Fleet News

Diesel concern at new breed of MPVs

THE latest newcomer to the mini-MPV sector is the Fiat Idea. Following the press launch I was struck by the way this corner of the market has developed.

It is tempting to argue that Fiat may have led the way with the first small people carrier. Back in 1956, it launched the 600 Multipla, which had three rows of seats and carried six people. But the Idea joins a list of already established mini MPVs in a fast-growing market.

The Vauxhall Meriva was launched last summer and joined the likes of Hyundai Matrix, Mitsubishi Spacestar, Perodua Kenari and some would even put Ford Fusion and Honda Jazz into this category. The Suzuki Wagon R and Vauxhall Agila were among the first, at least in recent times, to start this new wave of small, adaptable cars, but their angular appearance was not to everyone's tastes.

This new breed has changed all that and they are certainly nicer looking and blend into the traffic quite comfortably. Not everyone wishes to stand out from the crowd.

Launches into this sector have not yet stopped and this shows the faith manufacturers have in its long-term future. Interestingly, many of those I have spoken to expect some migration to these from the traditional C sector car, like Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra or even from larger people carriers.

Whether or not they are right, there is certainly migration between sectors taking place, as the downsizing from the D sector has long demonstrated.

On the used market, it is too early to say whether this type of car will be in as much demand as the manufacturers hope. But one fact is becoming clear – that diesel variants will not be in demand. Certainly, the used car buyer demonstrably seeks out versatility and economy, with features like five doors and small external dimensions valued by many.

But their long-term success is by no means guaranteed and this is perhaps reflected by new sales projections which remain relatively low. This bodes well for future used examples, if volumes do remain limited. In the case of Idea, Fiat expects to sell 6,800 this year, 25% of which will be diesel. The diesel figure may be optimistic, given that last year, of just under 8,300 Vauxhall Merivas sold, only 105 were the diesel variant.

This year, Vauxhall expects to sell about 25,000 Merivas in total.

Of the 1,579 sales in January, however, just 186 were diesel. The need for a diesel unit in this type of car is clearly limited and this is likely to carry through to the used market in future.

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