Fleet Special: test drives

Green motoring doesn’t mean having to sacrifice style and speed ­ many
premium makes combine fuel economy with carbon cutting features that help
preserve the planet as well as your credibility
If you feel your choice of car reflects your sense of style and offers an
insight into your personality and status ­ then driving something more
environmentally friendly might not be high on your list of priorities.
But if you fall into this category, it’s time to think again ­ not all ‘greener’
vehicles are of the electric roller skate or milk float variety.

Grosvenor Contracts Leasing decided to put leading car manufacturers to the
test by inviting senior professionals to try out three of the new generation
green cars.

‘There is so much talk of bio-fuels and hybrids that it is easy to believe
that these are the only considerations when building a green fleet,’ says Nicola
Johnson, Grosvenor customer services director.
‘That is just not the case as there are numerous ways to save resources while
retaining a true driving experience ­ choosing the right car is a good start.’

The Fleet Expert

Nicola Johnson
Customer services director, Grosvenor Contracts Leasing Limited

Johnson is an experienced fleet consultant with over 15 years in the
industry. To reduce her personal carbon footprint, Nicola swapped her beloved
BMW M3 for a VW Golf ­ cutting CO2 emissions by 20% in one fell swoop. Nicola
believes that if we all make a small contribution to becoming greener then we
can make a big difference in the long term.

Current car: VW Golf TDi GT
Fuel: petrol
Carbon dioxide emissions: 145g/km
Combined MPG: 51.4
Total fuel costs (60, 000 miles): £6,681.00
Annual road fund licence: £120

The test drivers

Steve Moore
Principal, MacIntyre Hudson, chartered accountants

Steve is addicted to the smell of petrol and the power of the internal
combustion engine. He currently drives a BMW M3 ­ a car he had yearned for since
1993. But his love is not blind and he realises that it is not the most energy
efficient vehicle around.

‘A client took me out in his M3 and I was extremely impressed ­ it was then
that I set my heart on one,’ he said. ‘The buying decision was purely emotional.
I am concerned about global warming and do my best to conserve energy at home.
Whatever we do here is a drop in the ocean compared to the pollution created by
emerging economies in the third world ­ but we have to start somewhere.’

Current car : BMW M3 CS
Fuel: petrol
Carbon dioxide emissions: 323g/km
Combined MPG: 21.1
Total fuel costs (60, 000 miles): £15,241.71
Annual road fund licence: £400

Graham Larkins
Architectural technician, Sursham Tompkins & Partners

It was a dark grey Morris Traveller with wooden panelling that first sparked
Graham’s fascination with cars ­ a craving now satiated by the sporty Audi S3. A
self-confessed speed addict, Graham changes cars often.
‘I enjoy driving a fast car ­ but responsibly and sensibly,’ says Larkins.

‘I love the feeling of power. While I am aware of the green issues
surrounding cars, I am not greatly concerned, as the car I drive is relatively
efficient in comparison to its performance.
‘With the economic gloom of the last few months, especially in relation to fuel
I may have to reconsider my choice of car.’

Current car: Audi A3 S3
Fuel: petrol
Carbon dioxide emissions: 217g/km
Combined MPG: 31
Total fuel costs (60, 000 miles): £10,374.19
Annual road fund licence: £210

Gary Tait
Employment law director, Tollers LLP, commercial and private law solic

Gary Tait is not that ‘into’ cars ­ he drives one as he needs to get from A
to B and as long as his golf clubs fit in the boot, he’s happy.

He first hit the roads in a red Ford Fiesta, but the relationship only lasted
three months, as he wasn’t keen on the colour. He now has a metallic green VW

‘I like to drive a car that exactly meets my needs,’ says Tait. ‘It has to be
big enough for the family and luggage yet still look good. I want comfort ­ as I
spend about 25 hours a week on the road ­ along with reliability and safety.
Good fuel economy is a key consideration as I believe we live in a society that
is far too wasteful of precious resources.’

