Used car Road Test.
Vauxhall Vectra SRi DTi 2.2 hatchback 5 door 2003.
The Vectra has been with us for many years, having undergone major cosmetic surgery and a myriad technical advances. It was first launched in 1995 to replace the ageing Cavalier which was produced what feels like not long after Ford's Model T. When the Vectra first came into production critics said that it apparently cost less to send a man to the moon than produce this mediocre rep's car.
There are various engines available ranging from petrol, dual fuel, lpg and heavy oil as well as three body styles of saloon, hatch 5 door and estate 5 door. Combine various trim levels with the body styles and engines and you could spend a great deal of time choosing which one if you were to drive them all first.
Having seen the new Vectra on the road many times already, I am hard pushed to be descriptive about it. This SR tested is relatively high spec version which comes with alloys wheels, chrome trim and various other features which are supplied over and above other models such as the LS. The car is very boxy and devoid of features which works well on some cars but I don't think it works on this as it simply lacks any distinguishing or tasteful looks.
The paintwork on this car is finished in a silver grey metallic which is currently a desirable colour and contrasts well with the large silver alloys. Being the SRi model, there is a small and inconsequential boot spoiler which I am sure hardly assists stability just in the same way it hardly enhances the appearance. The door trims, handles and sill covers are colour coded and sympathetically enhance this car's external looks. Overall the paint finishing and quality is acceptable with the exception of a poor resistance to stone chips on the front. It does not fall into the ugly category even though it is a close contender.
Inside, the Vectra is very roomy and bright, visibility is good and the colour scheme is several shades of grey with graphite and a little chrome which all together work very well. This is the SRi version so it comes standard with Recaro-styled front seats, head rests front and rear, sports styled steering wheel and a graphite coloured dash consul which looks several times better than any fake wood plastic.
Comfort features are to be expected in a car of this class and price range. It has many including electric windows fitted to the front and rear, the switches for these being on the driver's door panel with the adjustment for the electric mirrors as well. All easily accessible and operated with ease. Cruise control is fitted which used to be rare for diesel cars and again this works well without any complicated procedures. The sound system is complemented with speakers almost everywhere and a multi-play CD cartridge in the dash. This is compact and effective even though other makers now utilise a single disc space to load 6 disks.
The air conditioning and ventilation worked very well, plenty of air vents supplied hot or cool air to almost anywhere it was desired in the front with one single control for temperature on both sides. I did find the engine warm-up time to be quite long which had little effect in defrosting me or the car on very cold days.
Satellite navigation was fitted to this car from Vauxhall's factory for a considerable sum. It combines with the stereo screen to provide en route information and input data. All sounds good until you see the yellow text screen uuugggggggghhhhhh!!!!!!!!
And there was me starting to have credible thoughts for a car manufactured by Vauxhall!
Why oh why did Vauxhall do this? A full colour screen costs probably less than £50 more to supply and they would still retain a huge profit margin.
Greed, that's why. Little features such as this are probably the
reason why their greed is killing their own market and they are spending £0,000,000's
trying to figure out poor current new sales.
The answer is simple. When new cars are sold they either depreciate like a Vauxhall Vectra or hold good residual values like a BMW 3 series. When the residual values are high when second hand, more people will buy a new car if the saving is not too significant and their large investment will not be a token amount after three years.
Why Vauxhall do not supply a better product to support the residual values and in the long term benefit is mysterious. They insist on supplying a product which will last beyond the warranty (and sometimes not much more if it actually achieves that at all) for a short term profit.
How many times do we as consumers see this and vote with our wallets? Which is what appears to be happening to Vauxhall and their parent company GM.
I can appear very critical over an item such as Sat Nav as, to me, it typifies the rest of the car because if it's an item which you will look at and use every day, it needs to be more detailed and interesting and NOT a yellow, cheap and cheerful 3x3 screen from somewhere like Taiwan (not that I am comparing Taiwan with Vauxhall as that would not be fair).
|Service Interval||Insurance Group||Safety Rating||Smog Rating|
|Turbo Diesel 4 Cylinder 16 Valve||123||2171||No|
|Top Speed||0 to 60||BHP per Tonne|
|Kerb Weight||Tow Weight||Length||Width||Height|
|Boot Seats/up||Boot Seats/Down||Seats|
|480 Litres||1180 Litres||5|
Think of Vauxhall's SRi range and you would imagine sports cars with plenty of power. Not any more, the SR is the trim level with subtle adjustments and modifications with the suspension, etc but nothing stark or immediately noticeable. Vauxhall SR has gradually evolved into the GS badged range which is now the testosterone-fuelled version.
This would account for Vauxhall implanting a diesel donkey into a car with the SR sports badge then, I guess. That said, it will not be too long before Vauxhall implant a diesel into the GS range with the current diesel technology development rate.
You would be forgiven for initially thinking that SR and diesel don't go together. Then consider a stonking 125 bhp and lots of torque from this turbo-charged direct injection modern diesel engine and you may just re-consider. 125 bhp from a diesel produces a mammoth amount of toque as well which no petrol engine of the same bhp could compete with. This gives power without lots of rpm's from the engine and a generally easier drive.
