Vauxhall Cavalier 1.6 SR Hatchback
THE front-drive General Motors’ Vauxhall Cavalier, or Lutonian Ascona if you like, which arrived in the summer of 1981 to replace the previous well-liked rear-drive Vauxhall Cavalier as a World-car in modern parlance, is so popular that it does not now require much embellishment. It has been creeping up on the British-market sales of the Ford Cortina, itself about to be revised as an f.w.d. car, and I recently had more than 1,000 miles of enjoyable driving in the 1.6-litre SR five-door Hatchback version of this latest Cavalier, which performed admirably. It had been produced for us at short notice by the obliging Gerry Duller of Vauxhall’s PR Department and was to prove useful and convenient for both business and pleasure journeys, in what we are still being told is The Age of THE TRAIN. . . .
This new Cavalier is compact, stylish with its front air-da, below a classical frontal treatment, and it goes and handles very nicely indeed. The engine is notably quiet at fast cruising speeds, so that mild wind noise and a little tyre rumble intrude, instead of an objectionable power roar. This 90 x 79½ mm. (1,598 c.c.) four-cylinder transverse power-pack is interesting as having Opel’s isolated o.h.-camshaft operating the vertical valves, in the alloy cylinder head via ingenious non-reciprocating hydraulic tappets, and short interposed fingers. Unnecessary component drives are obviated by using a belt-driven camshaft, an ignition distributor (in conjunction with electronic ignition for the 1,600 c.c. units) protruding from the other end of the camshaft, which also drives the mechanical fuel-pump. High revs are the norm, up to 7,500 r.p.m. from the SR’s engine, which gives 90 (DIN) b.h.p. at 5,800 r.p.m., not far short of the output obtained from the old 2-litre Cavalier.
This engine is both smooth and quiet, and pleasantly responsive, once the revs build up. The clutch is light and smooth and the 4-speed gearbox pleasant to use, with short, crisp lever movements, another way in which the Cavalier rivals Ford, with reverse protected by a sliding sleeve. The suspension is quite hard, on the SR model at all events, which gives a high standard of road-clinging for a car of this class, enhanced by front-wheel-drive that does not exhibit too great a degree of understeer. The dead back-axle is sprung on coil springs and semi-trailing arms with a torsion beam. This gives rise to some harshness, at times, deflecting the back end, but not to the same extent as is experienced on the Ford Escort. So one is well placed to make good use of the Cavalier SR’s top speed of over 100 m.p.h. or, under conditions where this isn’t circumspect, to exploit its good acceleration, especially as the tyres were Pirelli’s grippy P6s, of wide-tread 195/ 60 HR x 14 size.
In spite of its ready power, the SR’s engine will run at modest speeds in top gear; it develops 93 lb./ft. torque at between 3,800 and 4,200 r.p.m. So driving this fastest of new Cavaliers is no chore. The disc / drum brakes would be nicer to use if the pedal was not somewhat biased to the left of the natural foot position although a long-arm driving stance may correct this; they might have been a shade more responsive, too, requiring quite a prod at times, but they are certainly not over-servoed brakes and could be made to give progressive retardation. The engine incorporates auto choke, a quiet electric fan and has five main bearings. It was an instant-starter.
The expected German type fascia has easy-to-read black-dial instruments but the fuel gauge is affected by gradient and is of the type slow to record after the ignition has been switched on. But the long fuel-range provided by the 13.2-gallon tank was much appreciated. I got better than 25½ m.p.g. on a fast run home and 25.2 m.p.g. of 4-star in varied motoring. The manual rack-and-pinion steering (four turns, lock-to-lock) is satisfactory, but has a dead feel about the straight-ahead position, slow castor-return, and is very heavy for parking. Nearby grouped instrumentation looks after fuel contents, oil-pressure, voltage, engine temperature and time, but calibrations are vague, with the speedometer calibrated every 20 m.p.h. (thus omitting 30 and 50 m.p.h. markings), and the tachometer having the warning mark at 6,800 r.p.m., and tiny k.p.h. readings grace the speedometer dial. One big binnacle contains the entire dash-panel, heater venting, switches and controls, supplemented by two steering-column stalk-controls. There is a 3-speed heater-fan and the warning lights are neatly installed.
This Cavalier SR has many little contributions to motoring convenience, such as rear wipe / wash controlled from the r.h. steering-column stalk (turn indicators from the I.h. one), an internally-adjustable door mirror, lift-up external door handles, stowages in the form of a roomy but non-lockable cubbyhole, big rigid front door pockets, and a large open well in the central console, a rotary lights-switch well placed for the driver’s right hand (this pulling out as on old Vauxhalls for the interior lighting) and on the test-car a Philips push-button radio. One substantial key served all locks. The tartan upholstery and well-contrived interior trim has a nice air of quality and the SR model has Recaro rally-type front seats, which not only give excellent support but are comfortable and, as I know from bitter experience, can give protection in an accident. The SR has a 3-spoke steering wheel with a rather thick rim, with the horn-push in the centre.
