I didn’t hesitate in picking the Vectra based on the original report from its launch (Fleet News June 12, 2003) which raved about the size of its carrying capacity.
It measures 530 litres with the seats up or a maximum of 1,850 litres with the rear seats folded – that’s enough room for us all to lie down in the back should the tent be destroyed by storms during our week in the windy west country.
Vauxhall has also been marketing the Vectra as the strong silent type, because it is so quiet on the road. And with hundreds of miles to cover, it would be a perfect opportunity to put this boast to the test.
Despite its capacity, every cubic centimetre of spare space was crammed with our camping gear (apart from a mallet to hammer in the tent pegs, as we found on arrival).
One item that turned out to be a mixed blessing was the electric rear tailgate. It was occasionally valuable but more often than not left me waiting for it to open long after I could have opened a manual version, thrown in my shopping and walked away.
However, the car lived up to its promise of being a quiet cruiser, and it’s strong, too, with the seats seemingly impervious to the best attentions of youngsters.
During the week a useful aspect of the trip computer proved to be a stopwatch, which only recorded the amount of time the car was moving. After our seven-day sojourn, the tally was 22 hours, which could have been a nightmare in the wrong car. But it passed hardly noticed in the Vectra, which is testament to its strengths as comfortable and affordable family transport.
Having experienced the joy of hammering in tent pegs with the heel of my shoe in the hissing rain at 3am after a storm, I think that for the next camping trip, we might just take the Vauxhall and leave the tent at home.
Model: Vauxhall Vectra estate 1.9 CDTi 150 SRi
Price (OTR): £20,965 (£24,415 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 165
Company car tax bill (2005): 22% tax-payer £73 a month
Insurance group: 11
Combined mpg: 46.3
Test mpg: 44.3
CAP Monitor residual value: £4,875/24%
Typical contract hire rate: £436
Figures based on three-years/60,000-miles