Best all rounder
Skoda Superb Estate
The new Superb is the third-generation of Skoda's flagship and it has matured into an extremely polished and well-thought out multipurpose car. It's based on VW's newest chassis architecture and benefits from the company's fine post-Dieselgate engines, though this whisper-quiet petrol turbo engine makes a strong case for old-school gasoline power. The Skoda is extremely comfortable, refined and handles very well indeed.
The Superb is simply huge inside and there's not much you couldn't get into this estate version. Even so, it is sensibly sized and city use is easy enough. It's also very well made and tightly assembled inside, without having premium car pretensions. Imagine a cooler, more urbane, less expensive and more capacious old-school Volvo Estate.
Skoda Superb Estate 1.4 TSI 150 SE
List price: £22,810
Target price: £20,697
Typical contract hire per month: £276
CO2 emissions: 119g/km
Tax liability: 20%
BIK cost (40% taxpayers) per month: £152
Combined mpg: 55.4
0-62 mph: 8.7 seconds
Top speed: 135 mph
BEST LOW-TAX OPTION
Citroen C4 Cactus
An unusual car, the rubber-padded Cactus is something of a last throw of the dice for a name that was in danger of disappearing into the discount store of automotive brands. The Cactus is intended to recapture Citroen in its heyday, with the characteristic easy rolling gait and general effortlessness of classic French cars. A combination of light weight, low entry-level pricing and the efficiency of the three-cylinder turbo petrol engine, means this is one of the more inexpensive medium-size cars to run as a company vehicle (if you can live with the cheesy 'Feel' moniker). Although there are a handful of business drivers who use them long-haul, the Cactus is really intended for local and medium-distance use.
CitroEn C4 Cactus 1.2 PureTech 110 Feel
List price: £16,455
Target price: £15,629
Typical contract hire per month: £187
CO2 emissions: 100g/km
Tax liability: 17%
BIK cost (40% taxpayers) per month: £93
Combined mpg: 65.7
0-62 mph: 9.3 seconds
Top speed: 117 mph
BEST POST-BREXIT CHOICE
As the dust settles after a summer of surprises, buying more British-made goods might become both an economic necessity and a marketing rallying cry. What better choice than the Nissan Qashqai? Designed in London, engineered in Bedfordshire and made in the Brexit city of Sunderland, at a factory owned by a Franco-Japanese automaker.
The first-generation Qashqai can probably be credited with sparking the Crossover boom (over 25% of new cars are now Crossovers and SUVs). The newest model is a big leap forward: spacious and well-laid out. The Renault-sourced diesel engine is refined and frugal. Decent residuals keep the contract hire payments reasonable for a relatively upmarket vehicle.
Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi Acenta
List price: £21,960
Target price: £20,153
Typical contract hire per month: £232
CO2 emissions: 99g/km
Tax liability: 19%
BIK cost (40% taxpayers) per month: £139
Combined mpg: 74.3
0-62 mph: 11.9 seconds
Top speed: 113 mph
If you are in the position to afford a full-on SUV, the seven-seat Volvo XC90 is probably the best out there. Yes, it is a huge car - and on the verge of being too big in many urban situations - but this hybrid version also has a green heart. The on-board battery pack is big enough to allow around 20 miles of pure electric travel, which should cover the daily school run and trip to Waitrose.
On the open road, the Volvo is outrageously comfortable, effortless and very secure in poor weather. However, the government has pulled the tax-free deal for EVs and plug-in hybrids, so there's a benefit-in-kind (BIK) charge from this year.
Volvo XC90 T8 Hybrid Momentum
List price: £60,455
Target price: £58,360
Typical contract hire per month: £800
CO2 emissions: 49g/km
Tax liability: 7%
BIK cost (40% taxpayers) per month: £141
Combined mpg: 134.5
0-62 mph: 5.6 seconds
Top speed: 140 mph
BEST ELECTRIC CAR
In the first four months of 2016, some 916,000 new cars were registered in the UK. Of that number, just 3,744 were pure battery electric vehicles. EVs are not proving very popular. However, they can make good sense for a back-to-base driver in urban and suburban situations.
The ZOE is typical of what's best about pure EVs. Extremely refined, very nippy in traffic, whisper quiet, as well as having virtually zero effect on the local environment. Recharging from the mains overnight is significantly cheaper than using heavily taxed fossil fuels. But conventional leasing remains costly, with low residual values driving up the monthly cost. EV fans would be better off leasing them personally rather than as company cars.
