|Spiritual successor to the much loved
Cavalier, the Vectra fell into the same trap as the Sierra did, when it
replaced the Cortina. By trying to replace something so heavily ingrained
into the public psyche, these cars were always cruising for a bruising.
Why Ford and Vauxhall spent mega money producing something which they were
obviously going to be slated for remains a mystery. It would be far easier
to release a complete pup of a tart-up job, flog it for a year, then withdraw
it replacing their much detested motor, with an expensive shiny new one.
Or they could just keep the name, and pretend it's the same - witness the
Corolla or Shogun or Golf, Polo, Passat, or 3 series, 5 series.
Vauxhall have already heavily reworked the Vectra into Mk 2 guise and claim to have produced a much improved car in response to public demand, but the shabby re-styling may just be an underhand attempt to gain public acceptance by distancing its looks from the first generation.
So, is the Vectra Mk 1 the complete pup of legend or is it the canine's testicles undeservedly slated by the public at large?
First impressions aren't too bad. The thing looks quite stylish. Nothing is exactly cutting edge, it's merely unobjectionable, middle of the road, conservative, restrained, new but with more than a hint of Cavalier for all those besotted sales reps. Their designers put some nice touches into the car. See how the bonnet's wage line sweeps into the side view mirrors, making the mirrors an integral part of the design.
Remote central locking opens up the interior for inspection, where you can survey cloth that is somewhat jazzy but not too much of an eyesore, but then it's not too inspiring either.
You also get to inspect the dash which is grey plastic and black plastic and is erm, very plasticky indeed. This particular model is fairly basic but has enough not to cause severe hardships - electric front windows, manual sunroof and remote mirror adjusters would keep most people happy. Though with mirrors so small, electric adjusters would have been a useful bonus.
Whilst the outside looks about class average, the inside seems fairly compact in width if not in length, but the boot is usably large and the hatchback platform is fairly versatile.
The oil burner fires up without any difficulties and settles very quickly. The inside is obviously well sound proofed as not too much diesel death rattle seeps into the cockpit.
The seats are somewhat firm on first acquaintance, but are comfortable enough once on the move. Height adjustment helps the vertically challenged see out of the front at least. The rear view is as compromised as all fastbacks are and it's not helped by those designer mirrors which are way to small for decent function.
Driving highlights lots of little annoying problems:
Under acceleration vibration finds its way through the clutch pedal to your left foot.
Light braking at slow speed sets the ABS pulsing through your right foot.
The steering wheel is strangely vertical in its inclination and feels a little weird when your hands move below quarter to three.
The gear shift is short, light and accurate through the gears but neutral is rather indistinct.
The aforementioned small mirrors.
All of these are relatively minor problems, which most of us could live with, the sort of idiosyncrasies that you learn to ignore or stop noticing very quickly.
Much more important is what the rest of the car is like, how the whole thing gels together into a single totality.
For the first few days with the Vectra, my trips were limited to motorway cruising and some smooth A-roads. In these conditions, the Vectra started to grow on me. Sure, the steering is too light and indirect, the ride a little crashy.
The 1.7 turbo diesel engine way too sluggy for this size of car but, the car would track through some smooth A-road S bends like it was glued to the gravel, pulled strongly in top between 50 and 80, would cruise the outside lane happily at an unstressed 70 - 85 mph with good solid precision and stability and had ABS which would pull you up without trauma, working better when pushed hard than in normal use.
I was just beginning to think that all the journo's who have slated the Vectra were being rather unfair and picky, when I made the mistake of taking the scenic route. This consists of a short but enjoyable twisty, rolling B-road and on this kind of route the Vectras true shortcomings began to surface.
Here, the suspension lost its marbles, feeling under damped, under-controlled, failing to maintain the tyres' grip on the gravel. The front end, when asked to turn in sharply, would start to under steer very early and the engine's lack of range meant stirring the gearbox to keep up some momentum on the inclines. We are not talking about racing here or going bonkers or being stupid, just the lightly spirited sort of driving we all do now and again (flat caps and blue rinses excepted). Dropping the pace slightly and concentrating on turning in slowly and smoothly restored normality but the limits are very low.
If most of your mileage is motorway with light A and B road usage then the Vectra may suit you. If you are happy to have zilch pace at all then I'm sure the 1.7 Turbo d will transpire to be a very cheap, economical car for you to run. If you just need a four/five seater family run-around then the Vectra could be the car for you. However, that one 5 mile ride was enough to prove that the Vectra will never be the car for me.
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