Which is all well and good, if only it were true. Granted, private sales are slipping slightly, although this is more to do with some big-selling models being in run-out last year (Land Rover Freelander and BMW X5 to name but two), but in the fleet sector sales are booming.
And this trend is only going to go one way this year thanks to an unprecedented amount of launch activity in the SUV sector.
Ford, Vauxhall, Chevrolet, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, Renault, Peugeot and Citroën will all launch new SUVs this year, and the tail end of 2006 saw the new Land Rover Freelander2 arrive.
Hot on its heels is the new Honda CR-V which will be aiming to build on the huge success of its predecessor. The CR-V is loved by fleets who need to cater for user-choosers – it has a strong RV, legendary build quality and reliability, and it’s also a good car to drive for a vehicle of this type with its higher centre of gravity.
But how does it compare financially against the current cream of the SUV crop?
Director of new business, Bank of Scotland Vehicle Finance
LET’S start with the premise that this comparison is based on on-road use and not off-road qualities. That being the case the CR-V easily comes out on top with refined handling, best economy, lowest CO2 together with quality and reliability.
The Toyota’s sharp handling, economy, low CO2, reliability and looks place it second.
The new Freelander2 would score better but it is the most expensive car by a big margin.
The Nissan does everything you want at very competitive cost, whereas the Hyundai struggles to compete.
The Jeep has the worst performance and economy, and top rate tax liability.
Fleet management and operations director, Leasedrive Velo
THE quickest and most frugal, the CR-V is also the most refined. Clean styling and a good interior make for a complete package.
Toyota’s RAV4 is a close second with a sharp drive and strong build quality.
The Freelander is let down by a history of unreliability and the new model must address this. The X-trail has always been a top performer – it’s reliable, practical and drives well.
One to be taken seriously is the Santa Fe – much improved, it ticks all the boxes.
Bringing up the rear is the Jeep. It’s thirsty, falls into the highest tax brand and has a poor reliability record.
Operations director, Inchcape Fleet Solutions
THE Freelander2 is a sector-defining car with the bonus of first-rate off-road ability.
Honda’s styling of the CR-V has received mixed reviews but we prefer this sportier iteration. Performance and refinement are impressive.
The X-trail has been consistently successful and residuals continue to out-perform expectations.
For an SUV the RAV4 drives very well. Interior space and quality are good and the diesel engine feels very punchy.
The new Santa Fe moves the model upmarket and the seven-seat model is worth the extra money for the added flexibility.
Although it is well priced the Jeep looks a little cheap inside.
Managing director, Tuskerdirect
OF this group, the RAV4 is modern, stylish and appeals to the family driver.
The CR-V is a great, economical vehicle and, like the Toyota, is a nice drive. Despite being a worthy contender in this group, the Freelander2 is not yet being financially supported enough to allow it to compete in terms of monthly rentals.
The bigger-engined, less economical vehicles like the Jeep will undoubtedly suffer longer term. Although it’s a good product, the Santa Fe doesn’t yet have the badge appeal of the others and seems a little over-priced when compared to the other entries in the group.
THANKS to a high level of support, the X-trail has the lowest monthly rental bill, just £1 ahead of the Toyota – it has less support but a better RV. The Hyundai is nearly £100 a month more than the Nissan.
THE Honda and Toyota both fall into the 24% benefit-in-kind tax band. The Hyundai and Land Rover are in the 28% banding, the Nissan is taxed at 30% and the Jeep at the maximum 35%.
THE Jeep’s larger capacity 2.8-litre engine counts against it and is massively behind the Honda, which is the most frugal at 43.5mpg. The Hyundai, Land Rover and Nissan are closely matched.
THE Land Rover badge carries a lot of clout and so it proves here, with the Freelander2 notching the highest RV forecast. The Honda and Toyota run it close, while the Hyundai’s performance is poor.
SURPRISINGLY for such a new model, Honda is being fairly generous with support, offering an average of 14% off the CR-V. Land Rover is providing the least support of the six, with 10% off the Freelander2.
THE Nissan will be the cheapest, costing under £1,900 in service, maintenance and repair bills. Close behind is the Honda. The rest all cost more than £2,000, with the Jeep and Land Rover well adrift.
1. Honda CR-V 2.2 i-CTDi SE
P11D price: £19,802
2007 BIK bill (40%): £1,900
2007 VED bill: £160
Leasedrive Velo: £358
VERDICT: A strong RV, low SMR rates and a fairly decent level of support from Honda cement the CR-V in top spot. On-road performance draws praise.
2. Toyota RAV4 2.2 D-4D XT3
P11D price: £20,117
2007 BIK bill (40%): £1,931
2007 VED bill £160
Leasedrive Velo: £359
VERDICT: Pretty much matches the Honda pound for pound and has lower lease rates, but it loses out more for not being as good to drive rather than fiscal r easons.
3. Land Rover Freelander2 TD4 S
P11D price: £20,702
2007 BIK bill (40%): £2,318
2007 VED bill £195
Leasedrive Velo: £422
VERDICT: Great on and off-road, but the previous model’s reliability issues still haunt it. RV is a joint sector best, although there is little support from Land Rover.
4. Nissan X-trail 2.2 dCi SE
P11D price: £19,762
2007 BIK bill (40%): £2,371
2007 VED bill: £195
Leasedrive Velo: £344
VERDICT: Despite its age the Nissan still offers a strong RV. With the lowest front-end price and SMR costs, it offers the cheapest rentals.
5. Jeep Cherokee 2.8 CRD Sport
P11D price: £19,682
2007 BIK bill (40%): £2,755
2007 VED bill: £215
Leasedrive Velo: £425
VERDICT: With the lowest fuel economy, highest CO2 emissions and an unconvincing on-road performance, the Jeep finds few friends in this comparison.
6. Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRTD GSi
P11D price: £20,762
2007 BIK bill (40%): £2,325
2007 VED bill: £195
Leasedrive Velo: £452
VERDICT: A vast improvement over the old model, but the Santa Fe is pricey at the front-end and lower RV gives it among the highest monthly rentals.