Fleet News

Contract hire survey: premium sport hatchbacks

The MINI brand is embarking on its toughest challenge with the Clubman.

Much has been made of the Clubman’s rear suicide door opening on the road side of the car, but half of all car doors ever produced have a habit of doing that.

What is certain about the Clubman is that it has more interior space than its three-door sister and, alongside its very efficient diesel engine, could well find many fleet homes.

But what is its competition?

Size-wise, it may belong to a class that includes the likes of the Skoda Fabia estate and Peugeot 207 SW, but such is the brand strength of the MINI that size is almost irrelevant.

Instead, we’ve picked competition on price, badge prestige and individuality.

For practicality, the new Volkswagen Golf Estate looks a good bet.

The Nissan Qashqai has proved a popular seller in its first year, while the C30 has not been as successful as Volvo might have liked.

Audi’s A3 Sportback is in entry-level form here, but has a strong combination of extra space and designer style, while the Mercedes-Benz A-class, once as revolutionary and original, offers a premium badge and clever packaging at a very competitive price.

What the panel said

    Contract services manager, DaimlerChrysler Fleet Management

    The MINI now competes on practicality with other compacts.

    It has five doors, though the ‘clubdoor’ hasn’t been swapped to the left-hand side for the UK, attracting criticism that rear passengers will exit into the flow of traffic.

    Audi’s A3 is the benchmark for the premium hatch and remains hard to beat, with the Sportback increasing its practicality.

    Volvo’s C30, aimed at pre-family drivers in their 20s, is a change from the brand’s usual target market.

    Nissan’s Qashqai is a cross-breed that doesn’t fit in any sector. and lacks the prestige of the other brands.

    Head of risk, Hitachi Capital

    The single off-side rear passenger door may limit the Clubman’s appeal to those making a lifestyle choice and at this price it is up against the A3 sector benchmark with class-leading RVs and reasonable discounts.

    The current generation A-Class has never managed to gain the success of the previous model, while the Volvo C30 has ensured its place in this niche thanks to its stylish design.

    Nissan has successfully managed to switch out of a less profitable sector thanks to the Qashqai, while reasonable RVs and discounts, combined with low running costs, characterise the Golf Estate. Despite this, it just isn’t on the radar.

    Pricing manager, Lex

    The Mercedes-Benz’s residual value helps get the rental rate below £300 and for that you have a well-specified family car with a quality badge on the bonnet.

    The Qashqai has had some success in the retail market, but is only just getting to grips with fleets, while we are not totally sure where the Clubman will fit on future car choice lists.

    The A3 is popular on many user-chooser fleets and offers a sporty drive, while the C30 is an excellent car and in Sport configuration looks a million dollars.

    You don’t see too many Golf Estates around as the hatchback is such a class act for fleets, but it is a good looking, practical load carrier.

    Commercial operations manager, Lloyds TSB Autolease

    Despite differing degrees of practicality and style and a wide range of RV performances, discounts and maintenance costs, these cars are available at comparable rental prices.

    The popularity of the MINI makes it hard to bet against the Clubman succeeding, even in lower volumes.

    Views may be mixed on its styling, but it drives as well as the hatch and has increased boot capacity.

    However, some of the others actually have better capacity, especially the Golf.

    While the A-Class and A3 offer a premium feel, the C30 is a refreshing alternative.

    The Qashqai benefits from funky styling and a high driving position.

    Average leasing rates

    These cars are all very different in style and offering, but most end up costing very similar amounts in monthly rentals. The A-Class is slightly more expensive which will count against it.

    CO2 emissions

    The MINI and A3 fit into next year’s 13% low diesel emissions BIK band which will help their cause among company car drivers. The bigger, heavier Qashqai emits most, but is still only in the 19% tax bracket.

    Fuel economy

    Using BMW’s EfficientDynamics, the MINI manages a superb combined 68.9mpg with 108bhp. The A3 has had the wick turned down to get better figures and has 103bhp while none of the others are shamed either.

    Residual values

    The desirability is proved of an entry-level A3 Sportback in the used market with excellent fuel economy and the MINI is not far behind either. The Qashqai, without the brand equity lags behind the others.

    Average discount

    MINI is amazingly tight when it comes to discounts with its new car, but none of the other manufacturers are exactly giving away either. Audi and Volvo both offer 10% off.

    Average maintenance

    The Golf manages to be the cheapest in SMR costs by some distance while the C30 is some £600 more than the Volkswagen. All the others are closely matched.

    The vote

    1. Audi A3 Sportback 1.9 TDI

    Audi A3 Sportback 1.9 TDI

    P11D price: £16,500
    2007 BIK bill (22%): £472
    2007 VED bill: £35


    DCFM: £290
    Hitachi Capital: £334
    Lex: £375
    Lloyds TSB Autolease: £297

    VERDICT: The A3’s appeal is undiminished even in the entry-level model and its low price means high RVs, too. Sub-120g/km CO2 offers drivers low BIK tax bill.

    2. Volvo C30 1.6D S

    Volvo C30 1.6D S

    P11D price: £16,150
    2007 BIK bill (22%): £640
    2007 VED bill: £115


    DCFM: £303
    Hitachi Capital: £340
    Lex: £336
    Lloyds TSB Autolease: £299

    VERDICT: It’s been low-key since launch, but the C30 has decent RVs, unique style and competitive rentals, voting it into a surprise second place.

    3. Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi Acenta

    Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi Acenta

    P11D price: £16,234
    2007 BIK bill (22%): £679
    2007 VED bill: £115


    DCFM: £318
    Hitachi Capital: £364
    Lex: £314
    Lloyds TSB Autolease: £300

    VERDICT: An excellent result for the Qashqai, illustrating what a leap Nissan has made with this car. Its 4x4 looks and space make it a superb all-round package.

    4. MINI Clubman Cooper 1.6D

    MINI Clubman Cooper 1.6D

    P11D price: £16,075
    2007 BIK bill (22%): £460
    2007 VED bill: £35


    DCFM: £314
    Hitachi Capital: £357
    Lex: £314
    Lloyds TSB Autolease: £304

    VERDICT: When has a MINI ever been voted so low in a leasing survey? Brilliant residuals but the Clubman’s packaging has yet to convince the industry.

    5. Volkswagen Golf Estate 1.9 TDI SE

    Volkswagen Golf Estate 1.9 TDI SE

    P11D price: £15,947
    2007 BIK bill (22%): £632
    2007 VED bill: £115


    DCFM: £307
    Hitachi Capital: £361
    Lex: £328
    Lloyds TSB Autolease: £302

    VERDICT: The most prosaic of the lot, the Golf does a steady job but lacks pizzazz. A sensible load carrier, but more of a job-need car than a user-chooser’s dream.

    6. Mercedes A160 CDI A/garde SE

    Mercedes A160 CDI A/garde SE

    P11D price: £16,685
    2007 BIK bill (22%): £661
    2007 VED bill: £115


    DCFM: £346
    Hitachi Capital: £359
    Lex: £300
    Lloyds TSB Autolease: £366

    VERDICT: Generally a little more expensive to run, the A-Class is voted in sixth, but it’s a stylish car with a decent engine and great badge at this level.

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