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Vauxhall Vectra & Signum

Vauxhall

Review

THE Vauxhall Vectra you see here is much more than just a mid-life facelift – it’s a fundamental reworking of the car to keep it competitive against a host of new rivals in the upper-medium segment.

Every piece of metal from the A-pillars forward is new. There is an improved interior and, most importantly of all, a bespoke chassis designed entirely for UK roads.

The addition of Vauxhall’s family face, as seen on the Astra, Tigra and new Zafira, is the most obvious change and gives the Vectra a more up-to-date appearance.

The V motif is more dominant and the grille extends, a la Audi, below the bumper line. The headlights echo the look of those fitted to the Astra, while the front wings, bumpers and bonnet have all been subtly reprofiled. The Signum follows this look, but with a different grille and more chrome on the front.

Inside, the dashboard and instrument binnacle have been remodelled, although you’d have to be a Vectra aficionado to spot the difference. But the improvement in quality is tangible, with a new soft-touch dashboard replacing the hard, unattractive item of before.

Build quality was never an issue with the previous Vectra, but now the new model looks much better, propelling it to the top of the quality charts.

But it’s the transformation of the Vectra’s dynamics which dominate. As the UK is such a massive market, it was decided to re-engineer the car to make it more appealing to UK drivers and, in particular, user-choosers.

Despite the upper-medium sector declining, it is still worth 45,000 sales a year to Vauxhall (excluding the 4,000-odd Signums it expects to sell too), making up 18% of Vauxhall’s fleet car business.

So the top brass in Luton decided the new Vectra should not only look different, but drive differently, too. And this Vectra has been tested on the worst pothole-ridden, lumpy stretches of Tarmac that could be found in Britian.

It may seem an extravagance to re-engineer a model when an all-new version is a few years away but, according to Vauxhall’s brand manager –fleet Paul Adler, the decision was simple. He said: ‘We care about our customer base and fleet sales are critical as 88% of Vectra sales are to fleets but we want to target end-users as well as fleet managers. We have got a number of blue-chip company clients who will still want basic diesel models but the market is fragmenting and there are far more user-chooser fleets than ever before.

‘There are a lot more premium cars around, but on a spec-for-spec basis the Vectra has so much more equipment. We are going to aggressively push Vectra to user-choosers and in particular the Exclusiv and SRi trim levels.’

Vauxhall expects the majority of Vectra sales to be in high-spec Design, Elite and SRi trim levels. And although prices remain unchanged, the SRi’s price has been cut by £1,000 despite the addition of a colour screen satellite navigation system.

There is also a new entry-level model, badged Exclusiv, priced from £14,750. Also new is a 2.8-litre turbocharged V6 engine, while the 3.0-litre V6 CDTi diesel’s power has been boosted from 175 to 181bhp.

Behind the wheel

IT only takes a couple of miles behind the wheel of the new Vectra to realise this is a very different car to its predecessor. It’s almost as if this high-mileage workhorse has been to the gym and toned up its body.

The main difference is in the steering. The previous Vectra did not excel in offering a rewarding drive – instead, it majored on long-distance comfort. But now there’s far more weight and resistance in the wheel, offering a much improved feel. The revisions to the steering are intended to boost driver confidence and this is certainly the case. Turn the Vectra into a corner and it immediately responds, and once there there’s plenty of feedback as to what the front wheels are doing.

The ride has also come in for attention, although this was one area where Vauxhall didn’t want to meddle too much. The old Vectra was a very comfortable car in which to rack up the miles, so the engineers were briefed not to compromise this. There is a revised rear suspension set up, new anti-roll bars and springs and dampers to bring some life to the chassis, but on most models the ride comfort isn’t compromised.

I say most models, because wheel choice is critical. Riding on 18-inch wheels – ‘the worst possible scenario’ according to vehicle dynamics manager Simon Johnson, the man who developed this car – the 1.9 CDTi 150 SRi had a hard ride which, in places, became uncomfortable over potholed roads.

But trying the same car on 17-inch wheels showed a big difference. This car was much more comfortable while not losing out on any of the steering feel. Vauxhall will offer 19-inch alloys as an option, and while they may look good they’ll play havoc with your drivers’ backs/fillings/piles in no time.

Stick with the standard offering and you won’t go far wrong. There are also stiffer engine mounts to cut down on engine vibration and a UK-specific power steering system.

All the engines and gearboxes are carried over but it’s the 1.9 CDTi 150 diesel which impresses the most. It offers 30bhp more than the lesser CDTi 120 but there is hardly any penalty on fuel economy and CO2 emissions.

Driving verdict

THE Vectra has always been a refined car, but now there’s an added pizazz to its repertoire. In 1.9 CDTi 150 SRi guise it is an all-round entertainer and a sensible fleet option.

Model: 1.8 2.2 Direct 2.0 Turbo 2.8 V6 Turbo 1.9 CDTi 120 1.9 CDTi 150 3.0 V6 CDTi
Max power (bhp/rpm): 120/6,000 153/5,600 173/5,500 227/5,500 118/3,500 148/4,000 181/4,000
torque (lb-ft/rpm): 123/3,800 162/3,800 195/2,500 243/1,800 207/2,000 236/2,000 295/1,900
Max speed (mph): 127 135 143 155 (limited) 124 135 143
0-62mph (sec): 10.5 8.6 8.1 6.8 10.5 8.9 8.2
Fuel consumption (mpg): 37.2 37.7 32.8 27.4 49.6 48.7 40.9
CO2 emissions (g/km): 182 180 206 247 154 157 186
On sale: Now
Prices (OTR): Vectra: £14,750–£23,395, Signum: £17,995–£26,745

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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