The SUV segment containing cars like the BMW X3, Kia Sportage and Volvo XC60 accounts for just over a third of new UK car registrations nowadays and we can totally understand why. They look great with attractive proportions, some of them have modest off-road ability for when the weather turns inclement, they’re usually pretty practical and the high-up driving position is hard to give up once you’ve experienced it.

Thanks to four little letters that fleet managers in particular will be familiar with, Kwik Fit believes that fewer people will soon choose SUVs, though. Yup, we’re talking about WLTP, the new fuel economy test that nobly aims to make figures more realistic for company car and private drivers. Only brand new models have to be tested at the moment but from September 2018 all new cars registered will have to be tested under WLTP and sold or leased with the appropriate CO2 emissions and ‘MPG’ numbers.

Road tax (VED) and benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax are heavily based on a vehicle’s CO2 emissions these days, which is fair enough in light of the UK and other countries’ poor standards of air quality. The snag for aspiring SUV and crossover drivers, though, is that such models are typically associated with higher CO2 emissions than comparably-sized and equipped estates, MPVs and other body-styles – and the gulf is set to widen even further when WLTP fully kicks in.

Let’s look at an example. Under current NEDC European testing, the Volkswagen Touran MPV in R-Line 2.0 TDI 150PS DSG spec’ emits 121g/km CO2 and averages upto 60.7mpg in combined fuel economy, compared to the Tiguan SUV in R-Line 2.0 TDI 150PS 4MOTION guise that pumps out 149g/km CO2 and averages 49.6mpg. At the moment, the Touran attracts BIK of 29% while the Tiguan is taxed at 34%. In terms of road tax, the Touran costs £205 for the first year while the Tiguan’s VED bill comes to £515. Okay, the SUV has part-time four-wheel drive but their actual ride heights and passenger/luggage capacities are quite similar, and when the models’ technical specifications are updated in the near future to reflect WLTP data, the taxation and environmental differences will increase.

While fleet managers keeping a tight reign on company car pools may be less flexible, private motorists leasing cars on personal contract hire (PCH) tend to prefer larger alloy wheels – and again, who can blame them?

However, “wheel rim size and width of a tyre have a direct correlation on a vehicle’s rolling resistance and therefore CO2 emissions,” Kwik Fit GB’s fleet sales director Andy Fern explained to Fleet World. These days, well over a thousand tyre sizes are offered and 90% of fitment instances involve 120 tyre sizes in 2018 compared to just 19 sizes in 1997.

We agree with him that vehicle manufacturers may reverse the trend of luring customers with ever larger and fancier alloy wheels, or that company car fleet and PCH drivers will start shying away from ticking boxes that will ultimately hit them in the pocket.

Interestingly, most of the media commentary surrounding the forthcoming Peugeot 508 SW (‘estate’ to you and me) describes it as a model that will intentionally try to encourage drivers back into cars of a traditional height, promising exterior styling and interior flair as attractive as the French marque’s SUVs and crossovers while boasting increased load space and sportier handling due to its lower centre of gravity. We like Peugeot’s thinking, although we still reckon it’ll be a battle to tempt people out of high-riding models.

With JATO finding that ‘NEDC-correlated’ WLTP estimates typically end up being a whopping 18% higher or generally worse than their current NEDC figures, especially amongst not just SUVs but also plug-in hybrid models, Q4 2018 and beyond is tipped to be a very interesting period indeed. Meanwhile, Autovista Group has calculated that CO2 figures will rise anywhere between 4-and-34% depending on the exact model and variant.

Kwik Fit reports that OEMs are already reacting to WLTP’s imminent grip by withdrawing specific engines, simplifying ranges and mechanically tweaking powertrains they intend to keep.

Vehicle Consulting’s fleet managers and car leasing consultants will be sure to keep clients up to date with industry news and the best model variants for their requirements.