An East Yorkshire woman who was looking forward to the road tax for her small car costing her £55 less this year thanks to the Chancellor's budget generosity got a nasty shock when she called at the Post Office.

Fiona Wilson with her Ford Fiesta which is 19cc over the new rebate limit. Picture: David Harrison

Fiona Wilson, from Wilberfoss, had even teased her husband Ken, saying her 1.1 litre Ford Fiesta was going to cost her a lot less than his bigger car, because of the drop in duty for smaller cars, which Gordon Brown announced would apply from June for smaller "greener" cars.

But when she got to the Post Office she found that her car was actually 19cc over the limit, and therefore did not qualify for the reduction - instead she would have to pay the extra £5 that road tax went up for larger cars in the budget.

Mr Wilson said he had spoken to his local Ford dealer, who told him that since the car had done 25,000 miles its engine was probably carbonised so that its actual capacity was below 1.1 litres - but it would still be classed as over the limit, despite having a catalytic converter and being a "clean" car.

He was angry at the way the Government had set the rules, and believed a lot of people would be caught out by the situation which did not just apply to Fords. "It's just a charade," he said.

"It's not just localised, it's national. A lot of people are taxing their cars today; they are going to be very upset.

"It's another exercise in cosmetics, and at the end of the day the general public, that is me and you, are getting kicked in the teeth. We are just getting hoodwinked."

His wife said the woman she spoke to in the Post Office told her quite a few people had complained because their cars just broke the 1.1 litre barrier.

Mrs Wilson said they had assumed a car was classed as a 1.1 litre model until it got up to 1.2 litres, and her Fiesta was her "run about" to get her to her job in a shop in York. "We couldn't believe it," she said.

Denise Raven, a press officer at the AA, said: "I think more and more people are going to be finding out this unfortunate news as they check their registration documents. If you drive a 1.1, you assume you qualify but if your engine is even one or two ccs over the limit you will not."

But she said the idea of variable road tax was against the AA's principles in any case because it did not allow for the fact some older small cars can emit as much pollution as newer cars with larger engines.

York MP Hugh Bayley, said: "This is not a con, it is a sensible environmental policy and sadly this lady's car is just above the limit.

"But if we were to set the cut off point 20cc higher you would find somebody else was just above the limit instead.

"The principle is right because it encourages people to drive cars with smaller engines which create less pollution."

A spokeswoman for the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency confirmed that the limit was set strictly at 1,100, adding: "A line had to be drawn at some point."

The nearest Renault model is also just over the 1.1 litre limit, and though there is a one litre Citroen model, the 1.1 litre is a much bigger seller - and it is 24 cc over the limit.

A glance at lists of new cars shows that several Peugeot 106 and 206 1.1 litre models are also 24cc above the limit, and there are two Rover 200 models that come in at 1,120 cc.

There are cars which come below the limit, mainly one litre models, including some Volkswagen Polos and Nissan Micras.

Other cars that come below the limit include Daewoo Matiz models at 796cc, Daihatsu have Cuore and Move models at 847cc and Sirions at 989cc, and two Fiat Seicento models are at 899 cc, though the Sporting is just eight cc over the limit.

From June 1 a reduced Vehicle Excise Duty of £100 will apply for cars and light vans with engines up to 1,100cc. The flat rate for other vehicles went up from £150 to £155 from March 10.

During next month the DVLA will be contacting up two million keepers who may be entitled to a refund on their existing licence.

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