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AFTER a test period that started back in August last year, our long term Vauxhall Signum is finally back with its maker in Luton.
It must be one of the longest tests we have ever carried out – ignoring a Ford Escort we had many years ago that finally went back to Ford when its MoT test was due!
Looking back over our reports during this time, it must be admitted that many testers didn’t take an instant liking to this vehicle. In fact, there were more than a few complaints and criticisms scattered through the pages of Fleet News over the months.
But it must also be said that most of our testers finally warmed to this rather odd specimen after driving it for a while.
After all, the things the Signum does well, it does very well indeed.
The Signum’s main problem is that it doesn’t fit in easily with the accepted fleet sectors. You have Corsa (small car), Zafira (mini-MPV), Astra (lower medium car) and Vectra (upper medium car) – we all understand those. But then, we have the Signum, which is supposed to be..... what exactly? It is based on the Vectra’s platform and has the same wheelbase as the Vectra estate, but if it is meant to be a replacement for the old Omega, then it isn’t as big.
Also, the Signum looks remarkably like the Vectra at the front, so many potential buyers might baulk at paying extra for it.
I must admit I took an instant dislike to this car when it first arrived. To my eye it looked like a Renault Vel Satis that had gone wrong somehow and I found the dash ugly and slablike.
But after a few days behind the wheel, my opinion changed dramatically. For long distance, comfortable cruising, there are few cars to match the Signum, especially at this price. If you want to take four people from A to B in the utmost waftiness and serenity for under £20,000, the Signum is your boy.
As our tester Greg Fountain commented in the September 9 issue, this is a lot of car for the money. And look at those CAP predicted residual value figures – 31% of cost new after three years/60,000 miles compared to 25% for a similarly-specced Vectra. That’s quite a big difference.
Some number-crunching shows that the Signum could well be a wiser fleet choice that it appears at first.
On the reliability front, our Signum suffered the fate of many cars nowadays when the warning lights started playing up. The car languished at the local Vauxhall dealer for a few weeks while new parts were on order. And even as it was picked up this week, a light was telling us the nearside rear tyre needed air – which it didn’t.
One other object that drove all the testers to distraction was the indicator stalk. It doesn’t click in the normal way but instead has a two-stage action which flashes three times if you press it gently and continuously if pressed harder. The trouble is there doesn’t seem to be any way of telling exactly how hard to press it for each function to occur.
The bad news is that this little horror is also included in the new Astra that is being rolled out at present. We’d be interested to hear from readers about their views on this new stalk.
Is it just us being pernickety or is Vauxhall’s new gizmo the most pointless development since the invention of the Ronco fluff remover?
What the team thinks ...
View the Signum as an upmarket sports hatchback and it misses the mark. However, as a quality long-distance cruiser for up to four people, few can touch it for the price. The seats are wonderfully comfortable with an amazing range of adjustment, the 2.2-litre direct injection petrol engine is silent on the motorway and there is plenty of equipment for the money.
Unfortunately, the Vauxhall Signum is an uninspiring car and not one that shouts ‘pick me’ to the user-chooser, which is a shame because it has the makings of an ideal fleet car and performs the role of comfortable motorway cruiser with ease. It also has a quiet engine and offers plenty of room for occupants.
As an executive cruiser, the Signum does an excellent job, wafting corporate backsides to their next meeting. It also is a pretty good load-lugger, as I managed to get a Christmas tree in the back during the festive season.
But despite the comfort of the back seats, I would happily scrap the snazzy flipping seat base in favour of a proper third seat. I would also have changed the front end styling to justify its different name by distancing it from the Vectra.
Model: Vauxhall Signum Design 2.2 Direct
Price (OTR): £19,465
Total mileage: 16,887
CO2 emissions (g/km): 194
Company car tax bill 2004/05 (40% tax-payer): £138 per month
Insurance group: 10
Power (bhp/rpm): 155/5,600
Torque (lb-ft/rpm): 162/3,800
Combined mpg: 34.9
Test mpg: 31.9
CAP Monitor residual value: £6,034/31%
HSBC contract hire rate: £414 per month
Final expenditure: nil
Figures based on three-years/60,000-miles