Fleet News

Vauxhall Vectra GSi

Vauxhall

Review

##vauxvec.jpg --Right##NEVER destined to be a huge volume fleet car, the new GSi is anticipated to step in where the outgoing model leaves off, achieving about 1,700 sales in its first full year - about 2% of total Vectra units. Of these, Vauxhall estimates that about 40% will find their way on to fleets, with the rest being purchased in the retail sector by touring car and Vectra SRi V6 Challenge fans.

Vauxhall says that, despite the comparatively low units, the GSi provides a crucial sporting option in a complete range of vehicles for fleets looking at a solus deal. And the GSi certainly fills that niche with its 195bhp 2.5-litre 24V V6 engine achieving a top speed of 148mph and going from 0-60mph in 7.6 seconds. But all of this could also be said of the previous GSi, so has anything really changed aside from a few styling features? The answer is an emphatic 'Yes.'

Where the new GSi now excels, and knocks the spots of its rivals, is with its improved torque. The 2.5-litre V6 engine puts out 193.1lb ft of torque, beating the outgoing model's 184.4lb ft figure. But with that increase also comes a reduction in rpm, allowing the new GSi to reach its super-high pulling power figure at just 3,750rpm compared to the outgoing model's 5,000rpm. It is this torque figure that really makes the GSi a joy to drive, giving fantastic third gear overtaking performance.

The 0-60mph time may be the same as the outgoing model but it's a lot more fun getting there. It is also this torque that gives the car a brisker feel than its key rival, the Ford Mondeo ST200 which, despite having the higher 202bhp, only puts out a torque figure of 173lb ft at the far higher 5,500rpm. Vauxhall has its sights firmly set on demolishing ST200 sales, bringing pricing in at £21,700, well below the £23,000 on-the-road price of the flagship Mondeo and only £700 more than the 170bhp 2.5-litre V6 Mondeo ST24.

With firm steering and a responsive gearbox, the Vectra does not disappoint from the moment the V6 growls into action. Handling is improved through further refinements to the brakes, with more air ducts keeping the discs cooler under harsh braking, and the lowered and stiffened sports suspension does not give too much a back-breaking ride. The drop in suspension means less body roll and cornering, and thicker front and rear anti-roll bars also add to the improved cornering. And, surprisingly, it is almost impossible to distinguish between the performance of the hatch or saloon and the estate.

The outside shows all the changes associated with the launch of the face-lifted Vectra range, plus a new front air dam and rear spoiler, and new 17-inch alloy wheels sporting the latest Yokohama performance tyres. Inside, there are more face-lift changes, plus an aluminium gear knob and a new steering wheel which at first seemed a little strange, with its alloy-look plastic top and bottom, with leather grips in the racing position. But it soon grew on me, with the leather areas encouraging the wheel to be handled properly, rather than a lazy hand placed on the top or the bottom.

Recaro sports seats are also standard, along with traction control, air conditioning Trafficmaster, trip-computer, CD autochanger, front and back electric windows, air pump lumbar support, electric driver seat height adjust, factory-fit telephone wiring loom, and passenger and driver airbags. Remote central deadlocking and alarm system are also standard and perhaps the only real complaint of the new GSi is its rather dull centre console.

It's all very functional but, despite the better ride and handling over the ST200, a company car driver climbing out of the Vectra and into a Mondeo ST200 would be much more impressed by the Ford's interior. For such an otherwise marvellously engineered car, the GSi carries a console which could have been lifted straight from any bread-and-butter Vectra. The sporting flagship now has the engine it deserves, but it's crying out for some additional special attention to the cabin.

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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