The engine used in this car is a 2.2 litre four cylinder 16V. It is very much the same as the more common 2.0 DTi with a few more cc's. It's also been used for a long time in other cars including Vauxhall's Frontera & Omega and even Saab's 9-3 model since 1998. So this engine is very well tried and tested. I have seldom heard of an engine failing. The camshaft is driven by a chain and not a rubber belt, making for cheaper servicing and incredibly high reliability. The only fault I've come across is the diesel returning to the fuel tank, thus making for poor starting. Once you know the reason for this it is cheap and easy to rectify. Occasionally there can be turbo charger failure which can suck the engine oil into the inlet chamber and run the engine on its own oil.
Starting the engine is now almost like starting a petrol because it's direct injection so you don't have to wait for the pre-heat system before the car will start, unless it's very cold weather. Once started though you will know for sure it's a diesel with the noise level. It is quite intrusive and knocks considerably when cold. Once driving, the noise doesn't start to subside until you get up into 3rd gear or above. Accepting this, you get a great reward for getting up to 3rd gear because the torque is superb. 1st and 2nd gear rev the engine too quickly to produce any real performance but 3rd allows the turbo to produced lots of gas flow for the engine to consume, propelling the car at a very credible rate. The gearing is also different to the petrol versions, making for a more relaxed drive with less changes. The gearbox is very slick and easy to manage with a relatively light clutch pedal. It drives the front wheels which apply the output very well without any pulling or torque steer, this is also aided by a very well designed suspension set-up.
The suspension is fully independent with multi link lightweight wishbones, anti-roll bar links and steering arms. For a front wheel drive heavy car this Vectra diesel did impress me. There is very little body roll through chicanes and the driver feedback is actually very good. The large alloy wheels with 225 50 series tyres enhance this as well as looking good. The overall drive is hard and not for comfort as it's designed more for the thrill of driving. Okay, not as much a thrill as a Quattro Audi or a super-car such as a Porsche 911 but it will behave much better than earlier models under stark driving conditions.
Current safety in the automobile industry is getting into the realms of the extreme. Volvo invented the seatbelt and it has saved many, many lives. Chassis have been constantly developed and changed for optimum protection. Then anti-impact bars came shortly afterwards, followed by the pyrotechnics of the modern airbag. And this car has lots of them. I actually think that if they all exploded at once (which they are not programmed to do) then you would need oxygen in order to breathe which could be deployed from the overhead sun visor, similar to a passenger aircraft. I accept that Vauxhall take safety with the utmost importance and feel a duty to protect its customers but I just think they should hide the airbags better or make them more aesthetically pleasing. The seat airbags are, in my opinion, unacceptable in looks and detract from the attractive front seating in this car. The driver's airbag is acceptable and non-intrusive, showing that style can combine safety with effort and design.
I feel the makers of today's cars work very hard to achieve NCAP ratings which this Vectra achieves a 4. Not wishing to discredit the NCAP system, I can't agree with it wholeheartedly as the makers know in advance at what direction and speed their cars are to be impact tested. And common sense tells me that if I was a safety designer with this knowledge then I would be foolish to ignore it. In fact I would work very hard in these areas to get full marks. I am not implying that makers do this but I feel they are somewhat influenced by it. The real test is when your car is hit from a strange angle and by something that hasn't been simulated and then you get the truth about you car's build and safety qualities.
The Vectra is a safe car in its class; not the best and not the worst. Hey, that's the idyllic way to describe this car! I feel like a parent with a child's school report reading "could do better".
The physical size of this car also contributes to its resistance to impact from other vehicles as well as securing its occupants in such an eventuality into a reasonably sized impact zone.
Fortunately, as mentioned earlier, the handling is very good so you are likely not to be leaving the road for any fields or posts and the ABS braking is very technically advanced, allowing short stopping distances in most circumstances if you misjudge your own stopping distance.
Vauxhall car security is the best it has ever been - transponder imobilisers, dead-locking, anti hijack locking, stereos which only work in Vauxhall cars and locking wheel nuts all help to keep unwanted attention from the car.
After much consideration whether I would own one of these cars or not I must admit I would. Overall the drive is good, reliability is good, build quality is a little less than good but not bad, running cost are better than good and servicing costs are great. So, being conscious of what Gordon Brown and his cronies are getting from my driving costs, I find the Vectra diesel a super car giving less in fuel tax and less in road tax due to low emissions.
I know you can buy better than this Vectra SR DTi with cars such as the VW Passat TDi but they cost more and if you are on a budget then the Vectra would be the choice in my opinion because it suffers less electrical problems than other cars. Take, for example, Ford's Mondeo TD DCi with constant electrical & turbo boost defects, Peugeot's 406 has very costly problems with it's particulator systems (which cost as much as the car itself when out of warranty), Renault's Laguna has more small defects than any in its class and cars like Toyota's D4D have fuel pump problems which again cost as much as the car itself when second hand. So, summing up, the Vectra is affordable to buy, affordable to run, reliability is as good and slightly better than others in it's class and it actually drives well. Should it become defective, most independent garages can fix it and most car breaking web sites will have the part it requires to fix it at a fraction of the new cost price.
The Vectra is a great saloon for daily chores including trips to the stores with its huge boot capacity and it will also easily carry five people comfortably for considerable distances. What more could you require? Unless you are young, stylish or requiring street cred then the Vectra would be a suitable transport partner without great cost or complications.
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