There is a normal, high-cill boot, with capacity greatly enhanced (to nearly 43 cu. ft.) when the rear seat is retracted, the lid openable with the key, and the body styling is neat, without being in any may flamboyant, apart from the SR’s speed stripes and lettering, although it takes time tt become accustomed to the “hot-cros bun” special alloy wheels. The rear-hinged bonnet has an o/s release-lever, has to be propped open, but reveals extremely easy-to-reach Delco Forward battery, Bosch coil, oil-filler and dipstick, the last-named right at the front of the engine. The ribbed valve-cover is stamped “OHC,” whereas pedantic technicians might regard what it conceals as a beside-head or high-side camshaft. The engine showed no desire for oil in approximately 1,600 miles. After considerable mileage in this Vauxhall Cavalier SR, embracing so many kinds of driving packed into ten days, I can see why it is becoming one of Britain’s most popular saloons. Those who need a five-door Hatchback with a sporting flavour, plus excellent handling and well-laid-out controls, need look no further. The price is £6,095. — W.B.
BMW 635 CSi
Revised and refined coupés
BMW have thoroughly overhauled the specification of their 635 and 628 CSi coupe, pushing the UK prices to £22,950 and £17,890 respectively. The big changes are inside the lighter (by over 120 lbs.) skins, particularly that of the 635 which has really become a 634. Why? Because the engine is now a smaller bore (86 x 80 mm.) 3,430 c.c. version of the famous s.o.h.c. six. Due to raised compression ratio (10:1) power is as before (218 b.h.p.), although acceleration, top speed and fuel economy are improved by the removal of weight and aerodynamic revisions that include a new front spoiler, radiator ducting and an engine compartment undertray. BMW claim an aerodynamic (Cd) drag factor of “between 0.39 and 0.40, according to model,” we were told by long time sales director Schonbeck at a Munich presentat ion.
It is relevant to note that MOTOR SPORT attended the European launch rather than an earlier occasion for British press only in France, for a lot of detail information was supplied in Munich that was obviously not released in France, including the German prices of £12,159 for 628 and £14,389 for 635. BMW in Britain will tell you how well equipped the British model is, but even by adding all the extras listed for the model in Auto Motor und Sport together the cost was under £18,000— at which the “new” 635 Is an extremely worthy buy on its home market.
Basically the 635/628 revisions follow the pattern established by the year-old 5-series. This should be no surprise as the two models shared the same basic underpinnings previously. Now the coupes have the double joint front suspension and 528i’s 13° rake of the rear semi-trailing arms (also available on 525i if the Michelin TRX option is chosen).
The ABS anti-lock braking system in ca option for both coupes now, but TRX 220/50 VR 390 radials are standard in place of 205/70 VR 14 Michelins on British 635s. The interior, with its Recaro Idealsitz and three spoke steering wheel carries many reminders of the way BMW have embraced the electronics age enthusiastically. The service interval indicator has arrived from 5-series — a year’s experience has shown average intervals are stretched to 12,400 miles between services — and a computer of stunning complexity and accuracy is a production item on 635s, whether for UK or Germany. The fuel consumption indicator is extremely accurate when cross-checked with independent results and the computer, indicating that the remarkable 3.4-litre engine and wide ratio standard box allow 32 m.p.g. at a constant 75 m.p.h. Even around town it is hard to drag the revised BMW below 18 m.p.g. and a normal figure is 21-23 m.p.g. This provided the 0-60 m.p.h. capability of around 8sec. is not exploited too frequently
The 6-series always had an electronic check system but this is now like a 5-series fitment as well, using a central warning light if there is a malfunction rather than requiring a push button action from the driver to see if all is well. Incidentally the central warning tends to stay on until the first brake application. The Bosch-BMW engine management systems have been further refilled as well in the light of experience with other, bigger volume, models. The electronic injection now operates an r.p.m. reduction of 50 r.p.m. on idling speed (important in a large six around town), and fuel is now cut off completely on over-run above 1,000 r.p.m., instead of 1,200 r.p.m.
There have been detail improvements all around the car. “Cataphoretic dip paint in a vertical bath”, and sealed seams contribute in the fight against corrosion (not that BMW seem to fare badly at present); the rear bumper wraps further around the body and there are distinguishing black plastic ridges above it now. Even the headlamp lenses are different and it is hoped that the awful contrast between main beam and sharply curtailed dip has been improved.
In a warm day spent in and around Munich the 635 CSi performed exactly as its makers claimed it would. In fact the engine seems a lot better for the slight size reduction, which was occasioned by a slight tendency to head gasket troubles with no little water between the bores of the 3.5 unit, Plus the need for production rationalisation, according to sources outside the factory. The 220 km./h. (137 m.p.h.), speedometer mark comes up quickly while 160 km./h. (100 m.p.h.) demands only 3,250 r.p.m. in the overdrive fifth; a very “tall” ratio indeed. In fact the gear ratios of the car we tried proved very acceptable and usable maxima at a governed 6,000 r.p.m. of nearly 70 m.p h. in second. over 105 m.p.h. in third and a brisk launch to the right side of 120 m.p.h. for fourth, the later without using all available crankshaft r.p.m. The engine remains laudably quiet until 5.000 r.p.m., taking on a note of quickening interest until the governor cuts in, removing what has become a very sporting cry of joy, with brutal abruptness.
