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LOW CO2 CARS: Low-CO2 quality and quantity still growing as BIK bands tighten

Date: 05 June 2012

Although the company car benefit-in-kind boundaries were tightened last month, the breadth of motoring appeal at crucial low-CO2 points means there is much to like, no matter where you set your limits. Paul Barker investigates

For the fourth year, BusinessCar has undertaken research of the low-emission end of the UK car market, investigating the sizeable range of options for fleets looking to maintain, shift or install CO2 emissions caps on their company car operation.

This year, we've looked at the range of cars available at under 120g/km, 100g/km and 95g/km (see 'The importance of emissions boundaries', below) across a range of criteria to highlight the choice of mainstream models at the significant points.

Of the top 30 fleet brands, only Land Rover, Jaguar and Subaru can't offer a sub-120g/km model, leaving 27 mainstream car companies, each with between one and in excess of 200 individual entries on their price lists at under 120g/km. In total across the UK market there are 1354 individual sub-120g/km models listed by BusinessCar's tax calculator (provided by Comcar - see, which compares with 894 one year ago and 699 in May 2010, illustrating the growing pace of change.

Drop to below 100g/km, and only two of the remaining 27 brands, including those with an electric vehicle offering, can't offer fleets at least one model. Both Mazda and Mercedes-Benz don't have a vehicle down to double-digit CO2 emissions, although the latter will have dealt with that weakness early next year with the arrival of the new A-class. The number of sub-100g/km models on UK price lists has rocketed from 48 in May 2010 through 101 last year and up to 248 at the time of writing, according to BusinessCar's tax calculator.

In the past 12 months, manufacturers including BMW, Chevrolet, Honda and Kia have all added vehicles below 100g/km, making 25 brands in total, and 19 of those (a list that excludes the likes of Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Honda, Mini and Suzuki) are also capable of catering for business car operators or drivers looking for vehicles under 95g/km too. That encompasses those manufacturers with range-extender electric or full-electric vehicles, which are rated at 0g/km for CO2 emissions, but the fact that the number of cars under 95g/km on sale in the UK has now reached three figures, with 102 in total, is impressive.

So with the growing choice of models available at lower emission points, BusinessCar has undertaken research to identify the leading contenders for corporate attention across a range of categories.

The categories we've chosen help to illustrate how 120g/km, 100g/km or even 95g/km limits on fleet policies could still provide the range of vehicles to fulfill a company's requirements, across price performance, desirability and space.

For those looking simply for the most cost-efficient low-CO2 options we have listed the five cheapest cars on sale at each of the selected emissions levels, as well as proving that senior management needn't be exempt from any policy shift by showing the top end of what's available at the three CO2 points. When executives know they can still be offered prestige brands and well-equipped vehicles, policy decisions may be easier to install.

Persuading drivers that performance doesn't necessarily suffer by nudging them into more efficient cars will be an important part of making these models more acceptable, so the top five by 0-62mph acceleration time are also listed.

We've also looked at those manufacturers and models that offer the widest breadth of models, with Vauxhall again leading the way but having almost doubled its offering below 120g/km from 110 a year ago to 210 now. Volvo has come from nowhere to grab second spot in that table thanks to a massive effort in offering low-emission models across its range, with Peugeot dropping a place to third. The French brand now leads the sub-100g/km list with 39 individual models, compared with last year's table-toppers Fiat and Seat that then had just 12, while Renault's 95g/km offering is the most in the industry on 11 thanks to the Megane's recent revisions.

If kit-carrying is important to a fleet, that's still no excuse not to bring in lower-emission vehicles. Both with seats up and seats down, BusinessCar has logged the top five models by rear space. To say that the Volvo V70 is only fifth at under 120g/km for boot space shows the options on offer, and even at sub-100g/km there are still five cars that offer at least 400 litres of boot space with the rear seats still upright.

The final category is BusinessCar's own selection of our favourite cars available at these different efficiency levels. It highlights the diversity and appeal of the cars on offer, and again proves there's no loss of badge appeal, style or versatility in choosing efficient models, and with taxation and fuel prices both only moving in one direction, future-proofing your fleet by picking the most efficient yet suitable vehicles possible will save businesses and drivers money.

What about electric?

Businesscar took the decision not to include the growing number of increasingly good electric and range-extender vehicles in this piece because they still require an infrastructure, are expensive and, in the case of pure electric vehicles, are seriously compromised in terms of range.

But the technology is rapidly developing and well worth serious consideration, if journeys match the vehicles' capabilities and advantages.

Pure-electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf or Mitsubishi i-Miev generally have ranges of up to 100 miles between recharging, and their numbers will swell later this year when Renault's fourth EV, the supermini Zoe, will appear, while Ford is to launch an electric Focus next year and BMW's electric brand will include the i8 sports car as well as the plug-in EV i3.

Plug-in hybrids incorporate an electric motor and a petrol engine. Pioneered by the Vauxhall Ampera and Chevrolet Volt, they allow shorter journeys to be conducted only on electric power, but with the back-up of a petrol motor, making long journeys also possible, unlike with the car's full-electric counterparts. New plug-in hybrids on the way include the Toyota Prius, Volvo V60, Audi A3, VW Golf, VW Up, Ford C-max and BMW i3. These models will be more expensive to buy than traditional diesels, but if run on electric power for significant portions of their mileage, big savings on fuel cost are possible.

Coming soon - Exciting low-CO2 models on the way

With the fast pace of improvement in the car industry, it's no surprise that the scene will change in the next 12 months with a large number of new models helping to increase the choice of low-emission cars.

Toyota has a trio of new models that utilise its pioneering hybrid technology, with the 87g/km Yaris hybrid setting a new low price point for people wanting to take on a hybrid, while the Prius Plus will be the first seven-seater below 100g/km when it arrives alongside the Yaris this summer. Volkswagen's Jetta gets a 99g/km hybrid version next summer, ahead of plug-in electric Golf and Up models coming later in 2013.

Another manufacturer venturing into the hybrid arena is Mercedes-Benz, with a 109g/km E300 Bluetec Hybrid arriving this autumn, offering 67.3mpg - class-leading figures.

Ford will add to its low-emission Fiesta Econetic with a Focus version toting its low-CO2 branding, which comes in below 100g/km this summer, while the compact premium segment will enjoy a trio of introductions to join the new BMW 1-series Efficient Dynamics model below 100g/km. The new Audi A3, Volvo V40 and, early next year, Mercedes A-class will all offer sub-100g/km models as competition ratchets up like never before at the lower end of the premium brands' ranges. Another brand extending its reach below 100g/km is Honda, with a 120hp diesel Civic bringing 95g/km emissions.

Other additions on the way in the next 12 months at under 100g/km include the new Renault Clio, while Ford's B-max supermini-MPV will be available at under 120g/km. Also heading for market are a sub-120g/km Seat Exeo Ecomotive and sub-100g/km versions of the new Kia Ceed, while Nissan is promising development of its model range below 100g/km. Mazda will replace its upper medium 6 next year with a sub-110g/km new model next year, using its latest SkyActive emissions-optimising technology.