Fleet News

Vauxhall Vectra estate

Vauxhall

Review

ROBERT Pershing Wadlow was the tallest man who ever lived. But even at 8ft 11.1 inches by the time he died in 1940, he could have been accommodated easily in the loading bay of the Vauxhall Vectra estate, when fitted with the optional folding front passenger seat of course.

In fact, according to Vectra brand manager David Pugh, with a flat loading length of 9ft 5in, he could lie there comfortably while wearing a large hat.

While this comparison might seem remote from the world of cars, it does illustrate the sheer size of the final variant in the current Vectra line-up.

On sale now with the first deliveries in November, the Vectra estate heralds the introduction of new technology across the range as well as special features unique to the estate model.

When the Vectra was launched in June 2002 it could not afford to be an under-achiever, and in the areas of comfort and refinement it was, and still is, among the best in its class.

The long-awaited estate, which will cost £1,000 more than saloon and hatchback models, has the extended wheelbase of the Vauxhall Signum and a raft of features which promise to make it the most complete estate car in the upper-medium sector.

Looking at the numbers it already has an advantage. Currently the class leader in terms of boot volume is the Ford Mondeo at 1,700 litres to the roof with the rear seats folded. The Citroen C5 manages 1,658 litres while the Volkswagen Passat has a maximum of 1,545 litres.

Meanwhile the Renault Laguna Sport Tourer and the Rover 75, more 'lifestyle' estates than load luggers, have maximum capacities of 1,515 and 1,222 respectively. The Vectra trounces them all with a maximum capacity of 1,850 litres, 50 litres greater than the estate version of the Vauxhall Omega.

And it doesn't end there. There is an optional FlexOrganiser system designed to create versatile and orderly load carrying.

It is based on upper and lower parallel rails which run along each of the side walls in the luggage area up to the back of the rear seats. The rails can be fitted with various dividers, poles or hooks in numerous configurations, creating different sized compartments for different types of cargo.

There are two versions – the Organiser pack and the Divider pack, the former including two different nets and four hooks, while the latter has a load divider, a divider tube and two hooks.

Other optional features unique to the estate include a powered tailgate (available next year) which can be operated by a button on the key fob, inside the car or by a switch under the registration plate. There is also a retractable tow bar, which can be stored out of sight behind the rear bumper.

Vauxhall is also introducing adaptive forward lighting (AFL) to the volume upper medium segment, which is available as an option across the Vectra and Signum ranges.

For an extra £850, AFL has 'dynamic' curve lighting when negotiating narrow bends and static 'junction' light to give a wider range of vision when turning. Vauxhall expects the Vectra estate to take 15% of total Vectra sales in the UK, with fleets taking about 80% of the load lugger.

The engine line-up currently reflects those available in the Signum and other Vectra variants – three diesel and four petrol with power outputs ranging from 99bhp to 208bhp.

Diesels are expected to be the favoured choice of fleet customers, particularly when an all-new 1.9-litre 16-valve 150bhp common rail engine is introduced next spring, which will be Euro IV compliant from launch.

However, Pugh was not making any grand designs for Vauxhall's new model, claiming good old-fashioned values would sell it. He said: 'Our target market is anyone looking for an estate car and it will sell on the basis of functionality and practicality. In many cases the load space alone will be enough.'

Behind the wheel

LONG gone are the days when an estate version of a saloon car looked like an extra box had been welded to the back.

The Vectra has been designed to disguise its bulk well and with large rear light clusters and tapering lines towards the rear of the side windows, it could actually be described as handsome.

For the driver, much will be familiar from the Vectra saloon and hatchback, but the rear compartment, with a wheelbase 130mm longer than the existing Vectras, offers generous legroom and headroom for three. In fact this is another area where the Vectra is class-leading.

The press launch cars were all fitted with AFL and the driving activity took place at night to ensure the system could be used to its full potential.

AFL costs an extra £850 but includes bi-xenon headlamps (main beam is also xenon, unlike many other systems) and really comes into its own in dark country lanes. It's almost hypnotic the way one of the beams seems to sway to the left or right, tracking the bends in the road.

Better than that was pulling up to junctions with the indicator on and seeing the area lit up in the direction you wanted to turn into. It only operated below 25mph so there's no danger of startling other drivers when changing lanes on the motorway. You really feel you have more confidence when driving on unlit roads. The system also raises the level of the dipped headlight beam above 65mph to give extra visibility at speed.

On the test route, I drove the 2.2DTi, which is probably the diesel of choice in terms of balancing price with performance. With maximum torque of 207lb-ft available from 1,500rpm it responds well at low speeds and is a quiet cruiser.

However, with a more powerful Euro IV compliant diesel on the horizon, we can only assume the new 1.9CDTi available next year will be worth the wait.

I also tried the SRi model with the 173bhp 2.0T engine which offered strong performance with sharper steering and less bodyroll. The trade-off is a firmer ride but many drivers will think it a price worth paying for the livelier handling.

Driving verdict

THE Vectra estate has enormous carrying capacity and it is obvious that much thought has gone into the clever solutions to the practical problems of carrying different sorts of loads.

It also has unrivalled room for passengers and for a company car driver who needs both comfort and space it could be the ultimate estate.

Vectra estate fact file
Model: 1.8 2.0T 2.2 Direct 3.2 V6 2.0 DTi 2.2 DTi 3.0 V6 CDTi
Engine (cc): 1,796 1,998 2,198 3,175 1,995 2,172 2,958
Max power (bhp/rpm): 120/6,000 173/5,500 153/5,600 208/6,200 99/4,000 123/3,250 175/4,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 123/3,800 195/2,500 162/3,800 221/4,000 170/1,500 207/1,500 273/1,900
Max speed (mph): 124 (auto: 112) 139 132 (130) 149 (148) 116 125 (123) 138 (137)
0-60mph (sec): 11.6 (13.1) 9.0 9.5 (10.5) 7.6 (7.9) 13.9* 11.1 (12.2)* 9.8 (10.1)*
Comb fuel economy (mpg): 35.7 (34.0) 30.7 34.9 (32.1) 27.9 (26.6) 47.9 44.8 (38.1) 38.7 (36.7)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 190 (206) 221 194 (211) 242 (254) 159 170 (200) 197 (208)
Prices (OTR): £16,045-£25,100
Transmission: 5-sp man, 6-sp man, CVT auto (1.8)
Service intervals (miles): up to 20,000 (petrol) up to 30,000 (diesel)
On sale: November
* Diesel figures for 0-62mph

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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