Current car: VW Passat 2.0 SE TDi
Fuel: diesel
Carbon dioxide emissions: 153g/km
Combined MPG: 48.7
Total fuel costs (60, 000 miles): £7,367.56
Annual road fund licence: £145

BMW 1 Series 118D SE 5DR
Manual Hatchback

‘I very much like the look of this car and think it’s a real ‘driver’s car’ ­ it
handles well through the rear wheel drive with more power than I’d expected and
there was plenty of torque for a 1.8 diesel engine. The automatic switch-off
when stationary is an energy saver but the interior would benefit from being a
little less ‘plastic’.

I would have no hesitation in choosing this as a company car and would even
buy one myself ­
but the 3.0M version.’

‘I enjoyed driving the BMW more than I thought I would. It offers excellent fuel
economy yet handles superbly. I’d happily take one as a company car and might
even consider buying one with a higher specification.’

‘Not keen on the shape and I was disappointed with the “tinny” finish. I enjoyed
the drive but it didn’t overly impress me. However, I liked the automatic cut
out of the engine ­ one day all cars should be like this. The boot wasn’t big
enough for my golf clubs ­ not good.’

Fleet Expert

‘This is a “Marmite” car in that you either love or hate its very distinctive
shape. I think this is why it doesn’t feature highly in many company fleets. As
far as monthly rental, it is quite expensive for its class but its green
credentials are exemplary. This car’s appeal lies with the efficient personal
taxation benefits it offers.

‘In summary ­ you either love the shape, the environment or having a car and
the money in
your wallet.’

Manual Saloon

‘Disappointing, as I thought the Audi would deliver a far better driving
experience ­ it failed to live up to my expectations. I found it to be plain ­
both in terms of its shape and styling with the only redeeming feature being the
front-end ‘facelift, as it now looks more like the A5. Saying that, there is
nothing really to dislike about this car.’

‘A fine looking vehicle that is well finished and a joy to drive. I enjoyed the
experience and felt its fuel economy to be one if its top features. I disliked
the driving position with offset pedals and could not take to the electric
‘Being an Audi driver, I expected more from this car but was left wanting. Not
sure I’d choose it for a company car but would not warn people off, as I know
Audi can do better on other models.’

‘I very much liked the look of this car and loved driving it. People had told me
how good the Audi was and sure enough, it lived up to its reputation.
I wouldn’t mind one as a company car but wouldn’t buy one myself ­ boot not big
enough again!’

Fleet Expert
‘There is a great and dedicated following for this car and it is the most po
pular car in its class ­ beating the BMW 3 series and the Ford Mondeo. It’s
good looking and great to drive with high residual values and competitive rental
rates. Low CO2 emissions combined with fuel efficiency will make this a firm
favourite ­ just like it’s predecessor.’

Auto Saloon

‘The designer of this car must have had a PhD from the university of bland. It’s
like a golf buggy in that when you move off there’s no sound from the electric
motor until the engine kicks in at about 20mph. The technology used in this car
is superb as you can watch where the power is being used and regenerated via the
display panel on the dashboard.
‘Getting in and out was a pain as I kept banging my head, and I’m not that tall.
Not a car for me ­ nil points.’

‘A much bigger and more comfortable car ­ as indicated by the rather hefty price
tag. It delivered a ‘refined’ drive ideal for ‘gentlemen’ , with the walnut dash
and pale leather interior. It ticked all the boxes but, in my opinion, it lacked

‘Easy to drive, undemanding and comfortable with loads of space ­ except in the
boot. It’s a ridiculous concept that the battery takes up so much space that
there’s no room for anything else. Although I liked this car, I calculated that
it gave me only six miles to a pound’s worth of fuel. My favourite of the three,
but I wouldn’t want one!’

Fleet Expert
‘Has very limited appeal to the senior/director level and faces stiff
competition from the more stylish Jaguar XF and BMW 530 cars. In a recent survey
it came fifth, out of six in its class, only beating the Volvo and has the
highest monthly rental ­ you really have to want to make an eco-statement to
choose this car.’

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