UK Car review
Vauxhall Vectra SRi 
1.8 16V 120 bhp

 Exterior movie click here Interior movie click here

Remember the first Cavalier SRI of Dulux brilliant white and plastic encrusted speed demon for the rep with an even badder attitude than normal?

That was a long time ago, before insurance companies outlawed the use of an "i" in car names and hot versions moved into the highly specced top executive cars. 

So a Vectra 1.8 SRI? Some joke going on here surely? There is a 2.2 and a V6 so where does this diddy version fit in with its 400cc deficit? Does anyone buying an SRI really want an instant 20bhp detune?

However, it is not quite as simple as that. In the not-too-distant past of pre-emission-based company car tax, 1.8 was a convenient, if slightly illogical, government-given tax break. Therefore, makers built 1.8 in droves to fit the bracket.

More importantly to the used car buyer is the rather nice attitude that the insurance world has taken to the 1.8 endowing it with a rather pleasingly low insurance rating (for today's "i" paranoid world anyway).

Maybe we all hate Vectras so much that nobody can be bothered to nick them. Maybe Clarkson's silent review worked too well and we just don’t know about them.

Having relatively cheap insurance is great but if there is nothing over that bog standard Vectra underneath the badge then there would be no point at all. So what has this one got to attract any premium over a standard LS version?

Suprisingly, this 4-door saloon is not a bad looker. In my eyes, an improvement upon the 5-door. The updated Mk 2 Vectra is still not exactly modern looking by any stretch of the imagination. At least it's not had a revolting modernist update just yet.

This one appears to sit low to the ground in a pseudo-touring-car manner. A neat set of alloys adorns the arches, being not massive and not too glitzy but they are good enough to mark this car out from the Vectra-stuffed motorway tailback. The deep sills and small flip lip are neat enough and out of the back sticks a big chrome tailpipe which will no doubt get bigger and louder with every change of owner.

 

The SRI badge adorns the rear; the lack of a 1.8 indicator adds many bonus points to its street cred.

Inside, disappointment abounds in what is pretty much a bog standard Vectra. It is a cut above the first Model in finish if not in fit. Hard surfaces still abound but at least the edges are more rounded now.

There is a touch of plastic fantastic, mock something around the centre console, but quite what it's supposed to mimic, God only knows. To be fair, the dash is a major improvement over older Vectras but, to be even fairer, it's still crap. Perhaps if GM did the honest thing and stuck an Opel badge on it, then the interior would improve towards the standards we expect of German cars.

 

The steering wheel is more than passable, mind you, feeling nice to hold. The seats are a sporty rendition of standard items and feel firm with a touch extra side support. They also have a pullout front section to support the thighs on long grinds.

 

The same stuff you would get on a normal saloon is what you get here. So at least it is not a stripped-out version trying to generate some performance via lower weight. Air-con is fitted but any sensible sporty driver will open the window and turn it off so as not to diminish the engine's output.

If you still get too hot you can take a stop and load up with drinks which you can store in the copious amount of cup holders and cup-shaped dints. The two front passengers can share at least half a dozen drinks and those in the rear will have to rely on the charity of the frontal occupants or roast to death.

I still do not quite understand why rear wipers do not find there way on to saloons, especially fairly sloped ones like this. Perhaps it is just not convenient to drill the hole to accommodate it. Who knows?

 

Despite only being a piddling 1.8 4 banger it still puts out enough horses to put some hot motors and turbos of recent vintage to shame. Vauxhall's eco-tech motor is a thoroughly modern design and is at least the equal of many other highly rated power plants, at least in terms of peak output.

Sure, it needs a little revving to get the best out of it but when given its head it responds well around its large rev range. Bottom end power seems fine if not exactly stump pulling and mid range is smooth if not exactly stomping. Nevertheless, hold on to the lower gears and push the throttle hard and it zips around the clock with a fair turn of speed.

It does make a nice change to run a motor with what feels like an endless rev range and having to work a little can be gratifying - the feeling of not starting to run out of steam above 4500-5000 is really quite nice.

