Fleet News

Contract hire survey: hot hatchbacks

IN my youth, 200bhp was a serious amount of power. During the late 1980s, a Ford Sierra Cosworth with 204bhp was my ultimate dream car.

But today 200bhp is nothing special – in fact it’s the entry point to the current range of super hatches on offer.

Vauxhall led the way in this sector with its snarling Astra VXR which packs a 240bhp turbocharged punch, and Ford followed up with the 225bhp Focus ST.

But now there are some new kids on the block, each bringing something different to the party.

SEAT has followed the big power route with its 240bhp Leon Cupra while Volvo has brought stand-out styling and 220bhp with its all-new C30.

Honda has decided not to follow the trend and its new Civic Type R is only marginally more powerful than the model it replaces. Instead, the firm has elected to keep weight down and improve driveability in the quest to be the ultimate hot hatch.

But there is one car which all five must beat and that’s the evergreen Volkswagen Golf GTI. As a package it ticks all the boxes – performance, image, styling, comfort and everyday useability, backed up by some of the best residuals in the business. Can anyone topple it?

What the panel said

    Contract services manager, DaimlerChrysler Fleet Management

    THE original hot hatches, chosen by driving enthusiasts for whom comfort and refinement are not priorities, guarantee a raw and exhilarating ride.

    With three doors these vehicles do not usually feature on the company car list, where five doors is the norm.

    Personal choice is key – the Volkswagen has the oldest design, but a GTI heritage.

    The Volvo is the newest entrant, while the Honda, SEAT and Vauxhall have BTCC motor-sport pedigree. The Honda is the perfect new age hot hatch – it does most things brilliantly and looks fast even when it is not moving.

    Head of risk, Hitachi Capital

    THESE halo derivatives are the stuff of schoolboy dreams and with RVs nearing 50% they are also a financial dream.

    The Civic, in its latest incarnation, looks as good as it is to drive and the rental reflects the competitive price.

    Likewise, the Golf is fun to drive and also has a strong image but is expensive to buy.

    The Focus and Astra cost the same to run, so the choice is between the ST’s engine and the VXR’s chic body.

    The SEAT shares much with the Golf, but not the aura.

    Volvo offers free servicing on the C30 but this and its intriguing look isn’t enough to negate the list price disadvantage.

    Pricing manager, Lex

    SO you’ve set your heart on a hot hatch, and you’ve managed to persuade your fleet manager that three doors and 200bhp are suitable company transport.

    The two cars which offer the best return are the Volkswagen and the Honda as both models offer excellent residual values. The Civic Type R is taut and wants to be driven, while the Golf GTI is more laid-back but surprisingly fast.

    Low production volumes will mean that the Volvo will stay exclusive, but the C30 offers its best as a 2.0d Sport.

    The Astra, Focus and Leon offer incredible performance, but it’s more difficult to separate them from their mainstream counterparts.

    Commercial operations manager, Lloyds TSB autolease

    THE Focus offers a great drive and competitive rental through a combination of low price and strong residual value.

    While the Civic holds its value equally well and has striking looks, low financial support hits its rental.

    The Golf has been well received, but the competition is much stronger now.

    Strong discounts on the Leon only partially offset the lower residual value and the Astra finds itself in a similar position.

    Low production volumes for the Volvo should mean it remains exclusive, but a high price and limited service package support result in a high monthly rental.


    A HIGH front-end price and very limited support make the Volvo the most expensive. The Civic is lowest, thanks to a strong RV forecast, while the Astra scores well thanks to a low price and decent support.


    AS high performance cars, none of these models will be particularly green, although the Golf with its lean-burn FSI engine is the best and will fall into the 24% benefit-in-kind tax band.


    WITH at least 200bhp on offer, fuel economy is going to suffer and only the Golf and Leon venture into the mid-30s mpg. The remaining four are evenly matched at between 30.4 and 32.5mpg.


    IT’S rare for a Volkswagen not to be on the top spot in terms of residual values, but Honda’s new Civic Type R trumps it with a very strong RV of 44% after three years/60,000 miles.


    ALTHOUGH these cars are from volume manufacturers they have a limited fleet appeal, resulting in small discount levels. Volvo offers virtually no support on its new C30, while Honda is slightly more generous.


    BILLS of around £2,000 over three years and 60,000 miles seems good value for these hot hatches. Tyres will be the major expense as all have a lot of power to deploy through their front wheels.

    The results

    1. Honda Civic Type R GT

    P11D price: £18,372
    2007 BIK bill (22%) : £1,212
    2007 VED bill: £190

    DCFM: £304
    Hitachi Capital: £365
    Lex: £389
    Lloyds TSB autolease: £376

    VERDICT: The lowest monthly rental despite limited support from Honda. The Civic is a great all-rounder and has easily the best residual value figure.

    2. Volkswagen Golf GTI 3dr

    P11D price: £20,352
    2007 BIK bill (22%): £1,074
    2007 VED bill: £190

    DCFM: £370
    Hitachi Capital: £400
    Lex: £403
    Lloyds TSB autolease: £393

    VERDICT: Still a fantastic package with a strong residual value and a desirable badge. Not too much support from Volkswagen keeps the rental bill high.

    3. Ford Focus ST-2 3dr

    P11D price: £18,767
    2007 BIK bill (22%) : £1,279
    2007 VED bill: £190

    DCFM: £336
    Hitachi Capital: £378
    Lex: £369
    Lloyds TSB autolease: £345

    VERDICT: The ST has a strong RV and, backed by decent support, this means a competitive rental cost. Highest CO2 emissions of the group, though.

    4. Vauxhall Astra VXR

    P11D price: £18,927
    2007 BIK bill (22%): £1,290
    2007 VED bill: £190

    DCFM: £312
    Hitachi Capital: £375
    Lex: £352
    Lloyds TSB autolease: £368

    VERDICT: Offers the second cheapest monthly rental thanks to decent support from Vauxhall and strong SMR performance. The most powerful car in this test.

    5. Volvo C30 T5 SE

    P11D price: £21,267
    2007 BIK bill (22%): £1,310
    2007 VED bill: £190

    DCFM: £391
    Hitachi Capital: £470
    Lex: £420
    Lloyds TSB autolease: £466

    VERDICT: Limited availability and little support from Volvo should ensure the C30 remains exclusive, but the RV is nothing special and hits rental costs.

    6. SEAT Leon Cupra

    P11D price: £19,367
    2007 BIK bill (22%) : £1,107
    2007 VED bill: £190

    DCFM: £363
    Hitachi Capital: £407
    Lex: £409
    Lloyds TSB autolease: £398

    VERDICT: Strong support cannot outweigh the Cupra’s lower RV here. Offers plenty of power but also has the highest SMR costs, which hits monthly rentals.

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