Top 25: Cars in tax band C
Saving money on road tax doesn’t have to be the preserve of economy-focused small cars. Start looking at cars that fall within Band C for VED – where you’ll pay just £30 per year – and there’s a whole host of interesting and entertaining models to choose from.
And that’s what makes band C cars particularly interesting, because this is the level at which the balance begins to shift slightly from the worthy to the more sparkling, with more petrol-engined cars and names like BMW, Audi, Alfa Romeo and Mercedes-Benz in greater numbers.
BMW’s foray into the world of front-wheel drive manages to be both stylish and practical in equal measure. One-touch folding rear seats and an electric tailgate ensure its user friendly, there’s 1510 litres of maximum space available, and the rear seats slide by 150mm for added versatility. It’s also nice to drive and the cabin is comfortable, spacious, and boasts impressive solidity and material quality.
Slotting into band C is the petrol-powered 218i that gets BMW’s refined and frugal 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine, and it’s a mighty impressive unit. Smooth, punchy, and characterful it makes a very strong case for sticking with the green pump at the forecourt.
The latest big Ford earns top marks from us, and it won’t take long behind the wheel to discover why. For one thing the Mondeo rides and handles with real aplomb and is easily a match for premium-badged rivals in this department, and opting for the 180PS 2.0-litre TDCi diesel brings punchy performance and claimed economy of 64.2mpg.
So it’s quick and frugal, but that’s not all as the latest iteration also provides a classy interior that’s as spacious as it is comfortable. With plenty of standard kit and impressive practicality, it’s a terrific all-rounder and one that sits right at the top of the class.
While the styling isn’t to all tastes – the looks are chunkily off-road biased - the Yeti is a firm favourite thanks to its broad range of abilities. Included amongst them are top-notch build quality and a spacious, versatile, and well-equipped interior, all of which make for a very satisfying ownership proposition.
And along with decent road manners, Skoda’s crossover model also offers decent value with the 105PS 1.6-litre TDI diesel claiming a wallet-friendly 61.4mpg. Admittedly the performance is a touch leisurely – 0-62mph takes 11.8 seconds – but it’s hardly a deal breaker when the rest of the package is so impressive.
The enduring popularity of the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf means the Astra sometimes gets forgotten, but that’s a bit of a shame as it still has plenty to offer in the family car class. All models are comfortable and well-equipped, and while the ride and handling may lack flair compared to rivals it’s composed enough, and the decent high speed refinement makes for a useful motorway mile-muncher.
The styling is smart and the wide range of engines includes the 2.0-litre CDTi diesel in 165PS EcoFLEX form that we’ve chosen here. It’s a refined and flexible unit that blends strong performance with claimed economy of 62mpg.
Resembling a shrunken S-Class the latest model is a hugely polished performer and should be all the car you’ll ever need. It’s underpinned by a new platform, whas sleeker looks, and there’s more cabin space while the roomy and cosseting interior has a truly premium feel.
It’s much better to drive than before as well, and more refined, and all models come well-equipped as standard with DAB and Artico faux leather. Things get predictably pricey if you start delving into the options list but at least the impressively efficient diesel engine in the C250 Bluetec model will help keep fuel bills low.
One of the more recent entrants to the estate car sector, the 308 offers a strong blend of frugality and value that makes it very appealing. Falling into band C is the 1.2-litre Pure Tech unit, a turbocharged triple that offers plenty of character and impressive performance thanks to a generous 230Nm of torque.
Practicality is useful too with a maximum 1775 litres of space, and there’s been a real step-up in quality and refinement compared to the previous generation although the 308 proves to be a pleasing rather than exciting drive. The unusual instrument and steering wheel arrangement can take getting used to though so you’ll want to try it before taking the plunge.
With a 1.2-litre TFSI engine producing just 86PS, this version of the A1 is never going to be a ball of fire. The 0-62mph sprint takes just under 12 seconds, but thankfully there are plenty of other attributes with the engine proving both smooth and responsive, not to mention usefully frugal.
It’s a very classy looking small hatch too and, ultimate performance aside, is nice to drive with slick controls and a firm but well-judged ride. The cabin is as good as you’d expect from something with the four-ringed badge on its nose, and the smallest Audi is even quite practical with a maximum boot space of 920 litres.
We like the latest 5 Series a lot and reckon it’s the best executive saloon on the market right now. Refinement and build quality are top notch, but not only is it cosseting but it’s also great to drive with agile handling and a supple ride. And while the steering lacks the final polish that we’ve come to expect from the brand, it’s a minor point.
The image is as classy as ever and there is a broad range of models that includes our pick, the 520d that features a very efficient 2.0-litre, four-cylinder unit producing 192PS. Slightly quicker in automatic form, 62mph arrives in just 7.7 seconds yet it still claims 62.8mpg combined.
