When manufacturers loan us a car over a couple of months, they invariably want us to drive the best model in the range – and the diesel-powered model is often the pick of the bunch due to its increased mid-range performance and fuel economy benefits.
So it is a refreshing change to get behind the wheel of a petrol-engined long-termer in the form of our new addition – a Vauxhall Signum powered by the new direct injection 2.2-litre Direct engine.
This engine, which delivers 155bhp, requires 6% less fuel than a comparable non-direct injection petrol engine but has 10% more torque at lower speeds as well as 6% more power. It returns 34.9mpg on the combined cycle and emits 194g/km of carbon dioxide, placing it in the 22% of P11d price band for company car tax for 2003/04.
Performance is brisk, with a 0 to 60mph time of 8.8 seconds and a top speed of 131mph, but these figures are largely irrelevant in day-to-day driving.
More important is how a car performs when accelerating through the gears and how it cruises at the motorway maximum.
On a recent long distance run the Signum passed both of these tests with flying colours. Accelerating down a slip road on to the M6 saw the Signum get up to speed without fuss, and when cruising at 70mph there was minimal noise intrusion into the cabin.
This is important because the majority of Signums will be racking up the business miles and long distance comfort is a pre-requisite for company car drivers. So far the Signum has chalked up a couple of long distance trips, increasing the mileage to 825. Despite the low number of miles our car has covered, the engine does not feel tight.
At the moment it is undergoing a gentle running-in period and this has resulted in a fuel economy average of 29.1mpg. However, once there are a few more miles on the clock we expect economy to rise to somewhere near Vauxhall's claimed figure of 34.9mpg.
Company car tax bill 2003/04 (22% taxpayer): £76 per month