Feature – Finding a car for work and family

If you read nothing else, read this …
• Cars that are popular as second hand private buys please company car providers because they hold their value better – super-minis are particularly in demand.

• Always work out the CO2 emissions to avoid a nasty tax bill. Diesel versions tend to come out best.

• It’s worth test-driving several different models with your family to see if a car fits the bill outside of work.

Family car parameters have changed in recent years. No longer are they either spacious saloons or estates.

“I think a lot of cars are misdescribed by their makers,” says a Bob Blackman, company vehicle consultant at Emmerson Hill Associates. As an example, he cites the habit of lumping conventional baby cars like the Vauxhall Corsa with its mini-people carrier Mariva sister. Knowing which is which can be a headache.

With this in mind, Employee Benefits has taken a look some of latest cars that work well both as family and working vehicles – along with a few soon-to- arrive alternatives.

When it comes to small family cars, the Mitsubishi Colt is small on the outside but extremely spacious within, featuring a range of highly efficient engines including a tax-friendly 1.5 litre diesel. The Dutch-built Colt is closely related to the Smart Forfour, but is less expensive and has design plus points.

Alternatives include the Vauxhall Mariva, the new, ingeniously packaged and safety conscious Renault Modus, the Honda Jazz and more conventional, but well- designed Ford Fiesta. Next January sees the arrival of a new version of the popular-but-pricey Mercedes A-Class.

For those looking for a conventional mid-sized hatchback, there’s a new Ford Focus on the horizon, set to arrive in January. Less radically styled than before, the car is likely to be very good at what it does, something that can already be said of the recently reincarnated Vauxhall Astra, which is safe, convenient and decently screwed together. Ditto the latest VW Golf, which is not an inspired car, but a capable one, particularly in diesel guise. The Citroën Xsara (replacing the C4) is another 2005 debutee worth considering.It’s likely to be well equipped and keenly priced.

Blackman believes the upper medium saloon market, meanwhile, is withering in its family friendliness, but cars in this class are still in demand thanks to employees’ aspirational designs, with many cars doubling up as spouse and children movers. For those that don’t want a BMW 3 Series (there’s a new one on the horizon) Honda’s latest Accord is a stylish, distinctive design in both booted and estate versions – and diesel versions are now available. A lack of diesels was once a major Honda bugbear. The good looking Mazda Six has been around for a while, but is worth considering too, as is the high-value, newly- revamped Skoda Octavia – although depreciation could be heavier than rivals – and the ubiquitous Ford Mondeo, which is a very capable car backed by a huge fleet-friendly organisation. The current Vauxhall Vectra is rather anodyne, and the estate is huge.

When it comes to compact people carriers not everyone loves the origami styling of modern Renaults, but the seven seat Grand Scenic makes a great family car, featuring diesels, clever packaging and class-leading safety features. “Renault has been the driver for innovation in this sector,” says Blackman. Alternatives include the new Toyota Corolla Verso, the less spacious Ford C-Max and the ever- popular Vauxhall Zafira. If opting for a people carrier, however, it is worth considering if it will fit in the garage.

Finally, in the perk car market, the recently launched, compact Volvo V50 estate is rather stylish, with a more upmarket image than its V40 predecessor, and could attract drivers looking for something different. Otherwise there’s the just-launched Audi A3 Sportback, which is a clever crossover between a five-door hatchback and an estate. Moving further upmarket, Jaguar has revitalised its X- Type with a range of company-friendly diesel engines and a compact estate. These are good cars, although perhaps not as depreciation-proof as their Teutonic rivals.