Budget vs Badge appeal

  • Popular company cars go head-to-head
  • Does premium badge appeal win over extra kit on a mainstream model? 
  • Find out how much you will be paying per month in tax for each car

So it’s time to choose your next company car but you’re stuck on the decision between a well spec’d mainstream car or an entry-level premium car?

A regular conundrum for many company car drivers and not an easy decision to make, does the allure of a premium car badge win over the extra gismos and practical kit on offer in a mainstream car?

To help you make up your mind we've pitted popular company cars against each other to see how they stack up for tax costs, standard kit, performance and value for money to see which offer the best all round package.

Round 1 - BMW 3 Series vs Mazda 6

The BMW 3 series has been dominating the premium saloon market for some time now and for good reason. It's famed for its supreme handling, range of powerful yet economical engines and practical and luxurious features, so owning one makes something of a statement in the company car park.

But with BMW’s premium badge also comes a premium price and we’ve been comparing the entry-level BMW 316D ES against the popular top-of-the-range Mazda 6 SportNav to see how they stack up.

Both cars are pretty evenly priced when it comes to p11d, although thanks to the Mazda’s clever SkyActiv technology, its CO2 emissions are low at 104g/km, much lower than the BMW’s 118g/km. That makes the Mazda 6 over ten pounds cheaper a month based on the current 2014/15 tax year.

As you may expect, standard kit in the Mazda is pretty vast when selected in SportNav trim. Highlights include cruise control, sat-nav, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, front and rear parking sensors, LED daytime running lights, reversing camera, 11 speakers, heated front seats, Bose surround sound system, full leather interior and Bluetooth to name but a few.

The 3 series offering is pretty good too considering this is the entry-level model with cloth seats, DAB radio, Bluetooth, a tyre pressure monitoring system, 17-inch alloys, BMW iDrive entertainment system with a 6.5-inch screen, automatic boot opening, USB port and cruise control available as standard.

This Mazda 6 is the more powerful of the two with 147bhp and 380Nm available compared to the entry-level BMW which can sprint from 0-62mph in 10.6 seconds courtesy of the 118bhp and  280Nm of pulling power on offer, the Mazda completes the same sprint in just over nine seconds.

If performance is high up you’re list of priorities it may be worth mentioning to your fleet manager the quicker and more powerful 320d Efficient Dynamics model which, although is priced over £3,000 more than the 316D ES, actually costs around the same in monthly tax thanks to its lower CO2 emissions of 109g/km.  

There's no denying that the presence of a BMW badge will impress the neighbours and colleagues, the 3 series is a great-looking car with all the luxury and refinement expected from the German manufacturer. That said the latest-generation Mazda 6 is a good looking car too and a head-turner in its own right thanks to Mazda's new design style.

On paper



Mazda 6 2.2-litre SportNav

P11d price



CO2 emissions



BIK tax band*



Monthly tax cost**



Official MPG:






Parkers star rating

5 stars

4 stars

And the winner is…Mazda 6

Cheaper, more economical, more powerful and loaded with kit, even though we love the 3-series here at Parkers it cannot compete with the Mazda 6 when it comes to value for money.


Round 2 – Audi A3 Sportback vs Ford Focus

On paper there isn’t a great deal to separate these two with near identical CO2 emissions, mpg figures and monthly tax costs.

The third-generation Audi A3 Sportback is hugely popular with many company car drivers as it offers competitive running costs, luxurious cabin quality and the four-ringed badge that would be the envy of many.

When it comes to kit the Audi has a good level of equipment available as standard too with DAB Radio, Bluetooth, eight speakers, 5.8-inch colour display screen, cruise control, air-con, front centre armrest, 16-inch alloy wheels and electronic parking brake.

The Focus is a car that needs little introduction being the biggest selling company cars here in the UK. Titanium trim nears the very top of the extensive Focus range and includes, as expected, a lot of standard kit such as keyless start, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, DAB Radio, parking sensors, eight-inch touchscreen and the new Sync2 infotainment system which includes the latest advanced voice command system. 

The Focus has very recently been refreshed too which saw the introduction of the latest advanced tech, the interior being redesigned with a new centre console plus a range of new engines including the one chosen here.  

On paper


Audi A3 Sportback 1.6TDI SE

Ford Focus 1.6TDCI Titanium

P11d price



CO2 emissions



BIK tax band*



Monthly tax cost**



Official MPG:






Parkers star rating

4.5 stars

4 stars

And the winner is…Ford Focus

A close one to call but the extra toys on this Focus will make a big difference to everyday life behind the wheel.


*BIK tax bands are based on the 2014/15 tax year

** Monthly tax costs are based on a 20 percent tax payer and do not include optional extras