With a range as expansive as the Vauxhall Vectra, renewing the whole product line-up must be an arduous task. A year after the car originally went on sale, Vauxhall is still working on completing the engine line-up before the estate model hits the road later this year.
Vauxhall also launched the upmarket and flexible Signum, a model based on the Vectra, this month with a new 2.2-litre direct injection engine.
The current Vectra diesel range has been topped with a 3.0-litre common rail V6 engine, while a new turbocharged petrol engine, which harks back to the spirit of the old Cavalier, has also been introduced.
The latest petrol engine to join the range plugs a 60-plus bhp performance gap between the 2.2-litre and the 3.2 litre V6.
The new 2.0-litre turbo has already seen service in the new Saab 9-3 and after making its Vauxhall debut in the Signum is now available in the Vectra in sporty SXi and SRi trim, or more luxurious Elegance and Elite versions.
Many fleet decision-makers will remember turbo versions of the Cavalier (and the Calibra) perhaps inspired by Vauxhall's successful stint in touring cars with the Cavalier until it was replaced with the Vectra in 1995.
Touring car honours now lie with the Astra Coupe, but Vauxhall has a long heritage of high-performance variants of its volume models. Our test car is the Vectra SRi hatchback, priced at £17,880 on-the-road, putting it into the same league as the Ford Mondeo 2.5 V6 Zetec S, the Mazda6 2.3 Sport and the Renault Laguna 2.0T Dynamique. However, the Vectra beats all comers on power per pound.
Its 173bhp is more than a match for its mainstream rivals, and while the 163bhp Renault Laguna 2.0T, priced at £17,400, just beats it on torque with 199lb-ft at 3,250rpm, the Vectra's 195lb-ft comes in at a more useful 2,500rpm and stays until 4,000rpm.
It translates into a 0-60mph time of 8.1 seconds and a 30-50mph in fourth gear time of 5.5 seconds, the latter benchmark should prove particularly useful when overtaking on B-roads or joining motorways.
The 2.0T is also the first Vectra to be fitted with a six-speed manual transmission, the close-ratio gearbox aiding its sprinting ability while allowing the car to cruise at low revs on the motorway.
Carbon dioxide emissions of 214g/km already puts this Vectra in the 26% bracket for company car tax, but it's competitive for this class and there are still a few unreconstructed petrolheads out there with an irrational diesel aversion to make it worth a look.
Behind the wheel
MOST British fleets will be familiar with the new Vectra by now, and many of my colleagues have remarked that it might perhaps seem too familiar, failing to turn heads on an early drive before it went on sale last year.
However, our saturn blue test car (a shade of metallic blue so dark it's almost black) with the SRi styling touches cut a rather imposing figure in our office car park. With black plastic surrounds in the headlights and clear-lens indicators at the rear, lowered suspension and a tiny boot spoiler, the hatchback-only SRi might not have the dynamic looking shape of the Mazda6, but it's a sturdy-looking alternative, sitting on striking 17-inch alloy wheels.
Of course it has the traditional Vectra attributes, meaning it is spacious for all occupants, and has an enormous boot. Steering wheel controls for the audio system are standard as is cruise control, air conditioning and auto-dimming rear view mirror. Electric rear windows are an optional extra though.
As well as lower suspension (it sits 20mm lower than other Vectras with the exception of the GSi) the steering is also a little sharper than the standard Vectra. It means body roll is more limited and the car is easier to drive briskly on more challenging roads. However, it still doesn't feel as involving as a Mazda6 or Ford Mondeo.
The driver always feels slightly disconnected from proceedings, rather like playing a video game than driving a car for real. But straight-line performance is still very impressive, with a decent shove of turbo torque from about 2,000rpm.
And it is still more fun than any other Vectra I have driven to date. The six-speed transmission is far slicker than the five-speed unit used in other models, although the stick still has too far to travel between changes.
Despite its sporting pretensions ride comfort does not appear to have been compromised – it is still one of the most comfortable cars in its class – and engine refinement is almost as good as the excellent 2.2-litre also offered in the Vectra.
THE new 2.0-litre turbo engine endows the Vectra with a potent mid-range kick and is suited to the racier SRi variant. It might come with a higher tax bill than a diesel version, but for some the extra driving enjoyment will be a price worth paying.
Model: Vauxhall Vectra 2.0T
Engine (cc): 1,998
Max power (bhp/rpm): 173/5,500
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 195/2,500
Max speed (mph): 143
0-60mph (sec): 8.1
Fuel consumption (mpg): 31.7
CO2 emissions (g/km): 214
Fuel tank capacity (l/gal): 61/13.4
Transmission: 6-sp man
Service interval (miles): Up to 20,000
On sale: Now. Price (OTR): £16,825–£20,185