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AUCTIONS: Supermini-MPVs - New niche finds its feet

Date: 05 February 2008

While the concept of supermini-MPVs has yet to bed down with motorists or fleet managers, the category does offer something different in the used market - which is why there's always healthy interest in good examples

The supermini-MPV is a relatively recent attempt by car makers to merge the benefits of two sectors, creating a small and manoeuvrable MPV for city streets. The aim is to give lots of practicality in a compact package, with flexible seating, a tall shape for good visibility and plenty of interior space.

As the market is relatively new, large volumes have yet to appear. Since Q3 in 2005 Manheim has sold on average between 1000 and 1500 supermini-MPVs per year and has found that the age and mileage has been fairly constant, as has the percentage of new price retained at just over 50%. In Q2 and Q3 of 2007 older, higher mileage cars began to appear and the percentage of new price retained fell to just below 45%, still a very strong return. Manheim believes it likely it will take until the end of 2008 for this segment to become fully established.

Popular models

According to BCA, Vauxhall Merivas are very popular. "At BCA we probably see more Merivas than other models, and the wide range of trims and engines makes it a popular choice for used buyers, with the Easytronic automatic versions being much sought after," says BCA's UK operations director Simon Henstock. "Generally, buyers seem to prefer the bigger-engined, more powerful versions in this sector, so the Meriva 1.6 Life will realise around £500 more than the 1.4 Life model at three years and 40,000 miles. Meanwhile, the latest 'hot' Meriva VXR 180PS version is sure to become a cult favourite with buyers."

A more recent entrant to the market, the Nissan Note has been well reviewed in the motoring press and also includes a good range of engines, including the powerful 1.5 DCi diesel unit. "Seen as a well-designed, agile and roomy car for urban driving, the Note is not available in great numbers in the used market, and consequently values are firm," says Henstock. "For the true city dweller where parking space is at a premium, the Note remains a very desirable and practical proposition."

The Renault Modus comes with a good specification and again boasts a good range of engines - from frugal 1.2 petrol to relatively powerful 113PS 1.6 litre unit, with three 1.5-litre diesels offering up to 105PS. Henstock says it "might be seen as an expensive choice by some used buyers, but has a well specified interior and a five-star NCAP rating to justify it".

Launched in 2004 and facelifted in 2006, the Fiat Idea has three trim levels. Henstock describes it as "a well designed, small MPV that can be great value for money in the used market, offering plenty of space in a relatively compact body shape and rear seats that provided a fair degree of flexibility".

Tip the balance

"Generally, cars in this sector are often destined to be a second or third car in the household, so can be quite price sensitive as they're not a necessity," says Henstock, "but balancing that, as there's little fleet penetration there are not huge numbers available in the marketplace, and examples are relatively scarce compared to other sectors. There's no doubt that if a motorist wants a small MPV they will be prepared to pay for the right model, although low-spec and underpowered examples can be more difficult to remarket."

Henstock continues: "High mileage will have a disproportionate effect on value as buyers don't expect little cars to do lots of miles. Colour is also important and big bold shades work well in this sector, as do pearlescents or metallics to give the car some character. What won't attract the used buyer however is a travelling billboard - so if you are operating Mini-MPVs make sure all traces of branding are removed before remarketing. Certainly consider vinyl wrapping as an alternative to a non-factory paint scheme.

"Lastly, auto gearbox versions are scarcer in this sector and values generally correspondingly higher."