Car Choice: 'I need an eco-friendly car to cut my tax bill'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Simon Colebrook drives a 2002-registered petrol Audi A2 1.4SE. He chose it partially for the style and compact size, but mainly for the consumption and emissions. His annual commute and business mileage is 10,000 miles. Being 6ft tall, he likes the A2's mini-MPV style and the flexible seating and storage options. He has also considered the Renault Modus, the Smart Forfour, the Honda Jazz and the Mercedes A-Class.

Simon chose a petrol engine because the premium for a diesel-powered car meant that he would need to drive 30,000 miles per year to get the money back in three years. His Audi's engine is one of the most economical petrol units, but the reason for his choice highlights the problem of being guided by company car rules. The benefit charge of a company car is linked to the car's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which are measured in grams per kilometre (g/km). The starting point for calculating the benefit charge is the car's list price (plus accessories), but the percentage of price charged to tax depends on the car's CO2 emissions. The normal minimum charge will be on 15 per cent of the car's price and the maximum charge will be on 35 per cent of the car's price.

Discounts for cars that use environmentally friendly fuelscan reduce the minimum charge to less than 15 per cent. There is a supplement of 3 per cent for diesel cars, but this will not increase the level of the maximum charge to more than 35 per cent. Contact the DVLA for details (www. dvla.gov.uk; 0870 240 0010). That's the law, what about the car?

A CAR FOR THE HEAD

The Vauxhall Meriva has blind spots - the front-door pillar and what can only be described as a quarter light - but it is underrated as a micro MPV. I'm worried that Simon will notice the difference in quality when it comes to the cabin, but he likes the internal flexibility of these small cars, and the rear seats move independently to create more space and they also fold into the floor. This helps when it comes to getting extra luggage inside because there is a flat, wide load bay.

The economical diesel, which manages around 52 mpg, meets the latest Euro IV emissions standards, so that means it rates 19 per cent liability for company car tax purposes. But if Simon wants to save £1,000 and can manage with the 1.4 petrol, then he will only pay 17 per cent of the list price in car tax. The most refined engine for a commute would be the 1.6 engine, which attracts 22 per cent company car tax.

A CAR FOR THE HEART

Simon has considered the Mercedes A-Class. The new one is nicely built, but will be appropriately expensive. If Simon wants to save money, he ought to consider the Toyota Yaris Verso. Prices start at £11,695 and the tax liability is 17 per cent, or 15 per cent if he went for the more expensive diesel. Incredibly, you can fit five bodies inside with relative ease and there is still space for luggage - not something that Simon can do in the A2. The rear door is side-hinged on the right, while the two larger rear seats cleverly tuck away under the front seats. This leaves a virtually flat and unobstructed load space. In that space, there are four strong tie-hooks to keep luggage firmly in place.

After the stylish A2, the Yaris looks awkward, so Simon just has to make sure that he likes its appearance. I think that the Yaris has an odd charm that sets it apart from some of the minibus-style MPVs on the market. In addition, because it's Toyota it won't break down, and it is pleasing to drive, with an enthusiastic little 1.3-litre engine.

CAR CHOICE

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail James Ruppert at carchoice@independent.co.uk, giving your age, address and contact number, and details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested.

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