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The writing’s on the wall for petrol and diesel cars – so what should your staff be driving?
It might not seem like it right now, but in years to come 2017 may prove to be pivotal in the world of cars – especially for fleet managers.
On 6 April, the UK government introduced major changes to salary sacrifice schemes. Employees who order company cars after this date (except vehicles emitting less than 75g/km of CO2) will be taxed on the higher benefit-in-kind (BIK) value of the car and any cash alternative that would have been available, or any cash forgone under a salary sacrifice scheme. The rules will be rolled out to all company cars by April 2021 – a clear nudge towards a greener automotive future.
The next big announcement came in July: Volvo said it will stop producing petrol and diesel cars without some kind of electrification by 2019. It’s a bold statement – or, for the more cynical, a brilliant bit of PR – and the first move by a large, mainstream manufacturer to verbally commit to fundamentally changing the industry.
The government then announced that, from 2040, there will be no diesel or petrol-only new cars sold in the UK. There’s plenty to be sceptical about here – not least that there’s a huge amount of time and potentially different governments standing in the way of this becoming a reality. But others in the know showed no real surprise, saying the industry was heading this way on its own.
Whatever happens by 2040, the list of fleet cars we’ve compiled here is proof that electrification is very much available now, each being either a pure-electric vehicle (EV), hybrid, plug-in hybrid or mild hybrid. Most fall below the 75g/km of CO2 threshold, but all make serious financial sense to company car drivers and the organisations buying them.
Smart fortwo Coupé Electric Drive Prime Premium
Smart actually offers a pure EV version of all its models: the five-door forfour and its two-door, two-seat fortwo in coupé and open-top cabriolet forms.
The electric fortwo Coupé is perfect for city driving, because the instant torque on offer from its electric motor is ideal for darting away from traffic lights, while its tiny dimensions and quick steering make it brilliant at nipping in and out of traffic.
A full charge takes around 2.5 hours when using a wall charger, or six hours via a standard three-pin socket, which officially gets you 99 miles of range. Of course, in the real world this will be closer to 75 miles, but that’s the vast majority of UK commutes covered off.
Price £20,565 (before PICG*) | 0-62mph 11.5sec | Max speed 80mph | CO2 emissions 0g/k | BIK tax liability 9% | Official pure EV range 99 miles
Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4
We’ve all accepted that the Mini is no longer, er, mini, but the latest Countryman is straying into small SUV territory. That won’t be enough to put people off though, because the previous Countryman, with its higher driving position and better interior space, was a huge hit.
For the first time, Mini is offering it as a plug-in hybrid, which combines a small petrol engine and electric motor to improve fuel economy and CO2 emissions.
A full charge of the Countryman’s battery allows an official 26 miles of range on electricity alone, although you’re more likely to see closer to 20 miles in real-world driving conditions. There’s excitement to be had too, though: together, its engine and electric motor help it surge to 62mph in a potent 6.8 seconds.
Price £31,585 (before PICG) | 0-62mph 6.8sec | Max speed 123mph | CO2 emissions 49g/km | BIK tax liability 9% | Official mpg 134.5mpg | Official pure EV range 26 miles
Volkswagen’s city car had a facelift this year, getting a new infotainment system and interior trim upgrades. No Up is expensive to run, but business users looking for low BIK rates should consider this pure EV model, which can be charged via a three-pin socket in nine hours. Alternatively, an 80 per cent charge is possible in just 30 minutes via a fast charger.
The Up is small, lightweight, agile to drive and has a comfortable ride, making it perfect for urban adventures. But, unlike the Smart, its five doors and seating for the same number make it a practical choice too, despite its modest length and width.
Like all pure EV cars with zero CO2 emissions below £60,000, the e-Up attracts the government’s maximum £4,500 plug-in car grant (PICG).
Price £25,280 (before PICG) | 0-62mph 12.4sec | Max speed 81mph | CO2 emissions 0g/km | BIK tax liability 9% | Official pure EV range 99 miles
Suzuki Swift 1.0 Boosterjet SHVS SZ5
Suzuki launched its latest Swift earlier this year, and for the first time it’s fitted with so-called ‘SHVS’ (or smart hybrid vehicle by Suzuki) technology. Essentially, it’s made up of a small battery and integrated starter generator that gives the engine assistance when accelerating and can even help start the engine more efficiently under start-stop conditions in town.
Not only does this help the little Swift’s 1.0-litre Boosterjet engine feel bigger than it is to drive, it also helps cut CO2 emissions and improves fuel economy. This latest Swift has sharp handling, too, and decent room for four adults. SZ5 trim comes with everything you need and more but at a price that undercuts many of its small car rivals.
Price £15,984 | 0-62mph 10.6sec | Max speed 121mph | CO2 emissions 97g/km | BIK tax liability 18% | Official mpg 65.7mpg
Volkswagen Golf GTE Advance
The Volkswagen Golf is an icon with decades of heritage, but this plug-in hybrid only became available on this latest, seventh-generation model. It combines a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine and electric motor for punchy performance along with GTI-like sporty styling. However, CO2 emissions of just 40g/km means a BIK tax rate of just 9 per cent, and the government will deduct £2,500 as part of its PICG scheme.
