Peugeot 407 2.0 HDi 136 SE
P11D price £17,277
2004 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £646/£1,175
2004 VED bill: £135
LeasePlan Fleetline £368.34
Lex Vehicle Leasing £374.43
Custom Fleet £365.39
Lloyds TSB autolease £366.33
Vauxhall Vectra 1.9 CDTi 16V Club 150
P11D price: £17,212
2004 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%) £644/£1,170
2004 VED bill £135
LeasePlan Fleetline £390.60
Lex Vehicle Leasing £402.80
Custom Fleet £382.35
Lloyds TSB autolease £389.02
Toyota Avensis 2.0 D-4D T3-X
P11D price £16,662
2004 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £623/£1,133
2004 VED bill: £135
LeasePlan Fleetline £352.73
Lex Vehicle Leasing £375.65
Custom Fleet £335.76
Lloyds TSB autolease £322.85
Renault Laguna 1.9 dCi Dynamique 5dr
P11D price: £17,162
2004 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £717/£1,304
2004 VED bill: £115
LeasePlan Fleetline £341.77
Lex Vehicle Leasing £368.69
Custom Fleet £359.43
Lloyds TSB autolease £332.83
Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi 130 LX 4dr
P11D price £17,292
2004 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £685/£1,245
2004 VED bill £135
LeasePlan Fleetline £341.70
Lex Vehicle Leasing £375.52
Custom Fleet £365.71
Lloyds TSB autolease £372.99
Volkswagen Passat 1.9 TDI 130 Highline
P11D price £17,677
2004 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £778/£1,414
2004 VED bill £135
LeasePlan Fleetline £366.67
Lex Vehicle Leasing £414.29
Custom Fleet £364.85
Lloyds TSB autolease £364.38
David Harnett Head of LeasePlan Fleetline
THESE upper-medium vehicles are the most popular in what is the biggest sector of the fleet market. It is a market once dominated by a few, very fleet-specific brands but has now seen other manufacturers, such as Toyota, Volkswagen, Peugeot and Renault offer viable alternatives to the popular Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Vectra for many company car fleets.
The benchmark vehicles of this category continue to improve with Euro IV engines (thus avoiding the 3% benefit-in-kind supplement) and improved specification levels.
In my mind, the Toyota Avensis leads the way with great specification and class-leading reliability.
However, the recently-released Peugeot 407 looks set to have a major impact in this sector with stylish looks and strong residuals.
The Volkswagen Passat is coming to the end of its current life but the Highline model offers a level of luxury that is very popular with fleet managers and drivers alike.
Pricing manager, Lloyds TSB autolease
The quality of cars in this sector has improved in the last few years. Peugeot is the most recent to revamp its offering with the 407. Its sporty shape, aggressive front styling and safety equipment ensures the 407 stands out against the competition.
The Passat has the strongest residual value, mainly as a result of the brand, but the 407, Laguna and Avensis also do well. However, the Passat's diesel engine is not Euro IV compliant.
Maintenance budgets are reasonable on most, except for the Laguna where it is significantly higher.
Standard equipment levels are pretty good and safety equipment proves exceptional. Most models have climate control except for the Vectra and the Mondeo, with the latter being the only one not to offer alloy wheels as standard. The Passat Highline derivative is particularly well equipped, with leather as standard and a CD autochanger.
Consultancy manager, DaimlerChrysler Services Fleet Management
THE sector is under increasing pressure from the lower-medium bands, especially in terms of company car choice.
This gives the driver a difficult choice: does he/she opt for a low-spec compact executive or downgrade to a more emission-friendly high-spec lower-medium car and save tax?
This sector is very much prone to company car park politics, ie 'Which is the best badge for your money?'
As for the vehicles themselves, the real winners will be the models with longevity – those vehicles that are tried and tested or have a good reliable reputation or status. This points to the Passat, Mondeo and Vectra.
However, the value-for-money high-spec Avensis range does appear to be in the forefront of late. So this ultimately leaves the French marques trying to prove themselves in reliability and build-quality stakes. They should, in theory, compete with the mainstay if these qualities are achieved but they will only do this if their designs don't stray too far from the norm.
The choice can be fickle and will depend on where they are in their lifecycle.
Trade services manager, Custom Fleet
This segment has changed in recent times. Diesel sales have soared due to their economy and tax liability in combination with drivers downsizing or switching to lifestyle vehicles.
The cars reviewed are generally of high quality and much of a muchness, with excellent diesel engines combining turbo-powered performance with superb fuel consumption, although not all are Euro IV compliant.
The Passat Highline is the odd one out, being something of a run-out edition with extra specification, and it is for this reason we have given it a strong residual value, even though it's long in the tooth and RVs have suffered from its popularity.
Most of the models featured have by now ironed out any reliability issues, but there still remains a question mark over the Renault Laguna which has suffered in this area, while the Avensis has, from our experience, a very strong mechanical reliability record.
Of the newcomer, the 407 has excellent driving dynamics and, while not being quite as visually appealing as some, it's well-specified with an excellent diesel engine.
Pricing manager, Lex Vehicle Leasing
Driving the 407 for the first time, I was impressed by the space, refinement and build quality. On reflection, I'm not sure why – every new car in sector seems to offer those attributes and looks apart there's little to separate them.
Vectra combines huge cabin and boot space with incredibly low road noise. Passat and Avensis offer build quality not previously seen in this sector. Mondeo hangs onto its 'driver's car' tag despite its age, and Laguna's ride is arm-chair like.
So what's 407 got that's new? Design? Well, whether you like the Ferrari-style nose or not, it's definitely striking head-on, something its competitors can't claim. However, reversed up to a Laguna in Warwick Services' car-park I was amazed by the similarity from the windscreen backwards.
Peugeot's reputation for good quality diesel engines remains intact, and fuel economy is excellent, although the competition is closer than ever. 407's predecessor didn't have a great reputation for reliability, but stories abound of Mondeo front tyres, Laguna electronics, Passat coils and even Avensis clutches.
Contract hire survey ranking
1. The leasing panel put the Avensis at the top of its wish-list, and to be honest, it won by a distance. Excellent reliability, decent residuals, cheap monthly rates and low emissions make it a good proposition for fleets and drivers alike.
2. IT might be getting long in the tooth, but the Passat is still a strong favourite of the leasing industry with excellent secondhand values. It may cost more in rentals and there aren't many discounts to be had, but it appears you get what you pay for.
3. The leasing panel voted the Ford Mondeo their third choice here. It's a great drivers' car and is big and comfortable, as well as benefiting from some good deals. The highest on emissions and worst on fuel economy though.
4. This is something of a shock result. The new 407 comes fourth out of six, mainly because it doesn't excel in any one area. Look at our tables and it doesn't come top in any area, but neither does it come bottom. It matches the Mondeo for driving.
5. VAUXHALL'S lowly showing here is down to the fact that it is not offering big discounts on its new CDTi-engined Vectras yet, which is pushing up rentals. Unfortunately, the RVs have not risen with the front end price.
6. RENAULT'S Laguna is judged last here. High maintenance costs – our panel raised build and reliability issues regularly – don't help with rentals, and although it has excellent emissions levels, the fact that it is still Euro III negates any advantage.