Fleet News

Contract hire survey: compact SUVs

You can tell how competitive a sector is sometimes by the cars that are left out of comparison tests such as this.

Picking these six models has resulted in the following compact SUVs missing out: Chevrolet Captiva, Citroën C-Crosser, Hyundai Santa Fe and Tucson, Jeep Patriot and Compass, Kia Sorento and Sportage, Mitsubishi Outlander II, Peugeot 4007, Toyota RAV-4.

Oh, and the SsangYong Rexton and Kyron.

It’s a sector that is stuffed with new models because, despite some reports, it’s a sector that is still very healthy.

People like the fact that you can get a 2.0-litre diesel engine delivering fuel economy of around 40mpg in a vehicle with more space and a higher driving position.

No surprise then that these vehicles are a user-chooser’s dream, being relatively low in tax, doing the day job and taking the kids to ballet and football too.

And despite the number of new models in the sector, residual values are still strong for the best performers.

The oldest of these six here, the Freelander, illustrates the strength and vitality of the market.

The newest, the Kuga, goes on sale next month but faces stiff competition from the established players.

  • The jury


No real contest here in terms of top honours.

The Freelander 2 belongs in a different class, and drivers are prepared to pay for its refinement and ability.

Coming up fast though is Ford’s Kuga.

It’s affordable, well-equipped and second only to Freelander in terms of off-road capability.

Volkswagen’s Tiguan offers the kudos and assurance of the Volkswagen badge. Vauxhall, Honda and Nissan have taken different approaches to this sector.

The Antara offers great family practicality, CR-V has moved towards cross-over styling and is targeting executive drivers, while Nissan has beefed up X-Trail and give it real off-road credibility.


While manufacturers are pouring massive resources into low-emission cars, they can’t help responding to the feeding frenzy in the compact SUV sector.

These cars have massive user-chooser appeal, with the Kuga and the Freelander, in particular, aching with desirability, not to speak of driveability, with their eminent chassis pedigree and excellent versatility.

Why Vauxhall gave away its leadership in flexible seating configurations to its Chevrolet stablemate is a mystery as it needed something to differentiate itself.

On emissions, styling, and quality, the Kuga gets my vote in this very competitive sector.


Compact SUVs are working their way on to more fleet choice lists thanks to strong driver appeal, improving emissions and lower running costs.

The X-Trail is well established and strongly supported by Nissan. It’s the most cost effective, though not the greenest, model here.

Ford’s first SUV sets the class benchmark for CO2 and thus lower BIK costs.

Both the Tiguan and the CR-V are attractively priced for drivers but the Volkswagen offers stronger residuals and lower rentals to the fleet buyer.

The Freelander and the Antara impose the highest BIK burdens.

Grosvenor Contracts Leasing

The sector is fiercely competitive and although my own personal choice would be the Freelander for its premium image and all-round ability, when tax, running costs, practicality, customer support and badge appeal are all taken in to account, the Tiguan would be our number one for fleets.

Whether the Kuga takes its place over time will depend on how it performs when it reaches fleets.

Certainly on paper it is a very strong proposition indeed and Ford looks to have hit the market with a winner.

The Antara looks good but its CO2 emissions are high compared to its rivals.

The Freelander is not surprisingly the most expensive, with firms taking advantage of its premium image. The others are very closely matched indeed, making the choice even more difficult.

The Kuga comes straight in as the lowest emitting SUV closely followed by the CR-V, showing that driving an SUV need not be a guilty pleasure. The others are still a way back, though.

Fuel economy of more than 40mpg will make these attractive vehicles for motorway driving. The Kuga’s on-road ability and mid-40mpg figure makes it even more alluring for high-mileage company car drivers.

The Tiguan and Kuga have barnstorming residual values. Has any Ford ever been better in this department? Even the Antara and X-Trail’s lower, but still healthy, figures illustrate how strong this sector is.

Such are the strong RVs of all these SUVs that none need to be supported by huge manufacturer discounts to make them competitive, although Antara requires the most as it has the lowest predicted used value.

The Tiguan and CR-V cost the least to service, maintain and repair by some distance. Freelander’s reliability issues of the previous model are gone but it’s still on the expensive side.

  • The vote

1. Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi Zetec

2008 Ford Kuga

P11D price: £20,250
2008 CO2 BIK tax bill (40%): £1,845
2008 VED bill: £165

Grosvenor: £389
Alphabet: £367
All-in-One: £360
Lex: £380

VERDICT: Ford’s SUV goes to the top thanks to strong RVs, driveability, class-leading emissions and great looks. A fleet manager’s dream.

2. VW Tiguan 2.0 TDI S

2008 Volkswagen Tiguan

P11D price: £19,765
2008 CO2 BIK tax bill (40%): £2,135
2008 VED bill: £205

Grosvenor: £362
Alphabet: £368
All-in-One: £355
Lex: £397

VERDICT: The Tiguan is a strong package, with emissions perhaps its only weak spot. Superb RVs mean a lower than expected rental cost.

3. Land Rover Freelander TD4 S

2008 Land Rover Freelander

P11D price: £20,940
2008 CO2 BIK tax bill (40%): £2,345
2008 VED bill: £205

Grosvenor: £389
Alphabet £402
All-in-One: £390
Lex: £419

VERDICT: The Freelander’s RVs, combined with support, make it cheap to lease. High emissions make its BIK tax bill expensive, though.

4. Honda CR-V 2.2 i-CTDi SE

P11D price: £19,465
2008 CO2 BIK tax bill (40%): £1,869
2008 VED bill: £165

Grosvenor: £366
Alphabet: £399
All-in-One: £369
Lex: £363

VERDICT: The CR-V does everything well, but nothing outstandingly. It is a fleet favourite and joint third is a strong showing.

5. Nissan X-Trail 2.0 dCi Trek

2008 Nissan X-Trail

P11D price: £20,140
2008 CO2 BIK tax bill (40%): £2,256
2008 VED bill: £205

Grosvenor: £355
Alphabet: £358
All-in-One: £355
Lex: £350

VERDICT: The X-Trail is the most agricultural of these SUVs and has real off-road ability. But that lack of refinement sees it fall behind.

6. Vauxhall Antara 2.0 CDTi E

2008 Vauxhall Antara

P11D price: £20,242
2008 CO2 BIK tax bill (40%): £2,348
2008 VED bill: £205

Grosvenor: £387
Alphabet: £385
All-in-One: £340
Lex: £393

VERDICT: High emissions, SMR costs, the most expensive tax bill and lowest RVs sees the Antara struggle. Not one of Vauxhall’s best offerings.

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