Fleet News

Contract hire survey: lower-medium diesels

Peugeot believes its new 308 can compete with the best at the heart of the fleet market. What does the Fleet News leasing panel think?

This is the very heart of the fleet market: cheap to run, economical diesel engines, low benefit-in-kind tax and manufacturers all committed to doing serious fleet business.

Of the top 10-selling fleet cars in the UK, four of the six here are currently in it – the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf and Renault Megane, while the Honda Civic is proving massively popular, with sales booming.

The sixth car would be in the top 10 too, but for the fact it has only recently gone on sale.

The newest entrant is Peugeot’s 308, a car it believes can take on the very best in the sector, replacing a car in the 307 that did decent volume but never entirely convinced as an overall package.

To take the top spot, the 308 will have to have the brand appeal of the leasing industry’s darling, the Volkswagen Golf, as well as the eye-catching styling of the Honda Civic.

Throw in the driving charisma of the Ford Focus, the all-round fleet ability of the Vauxhall Astra and a dash of French sophistication from the Renault Megane and you could have the fleet car with everything.

So here we pitch the 308 against them all – each one a major contender in the market – to see how it stacks up. It doesn’t get harder or more competitive than this.

WHAT THE PANEL SAID

  • DEAN WOODWARD
    Contract services manager, DaimlerChrysler Fleet Management

    “A fiercely competitive sector. In the past, it was benchmarked only by the Focus and Astra, but is now joined by the Golf, which has brought an element of quality to the sector.

    To feature on choice lists these vehicles must perform on P11D value, BIK, fuel economy, style and comfort, but the real difference is in appearance.

    Renault and Honda opted for revolutionary designs whereas the others, especially VW, have evolved more subtly. Although wholelife costs are critical, the driver will be keen to get the most value for money, even if this means spending a little more in tax.”

  • CHRIS CROW
    Head of risk, Hitachi Capital

    “Strong residuals and reasonable discounts make the new 308 a sensible choice, bundling enhanced levels of quality in an attractive package.

    Of the two sector stalwarts, relatively low equipment levels and diminishing RVs reduce the cost-effectiveness of the Astra, while the Focus is saved by sensible discounts.

    Despite the attractive shape, lack of air-con, stereo or alloy wheels make this Civic variant the archetypal RV timebomb.

    Comprehensive equipment list and powerful, clean engines characterise the Megane, though the styling looks dated.

    The Golf benefits from strong RVs and competitive running costs but has limited discounts.”

  • STEVE JONES
    Pricing manager, Lex

    “The 308 may be Peugeot’s most important model since 206, and not a moment too soon.

    This is the best chance for a French manufacturer to win new fleet customers since Megane’s slightly mistimed launch, just before the replacement of Focus, Astra and Golf in 2004/2005.

    Setting a huge hurdle for competitors, early indications were that the fifth generation Golf would struggle to retain its benchmark status, and that Focus and Astra were technically superior.

    In truth only Civic has come close to being a real rival. Peugeot’s latest is maybe not as brave as the Honda, but it’s fresh, stylish and timed to perfection.”

  • ANDREW MEE
    Commercial operations manager, Lloyds TSB autolease

    “More fleet vehicles are ordered from this sector than any other. The medium-sized hatchback provides a great all-round package of space, practicality, driver appeal, affordability and environmental performance.

    The new Peugeot 308 offers marked improvements in quality over the outgoing 307, albeit with slightly odd styling.

    The Astra and Focus tend to compete directly; the Focus has the more involving drive, but large discounts make the Astra the cheapest to lease. Honda has moved the radically-styled Civic upmarket and the Megane remains a popular choice, but it is the Golf that gets the most favourable RVs.”

    Average leasing rates

    The Megane is the cheapest to rent thanks to a lot of manufacturer support, although all are closely matched in this competitive sector. The Golf is the dearest – VW doesn’t need to support it for it to sell.

    CO2 emissions

    All the cars here have very low levels of CO2, although the Megane and Honda stand out. The Renault’s extra low levels of 120g/km are very good, while the Honda emits 135g/km and has 140bhp.

    Fuel economy

    Driven carefully, all these cars should see the sunny side of 50mpg in real-world conditions, which is seriously frugal motoring. The Megane is the star, though.

    Residual values

    The Golf and Civic are a long way ahead of the rest of their competitors in this sector, and RVs in the 40%s for these types of car with these high volumes is very impressive.

    Average discount

    There’s a huge split here with the newer cars – and the Golf – offering up to only a third of the discount of the older models, which have to support lower RVs with cash off at the front end.

    Average maintenance

    Who said German cars are expensive to service? The Golf is easily the cheapest here, followed by the Astra, while the Megane’s reputation for unreliability sees it hugely off the pace.

    Verdict

    1. VW Golf 1.9 TDI Match 5dr

    P11D price: £15,902
    2007 BIK bill (22%): £630
    2007 VED bill: £115

    RENTAL RATES
    DCFM: £306
    Hitachi Capital: £318
    Lex: £309
    Lloyds TSB autolease: £306

    VERDICT:

    Seemingly as always the Golf comes first: strong residuals, a desirable model and good running costs make it the leasing industry’s favourite car.

    2. Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi 110 Style 5dr

    P11D price: £15,630
    2007 BIK bill (22%): £619
    2007 VED bill: £115

    RENTAL RATES: DCFM: £304
    Hitachi Capital: £264
    Lex: £324
    Lloyds TSB autolease: £277

    VERDICT:

    Something of a surprise second place, the Focus struggles with RVs but is still a great car to drive and, close to a refresh, a popular fleet choice.

    3. Peugeot 308 1.6 HDi S 5dr

    P11D price: £15,430
    2007 BIK bill (22%): £611
    2007 VED bill: £115

    RENTAL RATES:
    DCFM: £297
    Hitachi Capital: £313
    Lex: £302
    Lloyds TSB autolease: £277

    VERDICT:

    The new 308 puts up a very solid showing in all areas and isn’t weak in any. It looks likely to be contender on many fleet choice lists.

    4. Honda Civic 2.2 i-CTDi S 5dr

    P11D price: £15,132
    2007 BIK bill (22%): £599
    2007 VED bill: £115

    RENTAL RATES :
    DCFM: £302
    Hitachi Capital: £315
    Lex: £295
    Lloyds TSB autolease: £315

    VERDICT:

    A disappointing fourth, as the Civic stacks up well in terms of residuals and performance. Votes reflect its “love it or loathe it” styling.

    5. Vauxhall Astra CDTi 100 Club 5dr

    P11D price: £15,685
    2007 BIK bill (22%): £621
    2007 VED bill: £115

    RENTAL RATES
    DCFM: £300
    Hitachi Capital: £320
    Lex: £294
    Lloyds TSB autolease: £254

    VERDICT:

    A stalwart of the industry and still delivers on many fronts, especially in SMR costs. Residuals on a par with Focus – driving ability lags just behind.

    6. Renault Megane dCi 106 Dyn 5dr

    P11D price: £15,145
    2007 BIK bill (22%): £603
    2007 VED bill: £35

    RENTAL RATES : DCFM: £283
    Hitachi Capital: £299
    Lex: £282
    Lloyds TSB autolease: £287

    VERDICT:

    The Megane struggles through a legacy of unreliability but is cheap to run thanks to high front-end support and excellent fuel and CO2 levels.

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