How Important Is a Vehicle's Trim?

I've always been a firm believer that choosing your car should be given the same amount of thought as any other major financial decision and shouldn't be done lightly. You're likely to spend an awfully long time in your car throughout its lifetime. If it's not in a car that you don't genuinely love then it will have an impact on your happiness. 

When shopping for a new car, many people may quickly jump to what car they think looks good or what badge is on the bonnet before even researching the performance and the quality of the interior or even to see if it has all the options they would love for their budget.

In today's blog, I am hoping to get people to think about a specific question about their new car:

"What do I want my new car to have and what is my budget to have it?"

We’re hoping that readers of this blog who may be looking at a new car leasing deal in the near future may stop and think a little more about their new car as a whole. If you ignore what badge you’re looking for, for just a minute, and write down everything you’d LOVE for the car to have and what price range you have in mind then you’ll find that in reality, it may not be the brand you had in mind that would help you achieve your list of loves at the cheapest price.

With this question in mind, we're going to take a look at some similarly priced vehicles in the same segment which shows what desirable features are included to see which combination of model and trims really hits the spot.

Before I get into that, let's break down what exactly we mean by trims.

What are trims?

Trims, also known as spec levels, editions and grades are different terms for different versions of the same vehicle. Going "up" in trim level can add more interior comfort, tech and exterior styling and a whole host of other things. It's to help customers upgrade or downgrade a car to suit their tastes and budgets without the need to change to a different model entirely.

Think of any model of car as a blank canvas with the trims there to fill in the blanks. They can't stray out of the lines but with the use of different colours, types of paint and differing quality of frame to hang the picture you can get 5-6 different pieces with striking differences between them. The difference in the final product can be huge as well as the cost and often the target customer can be completely different, too.

An example is the new Ford Fiesta which comes in the following trims:

  • Zetec
  • Trend
  • Titanium
  • Titanium X
  • ST-Line
  • ST-Line X

From Zetec to Titanium X the key difference is luxury and comfort which scales gradually as you go up the scale. The difference, especially inside the vehicle, is astonishing and it may as well be a different car altogether. The price, however, ranges from £15,995 to £19,720 which is £3,725. Enough to upgrade completely to an entry-level Audi A1 which is seen as a more premier brand.

Indeed, on the other side of the small hatchback market is the "premium" Audi A1 which starts at £17,735 and up to £25,690. But, if you only wanted certain features which car would be able to give you them at the cheapest price if you were to ignore the badge? That's what this blog aims to explore with a tongue firmly in the mouth. I'm not here to tell you which vehicle is the best as that's not the All Car Leasing approach, what I'd like to do is perhaps give some food for thought during your car shopping journey.  

Why are trims important?

Pretty much every single vehicle on the market has different trims with most having around 3-6 different levels of ready built options. This means that you don't just have one car to consider but 5 or 6, and this is before you consider which engine (not covered in this blog).

If you were to put the top of the range trim next to an entry-level model next to each other the difference would be astounding and you'd begin to question what is it you're after and how much you want to pay for it. One of the reasons I mentioned, in the beginning, to ignore the badge to find the best car for you earlier is that top of the range car A may cost less and be a much more enjoyable drive than entry-level car B to get the same features.

Some trims are for style some for comfort and some for both

Be aware that some trims have a specific goal in mind - some are set to make the car look visually appealing, some to make the car more comfortable and others aim to do both. The Ford ST-Line and Vauxhall's VX-Line are good examples of these while Ford's Vignale series is a good example of trims aimed at comfort. Some trims, however, do try to appease both sides.

What about options?

Trims are essentially ready-made packs of options. However, most models have a wide arrange of options which can exist outside of any trim and add even more levels of functionality, tech and exterior features. Options allow for incredible personalisation at an increased cost. It may be more cost-effective to add a specific option to a lower-trim than to take care of a higher trim that has that option included.

For example, you'd need to get a Fiesta Titanium X for heated seats and steering wheel, or you can pay £300 in a Zetec to get it added on without having to take everything else the Titanium X has.

There are of course options which are not included in any trim such as door edge protectors, tow bars, CD players (yes, you read that right) and so on.

A note with options and leasing is that it increases the likelihood that your order will have to be a factory order with a longer delivery window so bear that in mind. Simply put; the more customize your car is the less likely it has already been built which is another reason why using ready-made trims is a time saver.

What point am I trying to make?

I can appreciate this is a long blog post and thanks for bearing with me if you've got this far. The point I am trying to make here is that taking notice of the trim levels you can really dial down on the specifics of your vehicle beyond the exterior look and the badge on the grille. Trims allow you to make the model more comfortable and luxurious without having to shop around with a different manufacturer to get what you want. That mid-range car CAN have heated seats. That budget brand CAN have sat nav. And so on.

It can make a mid-range car feel like a premium range car and vice versa. It also highlights which car is actually the best value for money when you consider your specific needs and wants.

Real-life examples

Let's see if we can find some examples of popular features of cars, what trims they come in and compare two different brands to see which comes out on top. Let's remind ourselves of the question - "What do I want my new car to have and what is my budget to have it?"

Let's take a look at the supermini sector, using the manufacturer's own configurator and prices. Starting with the Fiesta Titanium X and compare with other brands in the same price bracket and see which is the most generous

Ford Fiesta Titanium X - £19,720

Heated Front Seats

Heated Steering Wheel

Partial Leather Seats

16" alloy wheels

Climate Control

Key Free System

Cruise Control with Limiter

Kia Rio GT-Line S - £18,285

17" Alloy Wheels

Climate Control

Heated Front Seats

Reversing Camera

Leather Steering Wheel

Cruise Control

Vauxhall Corsa SRi VX-Line - £18,050

17" Alloy Wheels

Cruise Control

Volkswagen Polo SEL - £18,700

Climate Control

16" alloy wheels

Parking Sensors

Leather Steering Wheel

Audi A1 Sportback Sport £19,735

16" alloy wheels

Parking Sensors

Cruise Control

Leather Steering Wheel

It all looks complicated but the takeaways from this little exercise is that the Kia Rio in particular will have a lot more added bonuses at the cheapest price of all the examples. Meaning, going up to top trim on some models gives you more than a lower trim on a "premium" brand by FAR. The Fiesta Titanium X is the most well equipped but it is at the top in terms of cost. The Corsa is one of the cheapest top of the ranges but you don't get a lot.

With this in mind, if you had £20,000 to spend which one would you take if you were allowed to pocket the change?


We hope this blog has helped shed some light on the effectiveness of trims and how they can be a key part in finding the right car for your taste and budget.