This is certainly no MINI in the traditional sense and not everyone can get on with the awkward looks, but if you’re a fan of the brand but need greater versatility then it’s likely to prove an appealing option. We’ve chosen the 1.6-litre diesel model in two-wheel drive form which delivers claimed economy of 67mpg along with a reasonably fleet 0-62mph time of 10.7 seconds.
Get past the bluff styling and you’ll find a reasonably spacious interior that offers 1170 litres of load space with the rear seats folded, and one that’s stuffed with the usual funky design cues, and while not an especially dynamic drive the Countryman is a sensible and very popular choice.
With summer on its way, buyers are beginning to think about convertibles and this is certainly a stylish way to top up the tan. It’s not cheap mind, and a touch cramped inside in our view, but those retro looks hold plenty of appeal and it’s also a lot nicer to drive than the previous iteration.
The roof folds away in just 9.5 seconds and it can be done at speeds of up to 31mph, and even when folded there’s still a reasonably handy 225 litres of boot space. And paying just £30 in VED will secure the 2.0-litre TDI that makes good use of its 150PS.
If you’re looking for a good value hatch with a smattering of MPV-like practicality then the stylish Captur should fit the bill very nicely. It’s very car like to drive – although there’s not much in the way of fun to be had - and the compact dimensions make it a good urban companion so it’s a sensible rather than sparkling choice.
And overall quality is a touch average too if truth be told. And while the 0.9-litre three-cylinder isn’t the best option – diesel power works best here - there’s plenty of standard kit, and you can pick from a range of multimedia and connectivity options to keep passengers amused.
The sleek styling of the i40 really stands out and you certainly get plenty of car for the money. Passengers will appreciate the space and smooth ride - helped by the long wheelbase - but it’s luggage capacity where this car really impresses, folding the rear seats producing a whopping 1719 litres of space.
Just one engine is offered, a 1.7-litre diesel available in 115PS and 136PS forms – both fall within band C - but it’s refined and economical with the lower-powered version claiming 65.7mpg. It doesn’t offer as sharp a drive as rivals such as the Mondeo and Passat but it’s an accomplished cruiser all the same.
The A6 is one of our favourite executive cars, boasting a spacious and beautifully constructed cabin and plenty of standard kit including leather trim, cruise control, and navigation. It’s refined too which makes it ideal for the long-distance motorway slog, while still managing to ride and handle well.
A downside though is the pricey extras and it’s all too easy to see the cost spiral if you get busy with the options list, but it’s the engine that’s the star here. Choose the A6 in torquey, 2.0-litre TDI Ultra form and the 190PS unit will return a claimed 64mpg and crack the 0-62mph sprint in an impressive 8.4 seconds.
The striking styling gives this family motor real kerb appeal, and with a range of impressive Skyactiv engines it’s no surprise this Mondeo rival is one of our favourite large saloons. The construction features lightweight materials to help boost efficiency and the 6 boasts some impressive economy and CO2 figures, the punchy 175PS 2.2-litre diesel engine emitting just 119g/km.
And there is a clever i-Eloop regenerative braking system that harvests energy during deceleration, further boosting efficiency. It’s not all about economy though as the spacious Mazda is also a fine drive with well-judged ride and handling and responsive steering. The cabin is comfortable and well-equipped too.
Skoda’s best-selling model in the UK is one of our favourite large family cars. It’s a practical choice with a 590-litre boot capable of swallowing all the clutter a family can throw at it, while the spacious and comfortable cabin will keep passengers happy too. Strong build quality and a logical dashboard layout are further plusses and there’s plenty of equipment in SE trim.
It doesn’t offer the most exciting of driving experiences but it rides and handles well and the steering is well weighted if a little lacking in feel for the keen driver. The smooth 1.2-litre 105PS petrol engine is a good performer as well, offering an enjoyable balance of performance and economy.
We’re fans of Mazda’s impressive Skyactiv technology, and it helps provide the spacious and practical CX-5 with fine economy and a decent turn of pace in two-wheel drive 2.2-litre diesel form. It’s nice to drive too and combined with strong build quality and reliability, it’s easy to see why we rate it so highly.
The only fly in the ointment as far as we’re concerned is the somewhat gloomy cabin ambience, but it’s a relatively minor point and there’s plenty of standard kit to take your mind off it. And there’s plenty of carrying ability too with a maximum luggage capacity of 1620 litres.
This particular band C choice means combining the 2.0-litre BlueHDi diesel engine with the EAT6 automatic transmission, but if you need just the two pedals it all proves decently slick in operation. But what’s most appealing about Citroen’s people mover is the sharply styled exterior that’s combined with a spacious and practical cabin and one that boasts an impressive level of fit, finish, and durability.
