALL’S Meriva was a close second to the Modus in terms of ranking, and a long way ahead of third place. Lots of space, well put together and cheap running costs make it a fine choice.
3. Honda Jazz
The Jazz is possibly the most supermini-like of the cars here, but there is an amazing amount of space inside, and that engine delivers excellent economy and low emissions.
4. Toyota Yaris Verso
Toyota’s Yaris Verso doesn’t really do anything wrong – it is reliable, has decent residual values and can be bought by fleets with some big discounts. But it doesn’t have the character of the first three.
5. Ford Fusion
FOrd has really missed a trick with the Fusion. While Vauxhall, Renault and Toyota have produced superb MPVs off their supermini platforms, the Fusion is lacklustre, and was voted a distant fifth.
6. Fiat Idea
The Idea was an easy sixth place for the panel. It has worse predicted residuals than all the others, while its SMR costs are high for a vehicle of this type: the leasing industry may not trust Fiat reliability.