The gearbox is slick enough, though like many Vauxhall's has that slightly strange light feel to it like the gear-stick is made of a hollow tube of tinfoil topped by a piece of round balsa wood. Personally, I prefer a more solid, weighty feel that makes it seem like something mechanical is happening.

The pedals are as nondescript as any rep mobile should be - you press, they work, you forget.

The basic chassis is still all there with no major component differences - still the same old independent, all round set-up of the basic car.

Vauxhall could tell you better what they have done to the suspension to change it to SRI standard but I would take a guess at lowered and heavier spring rates, much uprated dampers and thicker anti-roll bars. In addition, that is on top of the wider lower profile tyres.

When you want to improve handling, no amount of tweaking angles will generate the results that radical street roading changes will bring. Of course, the result of such surgery is fairly obvious and, looking at the comments under General, will only confirm your suspicions. The nice thing to report, though, is that despite some hefty upgrade, the new Vectra still rides better at the rear than the old one (my father thought the suspension was broken when I gave him a lift in the back of an early turbo D).

People in the know tell me that the Vectra uses a really clever steering arrangement through its Mac Stuts, meaning that the front suspension lasts at least far longer than most Mac-based front ends, if not pretty much forever.

 

Whilst old Vectra brakes worked well enough, the ABS tended to cut in very early leading to a pulsing feel to the pedal and you to believe that you could never extract maximum braking power. It was probably a false feeling but you felt it all the same.

The new model brakes well enough with its all round discs but the ABS is nowhere near as intrusive and so feels much better.

The usual airbags are fitted, together with side impact bars and full three point rear seat belts, with height adjustable, pre-tensioned front items bringing it fully up-to-date in the standard safety stakes.

The remote central locking runs deadlocks and an immobilisor so at least it is a little more difficult to nick than an Old Cavalier SRI.

 


Ignoring all the practicality issues that we take for granted with a Vauxhall car, it’s a Vectra so we can rest in the knowledge that it's going to do all the average Vauxhall rep car things such as shopping, queuing, tail gating grannies on the motorway, undertaking at 90mph, pushing into the front of 2 mile queues, sitting in the outside lane all day long, with the reliability and nonchalance of any other Vectra.

What we really want to know is does the SRi badge really make any difference?

Well, yes it does. It only takes a couple of seconds and one pothole to discover that this Vectra is not bog standard. It rides very hard indeed (no shock there then). Firm is not quite an adequate description. Stiff is a much better word. To its credit it is not jittery and does not bounce all over the road, crashing from bump to bump. However, you certainly know just what the road surface is like under you butt.

Of course it is a trade-off, ride for response and, on a short test drive at least, the response is easy to appreciate. It rides very flat, gripping hard into bends with ne'er a trace of body roll. 

The steering, whilst not exactly responsive to the touch and a trifle numb of feedback, allows you to sling the car around and its suspension does not get tied into knots with geometry-screwing pillowy wallowing. The wheel also seems to be re-angled now and feels much nicer than the early version's very upright effort.

On dry roads the engine does not really have the outright power to stress the chassis beyond its limits and in practical terms this means you can use the engine to its maximum, knowing you're well within the chassis limits. 

I could not really discern anything untoward, even understeer was well kept in check and not noticeable, even when throwing it in deep, fast and late to a tight turn. Whether the saloon body helps here, could be questioned as saloon bodies are stiffer than hatches and stiffer means better, full stop.

On a longer test term it may have become wearing but it reminded me of a sporty Astra I once tested and I never got bored of that car's hooligan response, so this one may just be the same.

If you want a cheap car which is cheap to run but has a touch of a wicked side to it, you might just be happy with this little rendition of the Vectra.

Included with every car is a free dust cap removal tool, hidden and stored in the fuel filler flap. This must have convinced those who were not so sure between Vauxhall and Ford that it's got to be a Vauxhall.

 

For all Vauxhall car specifications and data from:www.ukcar.com 
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