Renault Zoe Dynamique Nav Rapid Charge
List price: £20,545
Target price: £14,198
Typical contract hire per month: £405
CO2 emissions: 0g/km
Tax liability: 7%
BIK cost (40% taxpayers) per month: £48
Combined mpg: n/a
0-62mph: 13.5 seconds
Top speed: 84 mph
Recently voted overall 2016 'Car of the Year' by What Car?, you might be forgiven for wondering why a mid-market executive car was worthy of such praise. But for the genuine big-mileage business driver, the new A4 is an exceptional place to spend long hours. Nobody can match Audi's tasteful and exquisitely turned interior design and there's little tax disadvantage in going for the refined V6 diesel over a humdrum and less smooth-running four-cylinder oil-burner. The new A4 is also based on a new architecture that puts the emphasis on long-distance comfort. It's a sensible U-turn after two decades in which the premium car industry has enthusiastically tuned its vehicles for 'sporting' responses.
Audi A4 3.0 TDI 218 Sport
List price: £34,700
Target price: £31,061
Typical contract hire per month: £434
CO2 emissions: 109g/km
Tax liability: 21%
BIK cost (40% taxpayers) per month: £243
Combined mpg: 67.3
0-62 mph: 6.6 seconds
Top speed: 155 mph
BEST DRIVING INDULGENCE
There's a rough rule of thumb when it comes to driving pleasure that a big engine in a small car is likely to be a successful format. Using an engine as smooth and accomplished as a BMW straight-six, adding a turbocharger and then squeezing the result into the compact BMW 1-Series body is just as good in reality as it undoubtedly looked on paper. The M135i's effortless performance and aristocratic demeanour wouldn't shame a car costing more than double, and there are few engines that can match this unit for turbine smoothness and sheer pace. It's also best as an auto, which keeps the engine on song at all times. Only a highish CO2 output and stiff BIK spoil things.
BMW M135I 3dr Step Auto
List price: £33,735
Target price: £29,890
Typical contract hire per month: £384
CO2 emissions: 175g/km
Tax liability: 32%
BIK cost (40% taxpayers) per month: £359
Combined mpg: 37.7
0-62 mph: 4.9 seconds
Top speed: 155 mph
A prime example of the potential of the new generation of small capacity turbocharged petrol engines. Although it is just a three-cylinder 1 litre, this engine punches well above its weight. A very clever way of unbalancing the engine's flywheel cancels out the inherently unbalanced three-cylinder format and results in a powertrain that is uncannily smooth - much more so than a diesel engine. This Golf is also notably cheaper at showroom prices than its conventional 1.6-litre diesel sister car, and has a 3% lower BIK rating. Despite its age, the Golf 7 remains a champion for interior space, perceived interior quality and overall sophistication. This is a lot of polished car for £111 a month in tax.
Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI BlueMotion Edition 5Dr
List price: £20,765
Target price: £18,774
Typical contract hire per month: £256
CO2 emissions: 99g/km
Tax liability: 16%
BIK cost (40% taxpayers) per month: £111
Combined mpg: 65.7
0-62 mph: 9.7 seconds
Top speed: 126 mph
BEST FOR WORK AND PLAY
Land Rover Discovery Sport
With the new Discovery Sport, Land Rover has finally cracked the formula for the upmarket medium-size SUV. The Freelander 2 - a fine vehicle, designed under Ford's ownership - suffered from the poor reputation of the original Freelander and sales remained at around half of the best of its Germanic rivals.
The Discovery Sport has fixed nearly all of the problems, especially in terms of practicality. It gets a much bigger boot and can carry children in a third row of seats. It is powered by the new all-British Ingenium diesel engine, which works well with the optional nine-speed auto box. The Disco is well sized for urban use and has enough serious off-roading ability to enliven family weekends.
Land Rover Discovery Sport 2.0 TD4 180 SE Tech
List price: £34,315
Target price: £33,442
Typical contract hire per month: £462
CO2 emissions: 139g/km
Tax liability: 27%
BIK cost (40% taxpayers) per month: £309
Combined mpg: 53.3
0-62 mph: 9.4 seconds
Top speed: 117 mph
BEST BRITISH-BUILT CAR
It may be a globally known brand, but Jaguar has been on the critical list. Last year it sold just 85,000 vehicles globally, compared to the 403,000 units shifted by its Land Rover sister brand. Clearly, Jaguar needs a really big-selling vehicle.
Happily the F-PACE sports crossover is almost guaranteed to be the model that saves the company. Based on the same all-aluminium chassis as its saloon car stablemates, it hits the market sweet spot for premium crossovers, thanks to exceptional handling and impressively large luggage capacity. Sadly, the highish CO2 of this slick V6 diesel and uncertain residuals make this 'family sports car' a little expensive.
Jaguar F-PACE 3.0d V6S auto
List price: £51,450
Target price: £51,265
Typical contract hire per month: £744
CO2 emissions: 159g/km
Tax liability: 31%
BIK cost (40% taxpayers) per month: £529
Combined mpg: 47.1
0-62 mph: 5.8 seconds
Top speed: 150 mph
Image credit: CPG Grey/Wikipedia