By punting us the deeply confused cross-bred mongrel that bears the Signum name, Vauxhall has answered questions we never asked, solved problems we don’t have and silenced the expert auto pundits who can explain absolutely everything.
But last weekend I had a crisis and the Signum was there for me. A member of my family was suddenly admitted to a London hospital 100 miles down the road and I was staring down the barrel of a 1,000-mile weekend, four-up. Mercifully, the road in question was the A1 – the long, straight, flat A1 – a road on which this Vauxhall was born to run.
The blissful compliance of the Signum’s ride, the formidable absence of road roar and wind whine and the easy attitude of the 2.2-litre engine (once you’ve dragged it off the line), make 70mph straight-lining a pastime so automated you almost don’t need to be there. Really supportive, multi-tweakable leather chairs add to the sensation, even for those family members seated back there in what used to be economy, but is here equipped with Club Class recliners.
One thousand miles in a few days and, despite the ghastly mess heaped daily upon us by the NHS, we all emerged as soothed as could possibly be expected.
Had there been any corners, of course, things might have been a bit different. The Signum hates them.
Somehow, the grippiness of this same chassis which characterises the Vectra estate, goes AWOL, resulting in a scrabbling, understeering punishment for anyone caught trying to turn-in sharply. As for feedback, I doubt whether even Jimi Hendrix could have produced any in a Signum. Which is a shame.
Vauxhall will argue that this was never meant to be an enthusiast driver’s car. They can argue, in fact, on a wide variety of things the Signum was ‘never meant to be’. Where they struggle is in articulating what it actually is, which is key to making an active choice in its favour.
An estate car, an MPV, a limo, a family car and a big saloon, all rolled into none. It’s well-packaged, well-made, technically adept and without any specific flaws you could reasonably highlight. Vauxhall Signum Design 2.2 Direct
Price (OTR) £19,465
CO2 emissions (g/km) 194
Company car tax bill 2004/05 (40% tax-payer) £138 per month
Insurance group 10
Combined mpg 34.9
Test mpg 27.5
CAP Monitor residual value £6,300/33%
HSBC contract hire rate £414 per month
Expenditure to date Nil
Figures based on three-years/60,000-miles