The eagerly-awaited Vauxhall Vectra 2.2 DTi LS arrived on Monday, November 18 with 168 miles on the clock, and was put into service with an early morning trip from Lincolnshire to Slough the following day. After 30 miles or so, the low oil pressure warning light suddenly flashed on and I pulled over into a layby pretty sharpish.
I turned the engine off and checked that there was in fact some oil in the sump and then tentatively fired up again. The oil light was out and hasn't come on again since, so I can only assume that the car had suffered an electrical fault.
It's true that new cars sometimes have teething troubles and an appetite for oil was something we experienced on our departed long-term Zafira 2.0 DTi, which settled down after a few thousand miles. I was on my way to Citroen's headquarters and the lads in the press office very kindly checked the oil at their workshop, free of charge.
The Vectra does not yet come with common rail diesel (the Astra will be the first common rail Vauxhall next spring) and although the 2.2 DTi is not found wanting in terms of performance, the official fuel economy figures make disappointing reading.
With a combined fuel consumption figure of 43.5mpg, it is some way short of a similarly-powered Ford Mondeo, Volkswagen Passat, Citroen C5 and just about anything else you care to mention in this class apart from the Mazda6.
It is too soon to say what kind of real-life figure the Vectra will be achieving during its time at Fleet Towers, but we feel it should achieve more than 40mpg in the long term.
With carbon dioxide emissions of 176g/km, benefit- in-kind liability for drivers begins in the 20% bracket this year and will escalate to 24% by April 2004.
Oil problem apart, the Vectra proved an ideal companion for my long journey. Its diesel engine was quiet and refined, the ride was supremely comfortable, the fuel gauge took an age to move towards empty and there are some useful extras fitted, including heated seats, a CD autochanger, parking sensors (front and rear) and satellite navigation.
However, it is surprising what comes as standard. We take for granted air conditioning, but the Vectra LS also includes cruise control, a CD player, auto-dimming rear view mirror and comfortable eight-way adjustable seats.
It is also spacious, front and rear, and the whole interior has a clean feeling, with a clutter-free appearance and high quality plastics and fabrics.
And a key factor for fleets is the possibility of 30,000 miles between services – as long as you keep an eye on the oil level.
Company car tax bill 2002 (22% taxpayer): £58.30 per month