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The Fleet News’ 50 Greatest Company Cars Ever: the countdown begins

WHAT do you think is the greatest company car of all time? Which one has combined low running costs and excellent reliability while also giving company car drivers a motor that they are proud to display on their drive?

We asked dozens of top figures from the fleet and leasing industries for their opinions on the cars they have driven, bought and sold over four decades of company motoring.

Their choices are not based on sales, or profit or price. It’s purely personal opinion of their favourites based on years of experience.

We haven’t included cars that have been on sale for less than two years – they haven’t completed an entire contract cycle so have yet to establish their places in the pantheon of greats. This week we announce those from 50 to 31, and over the next two issues we’ll count down to the car they voted as ‘The Greatest Company Car Ever!’

This week: 50-31

50. AUSTIN CAMBRIDGE

THE Austin Cambridge, and its sister, the Morris Oxford, was a Farina-styled saloon that was popular with travelling salesmen of the age. It started life in 1954 with a 1.2-litre pushrod engine but the real star was the A60 model (pictured below), introduced in 1961 with a 1.6-litre motor, selling more than 275,000 units until its death in 1969.

49. CITROEN BX

THE BX was resolutely, defiantly, brilliantly odd. With a strange dash, hydropneumatic suspension and electric goodies like windows, central locking and mirrors (that did or didn’t work), as well as being an early adopter of ABS, it was not short of kit. But despite the eccentricity, in 1.9 diesel form the BX proved derv could be desirable in a company car.

48. JAGUAR MK ll

JAGUAR delivered a ‘small saloon’ to the boardroom that was affordable but luxurious – a formula it has stuck to ever since. Available in 2.4, 3.4 and 136mph 3.8-litre forms, the Mark II was as popular with police fleets as with executives, and came appointed with little luxuries like two-speed wipers and a cigar lighter, as well as disc brakes.

47. TOYOTA AVENSIS

RELIABLE, if a little dull, the workaday Avensis proved that the Japanese really could deliver in the fleet market. Available in saloon, estate and oddly-titled Liftback, with indestructible petrol and diesel options, the British-built Avensis proved a trustworthy, high mileage repmobile.

46. BMC 1100/1300

THE little British Motor Corporation cars were the first repmobiles that were really good to drive. At full production in 1965, six versions had been launched in MG, Morris, Vanden Plas, Austin, Wolseley and Riley forms, taking a hefty 14.3% of total UK sales. It sported 1.1 and 1.3-litre engines but by 1974 was horribly outdated, and was replaced with the Austin Allegro.

45. TRIUMPH 2000

ROLLED out by Triumph to rival the Rover 2000, it was cheaper and had a silky-smooth six-cylinder motor. After 1969 it featured more stylish Italian lines thanks to Michelotti, inspired by the Triumph Stag. Larger Mark I 2500 models had fuel injection but were unreliable and thirsty, while the 2000 remained popular thanks to its trusty Stromberg carburettors.

44. CITROEN XANTIA

REPLACING the BX, the Xantia was more a sane, elegant design, while still showcasing some of Citroen’s idiosyncratic technology. More expensive models were available with an enhanced version of the Hydractive computer-controlled hydropneumatic set-up. It was also the first mainstream car to come with air conditioning as standard.

43. ROVER 200

THE 1989 Rover 200 was heavily based on the Honda Concerto. This partnership made the 200 one of the more reliable members of the Rover family. Not only was it a huge leap forward for the brand, but it featured an early version of the much-vaunted K-series engine range with 1.4-litres as well as a Honda 1.6-litre unit.

42. VAUXHALL SENATOR

REMEMBER when volume brands could do big cars? A stretched version of the Carlton, the Senator in 3.0 24v form was a favourite of top management, and with its 204bhp it was a hugely popular police traffic car. The CD version had adjustable suspension, air conditioning, heated seats, trip computer and cruise control.

41. AUDI 80

LOOK at any Audi now and its smooth, balanced design can be traced back to the Audi 80, which in 1987 proved the brand was beginning to emerge. Although not on choice lists, the later Cabriolet, as driven by Princess Diana, paved the way for the cool convertibles available today.

40. MINI

THE new MINI, with its strong residual values – giving it good leasing costs – and huge brand appeal has proved a popular choice for younger user-choosers. Although the diesel is a waste of time, in Cooper and Cooper S forms the MINI is a cheeky, great fun runabout with good reliability and excellent running costs.

39. VAUXHALL CALIBRA

AT last, a fantastic-looking coupe with four seats and a big boot that wasn’t a Capri. Plus it was affordable, even if it looked better than it drove with its Cavalier underpinnings. The Calibra gave drivers a viable way out of a saloon or hatchback – and took over the mantle held by the Capri which had died a couple of years before.

38. MERCEDES-BENZ S-CLASS

ALMOST universally acclaimed as ‘the best car in the world’ at launch, the S-class was less bulky than its predecessor and introduced the world to a plethora of previously unseen technology, including radar cruise control, Pre-Safe, active seats and diesel executive cars. Still the choice of many MDs and chauffeur fleets.

37. ROVER P6 3500

AS middle class as Margot Leadbetter and The Daily Mail, The P (for ‘Post war’) 6 3500 was the choice of middle management everywhere. The aluminium V8 3.5-litre engine was borrowed from the Buick Special to differentiate it from the rival Triumph 2000 and it was still powering MG Rover cars three decades after the 3500 ceased production.

36. MERCEDES-BENZ 190

WITH the arrival of the 190, the three-pointed star was suddenly available to company car drivers who would never have dreamt of such a badge on their drive. Massively over-engineered, the 190 - dubbed ‘the baby Benz’ - was utterly bombproof, and had equally rock-like residuals thanks to its popularity with second-hand buyers.

35. RENAULT LAGUNA

THE 1994 Renault Laguna replaced the boxy and unloved 21 and proved that choosing a repmobile didn’t mean you had to sacrifice style at the altar of utility. Its svelte Gallic lines really launched the brand headlong into the UK fleet market, and late in life the Laguna was one of the first to introduce common rail diesel technology.

34. MERCEDES-BENZ E-CLASS

MERCEDES-Benz claimed that the E-class was ‘everything we know in one car’, and came with firsts such as fly-by-wire Sensotronic Brake Control and Airmatic suspension. Although not as heftily constructed as its predecessor, a wide choice of engines, especially in diesel form, and classiness as standard ensure it is a massive corporate seller for the brand.

33. AUDI A4

THE A4 finally put Audi on an equal footing with BMW’s 3-series. It may not be as fun to drive as its rival, but company car drivers love its more understated style and, with strong diesels, the A4 has caught the mood, and tax regime, at exactly the right time. Avant estate models have real class, if not much space.

32. VOLVO 940 ESTATE

THE saloon had as much style as a breeze block, but the cavernous, square-edged 940 estate made much more sense. In 2.3 LPT (light pressure turbo) form, Volvo was one of the first manufacturers to use the turbo as a subtle torque enhancement as opposed to a bomb strapped to the engine.

31. VAUXHALL CAVALIER

THE car that launched millions of reps, the original Cavalier, launched in 1975, was a restyled version of the German Opel Ascona, but built in Luton. Available with a choice of 1.6 and 1.9-litre engines as well as a two-door coupe, the rear-drive Cavalier was better to drive than the mighty Cortina, and allowed Vauxhall to finally take the fight to Ford.

Next week: we reveal 30-11

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