A pure EV range of 15 miles is realistically possible, which for most city-dwellers means commuting on battery power and saving fuel for weekend jaunts to the countryside.
Happily, the GTE is great fun to drive, with precise steering and great body control, yet also a comfy ride helping to smooth the UK’s rough tarmac.
Price £32,135 (before PICG) | 0-62mph 7.6sec | Max speed 138mph | CO2 emissions 40g/km | BIK tax liability 9% | Official mpg 156.9mpg | Official pure EV range 31 miles
Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Business Edition
Think Toyota Prius and you could be forgiven for thinking Uber. However, this latest model, launched earlier this year, is a much more rounded car than the previous generation. It’s better to drive, more comfortable and has a higher-quality interior this time around.
Buyers have the choice of a standard hybrid or this plug-in hybrid version, which can be charged via a wall box or three-pin socket and returns around 20 miles of pure EV travel. Toyota says 283mpg is officially possible but, clearly, that’s not the case. Even so, the Prius Plug-in is an extremely fuel-efficient car even by hybrid standards, and the government will award you a £2,500 deduction if you choose one.
Price £31,695 (before PICG) | 0-62mph 11.1sec | Max speed 101mph | CO2 emissions 22g/km | BIK tax liability 9% | Official mpg 283mpg | Official pure EV range 39 miles
Renault Scenic dCi 110 Dynamique Nav Hybrid Assist
Renault introduced its all-new Scenic MPV earlier this year, but only more recently has it offered its new Hybrid Assist technology in combination with the Scenic’s dCi diesel engine. It involves a 48-volt battery and an electric motor that works with the engine to provide better performance at low revs, but also stores and distributes energy generated when slowing down. Ultimately, not only do you get an improved drive, but also better fuel economy and CO2 emissions.
For a car of its size, with the ability to carry five adults in comfort, 94g/km of CO2 is mightily impressive, while an official fuel economy of 80mpg – while not achievable in the real world – is a better figure than any of its rivals’ efforts.
Price £25,055 | 0-62mph 12.9sec | Max speed 112 | CO2 emissions 94g/km | BIK tax liability 20% | Official mpg 80.7mpg
Volvo XC60 T8 R-Design
Volvo’s move to equip all its models with electric power by 2019 has already begun: both its SUVs, the XC90 and the smaller XC60, are offered in T8 plug-in hybrid form. That means a four-cylinder petrol engine driving the front wheels and an electric motor driving the rear ones, the ability to drive on pure electricity and charging via wall box or domestic socket.
Given the XC60 is a large SUV and is capable of sprinting to 62mph from a standstill in just 5.3 seconds, its 49g/km CO2 figure is impressive, ensuring a BIK tax rate of just 9 per cent for company car drivers. It’s a shame the XC60’s ride quality isn’t class-leading, but its interior quality, space and practicality make it stand out from the competition.
Price £56,850 (before PICG) | 0-62mph 5.3sec | Max speed 143mph | CO2 emissions 49g/km | BIK tax liability 9% | Official mpg 134.5mpg | Official pure EV range 28 miles
BMW 530e SE iPerformance
The BMW 5 Series is What Car?’s current car of the year in diesel form, but company car drivers looking for the cheapest option of the range should consider this iPerformance plug-in hybrid version. The car’s performance hasn’t been hampered because this 5 Series is capable of 146mph and a 6.2 second 0-62mph time, but it can travel around 20 miles on a full charge using just its batteries and electric motors. When that’s used up, a four-cylinder petrol engine takes over to keep you moving.
Everything else that is brilliant about the latest BMW 5 Series remains intact. It has a luxurious interior, sharp drive, comfortable ride and one of the best infotainment systems on the market as standard.
Price £44,765 (before PICG) | 0-62mph 6.2sec | Max speed 146mph | CO2 emissions 46g/km | BIK tax liability 9% | Official mpg 141.2mpg | Official pure EV range 29 miles
Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo
This Sport Turismo version of Porsche’s Panamera is best thought of as an estate, although in truth there are much more spacious and practical estate cars out there – this is an estate concerned with covering continents quickly and luxuriously.
Porsche offers the Sport Turismo in this E-Hybrid form, bringing a combination of batteries, an electric motor and a 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine, which takes over when necessary. The car’s figures are pretty staggering: 4.6 seconds to 62mph and a 170mph top speed, yet just 59g/km of CO2 is emitted from its tailpipes and it can travel for around 20 miles on electricity.
It can be fast, then, but it can also be frugal, and its heavy batteries do nothing to hurt the Panamera’s brilliant handling.
Price £84,869 | 0-62mph 4.6sec | Max speed 170mph | CO2 emissions 59g/km | BIK tax liability 13% | Official mpg tbc | Official pure EV range 31 miles
*PICG: plug-in car grant (£4,500 for full EV models; £2,500 for cars emitting less than 50g/km CO2 that can cover at least 10 miles on electricity alone)
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