With the rear seats folded, you’ll be able to cram in 1851 litres worth of stuff so it’s an ideal family hauler, and it proves pleasant to drive too with a smooth ride and composed handling. On looks alone this one’s a winner.
Given how highly we rate the Fiesta, Ford’s small SUV was something of a disappointment in the handling stakes, and cabin quality was below par too. And while the 90PS 1.5-litre TDCi diesel is frugal, it lacks performance with 0-62mph taking almost 14 seconds.
Still, the styling is interesting and Ford has reacted to the criticisms by announcing a raft of improvements for 2015. The tailgate-mounted spare wheel becomes an option while there are modifications to the interior and chassis tune to improve perceived quality and dynamics respectively. While unlikely to elevate the EcoSport to the top of the class, the changes should make it easier to recommend.
It may be hampered by the lack of a diesel option, but the Lexus hybrid GS is still worthy of consideration. Attributes include a luxurious cabin ambience, top-notch build quality and impressive refinement, all of which makes it a very relaxing way to swallow big miles.
What it won’t do is leave you feeling especially excited as it doesn’t boast the sharpest dynamics and the steering feels a touch remote. And the CVT gearbox isn’t the perfect companion either. Still, it will be utterly reliable, and efficient too with the 223PS 300h claiming 56.5mpg economy and the lavish specification goes some way to making up for the slightly high price.
The Cee’d hatchback is a compelling ownership proposition but it isn’t the most exciting car to look at. For that you’ll need to turn to its more stylish three-door relative that brings a healthy dose of extra flair to the range. It looks good inside and out, and the cabin is spacious and solidly built, not to mention well-equipped, and is only let down by slightly limited rear visibility.
And despite a slightly firm ride the Pro_Cee’d impresses on the dynamic front, helped by the 1.6-litre CRDi diesel engine that proves both flexible and refined. It isn’t quite as cheap as we’d like but the seven-year warranty is reassuring.
In 2.0-litre D4 diesel form and with the smooth-shifting Geartronic automatic transmission, the V70 is an economical and relaxing way to shift large loads. In fact, big, comfortable, and safe is what this car does best and while it might not set any dynamic benchmarks it’s nonetheless a very useful thing to have around.
It’ll swallow 1600 litres of stuff with the seats folded and even loaded to the gunwhales the 184PS engine ensures that performance remains lively. Factor in the classy cabin ambience and long list of standard equipment for the money and it’s easy to see why the V70 retains a loyal following.
We’d be the first to admit that the Mito isn’t the sharpest small hatchback when it comes to driving dynamics – the handling lacks ultimate agility and the ride is on the fidgety side – but that’s not to say you should dismiss it completely. It looks good for one thing, and there is a raft of neat design touches that boost the sporting appeal.
And while the interior might be a bit tight on overall space it looks the part, and proves comfortable from behind the wheel. The 1.6-litre JTDM diesel chosen here is a strong performer too, blending a 0-62mph time of 9.9 seconds with claimed economy of 65.7mpg.
Muscling in on the territory dominated by talented rivals such as the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class was never going to be easy, and the Q50 misses the mark as far as we’re concerned. Admittedly the 2.2-litre diesel is flexible and claims combined economy of 62.8 mpg, but the driving experience is too average overall to really make an impression on the best in class.
Where it fights back is by offering a comfortable and solidly built interior that comes loaded with kit – Sport trim includes leather seats, navigation, and climate and cruise control – while refinement is decent enough. If you insist on something different it’s worth considering.
To our mind, there are better family hatchbacks out there, the latest contender from Nissan proving a bit bland both inside and out, not to mention slightly dull when it comes to the driving experience. Still, if neither of those things bother you greatly then there are a few reasons why the Pulsar is worth a place on your list.
Firstly, it’s remarkably spacious especially in the back where it puts rivals to shame, and it proves refined and comfortable too. There’s plenty of standard equipment and the 115PS 1.2-litre DIG-T engine is a fine performer with 50mpg achievable in everyday use combined with a 0-62mph time of less than 11 seconds.
On the plus side the quirkily-styled MPW boasts a practical and flexible cabin that can be fitted with five or seven seats, not to mention a boot that offers a useful 400 litres of extra space compared to the smaller 500L. Perhaps not so good though is that it doesn’t prove very enjoyable to drive. In fact it’s somewhat average, the major controls lacking in real feel and feedback and neither ride nor handling impress greatly.
Neither does the 0.9-litre Twinair engine help its case, not really proving up to the task of shifting a full complement of passengers and luggage. Still, if the looks appeal it’s an interesting choice.