A DPS I wrote for Professional Manager for fleet managers and user-choosers on choosing a new car across the sectors
Deciding on a new car is hardly easy at the best of times. With a dozen factors to bear in mind it can be a fiendishly difficult task – with a rapidly-changing marketplace and a fragmenting sector it’s harder than ever. But if you know what you need – small car, big car, posh car, cheap car – we have some suggestions that might just make your job easier.
There are some surprises in there alongside some old favourites; some so new they’ve still got that fresh smell and some that have been around the block. They’re not selected by their notional jargonistic sector – they’re chosen to fit your needs, whatever they may be. Fleet cars needn’t be dull – and neither should choosing a new car. This is the the fun stuff – and with cars like these there’s never been a better time to test drive a new car…
Best for city driving: (Mini/Supermini) – Suzuki Swift
I’m not quite sure how Suzuki has done it, but the Japanese brand has made something big fit inside something small, TARDIS-style. With a punchy, versatile 1.3-litre diesel engine the Swift never feels outpaced, nor underpowered or noisy on the motorway, but it is brilliantly nippy around town. Factor in a genuinely-possible 60mpg and, for £15K for the high-spec with most of the toys you’d want, the Swift is impossible to ignore.
Best for fuel economy: (Family Car) – Peugeot 308
Finally reinjecting some good looks and genuine VW-matching quality into its volume range, Peugeot comes up with the good on the new 308. Peugeot engines are always good but the exterior styling and interior quality – including the smallest steering-wheel ever and a dashboard so clean you could eat your dinner off it – mean you can have German quality without the prices. Go for the 1.6 HDi and you get an incredible 91.1mpg and emissions of 82g/km – that makes it the most efficient car on the road today.
Best for shifting people: (MPV) – Citroen C4 Picasso
At higher specifications the new C4 Picasso – or Grand C4 if you really need to move a lot of people – is a classy piece of kit. Long gone are the days when MPVs were mutton dressed as, well, mutton – inside the car belies its size while inside the French people-carrier has genuine je ne sais quoi. Which is French for lots of interior space, top-range trim and all the toys. Citroen worked hard on the C4 Picasso and, with countless clever interior touches, it paid off in spades.
Best All-Rounder: (Crossover SUV) – Nissan Qashqai
The Qashqai may hard to get excited about; but it’s impossible to ignore. Currently being garlanded with Car of the Year awards, with Summer barely upon us, the new Qashqai follows in the footsteps of the car that defined the crossover segment and immediately goes back to the top of the tree. A quantum leap in interior quality, strong engines and impressive versatility – and all Made In Britain – the Qashqai is almost a no-brainer in the sector if you’re looking for a comfortable, versatile people-carrier.
Best off-roader: Volvo XC60
No, the XC60 isn’t the best mud-plugger out there but if you’re genuinely driving across fields on a daily basis go and buy a Land Rover Defender and have done with it. The XC60 has plenty of off-road chops but you won’t need a new spine after cruising down the M1 for three hours in it either. It’s also very spacious and endlessly practical. The SUV is the best car in Volvo’s range, offers a stylish alternative to the Germans in the sector and goes beautifully with roll-neck jumpers and minimalist furniture.
Best Family Car – BMW 3 Series
The 3-Series has long been a benchmark in the sector and that’s not changing any time soon – not for nothing is BMW still known as the Ultimate Driving Machine. It’s certainly the best to drive but has engines, refinement and technology to match anything in the sector. Fuel economy is strong and BIK is as low as 17% meaning you won’t pay through the nose for a genuinely desirable car.
The Head Turner (Large Executive) – Jaguar XF
The XF has assumed something of the role of the pride leader – perhaps it’s getting on a bit and there are some younger cats snapping at its heels, but it’s still unquestionably the Daddy. The car that saved Jaguar still oozes quality from the second its vents rotate into place and offers stunning fuel economy with the excellent 2.2-litre turbodiesel engines. Sleek looks, controlled power and a badge that’s the envy of every motorist on the road.
Best Alternative Car (Alternative fuel) – Vauxhall Ampera
With Chevrolet set to leave the market in 2015, Vauxhall’s Ampera will be the default E-REV of choice. Drive it as a petrol car; drive it as a hybrid; drive it as an electric car – the Volt looks like nothing else on the road and is good to be in either way, transporting four in style and space. Depending on your commute you could save a bundle too. Ever wonder what happened to the car of the future? Wonder no more.
Best for posing (Luxury Car) – Range Rover
If you must have a huge car that turns heads and speaks for itself, there’s really only one way to go. The Range Rover is the ultimate in luxury cars: a mud-plugging beast than isn’t out-of-place on The Mall. If such things are consideration there are economical diesel engines available but it’s the plush elegance, startling technology – the dual-screen infotainment system will make your jaw drop – and serene performance that make the Rangey what it is: unbeatable. It is big – and it is clever.
Best for load lugging (Van) – Ford Transit
When brand names attain the status of the colloquial – think Hoover, Sellotape or Google – you know they’ve gone big. The Transit’s reputation is based on being the van of choice for tradesmen over many decades. The fabled white van beloved of builders, bakers and candlestick-makers across the land is still going strong and in more variations that you can shake a rolled-up copy of The Sun at. Versatile, clever and surprisingly good to drive, the Transit does it all.