Tail slides and untidy lurches used to characterise BMW hard motoring but the TRX tyres and revised suspension (including detail offset alterations at the front, as well as the proven double-jointed system of 7 then 5-series) have made it possible to track around even slower corners with just the constant application of the sensitive power steering. The 635 can be power slid in traditional manner from slower corners or over loose surfaces, but the roadholding is now of a much higher order than BMW have ever offered; quite in line with Mercedes or Opel in this writer’s TRX-only experience of the new model.
Details we did not like included rather muted horns, a body that is still unnecessarily large for a two-door based upon 5-series, and the occasional surge from the Motronic cut-out system. None of these slight carps looked like deviating a Mercedes 500 SEC potential customer who shared the driving, the waiting list for the Merc waning in its attractions the further he co-piloted the BMW!
Overall, a worthwhile all round improvement, deftly executed. However it looks as though, after a conscious restraint on prices since BMW took over the UK concessionaires for themselves that they aim to head back to the expensive niche they used to occupy. “New” models, such as the revised 5 and 6 series, only confirm that unwelcome trend. — J.W.
Mazda 323 1.5 GT
I HAVE written words of praise for the FWD all-independently-sprung Mazda 323 saloon previously, so there is little point in saying much about the limited-edition GT version of this very nicely made Japanese small-car. In any case, as no Press-pack was in the car I cannot tell you what power the GT 1,490 c.c. overhead-camshaft electronic-ignition, alloy-head engine pokes out. Let it suffice to say that it is very adequate, in terms of speed and pick-up, without in any way encroaching on she smooth-running of Mazda’s four-cylinder, transverse engine, or its flexible running from pottering pace in the fifth gear, which, at the other end of the scale, at an indicated 60 m.p.h. shows 2,750 r.p.m.
A 1½-litre car that can get from the City of London to Mid-Wales in under 3¾ hours, with only about a sixth of the mileage on Motorways. and at some 36 m.p.g., is not to be lightly ignored, and that this Mazda three-door Hatchback did, moreover, running quietly at speed and being enjoyable to drive quickly. There is less understeer than in the Vauxhall Cavalier that had preceded it, light steering except when parking, and even then the action isn’t too heavy, a honey of a gear-shift, a reasonably light clutch action calling for minutely more care to give a smooth take-off than that of the Cavalier, and good brakes.
The Mazda 323 is so well contrived. The instruments, with rapier-slim white needles sweeping over black dials with white digits, are extremely easy to read, there are six useful stowage cavities about the car, not including the usual cubby or the door pockets, and the seats are notably accommodating and comfortable, in spite of thinnish cushions. The tachometer has red digits and markings from 6,000 r.p.m. but it is unnecessary to approach that limit, in normal brisk motoring. The body interior is neat if of rather sombre plastic mouldings and the tilting of the seats for rear-compartment access, the driver-release for opening she Hatchback without the key, and so on, are all bonuses in a delightful little car, which is, of course, smaller and less solidly built than the Cavalier. I did not have it for sufficiently long to truly get to know it; suffice it to say that it lived up to the normal 323’s excellence, with additional sporting attributes.
The suspension is somewhat hard over poor surfaces, although less no than that of the Cavalier SR, but the ride of the 323 GT is normally very good, although rear-seat passengers complained on secondary roads and it can be flicked round corners with little roll and very mild understeer, the GT model having a sports-type steering wheel, the steering geared 3¼ turns, lock-to-lock. Two stalk controls for the usual services are well contrived, with the right-hand stalk operating the turn indicators, which I like, and the pedals are well-spaced, with a rest for the driver’s left foot. The fuel-filler-cap is beneath a lockable flap on the n/s and the bonnet-release toggle is directly before the driver. The bonnet is front-hinged, which slightly impedes engine access, but it is self-propping. The dipstick is at the front of the engine and, as on the Vauxhall, the ignition distributor is driven directly from one end of the chain-driven o.h.-camshaft on the cross-flow cylinder head. The speedometer has total and trip decimal readings and is calibrated in both k.p.h. and m.p.h., and one key serves all the locks. The wide doors assist entry to and exit from the rear compartment and they have just-adequate “keeps”. The boot is somewhat narrow but by folding down the rear-seat squabs much more luggage can obviously be carried and the squab is divided, so that a third passenger can be accommodated in conjunction with long loads. The electric sun-roof was greatly appreciated. A manual choke is used, which needed some juggling with to get the engine to perform from cold, too much choke causing it to rev. its head off.
Otherwise, no grumbles. Petrol thirst over average conditions was 37.0 m.p.g. Four-star fuel. is needed with the more powerful GT engine and the test-car was shod with Japanese Dunlop 175/70 SRI3 SP4 steel-radial tyres on the handsome alloy wheels, used a small GS battery, had Koito headlamps, and a Clarion push-button radio. The fascia digital clock can be easily re-set and the fuses are beneath a flap, also on the fascia. The Mazda 1.5 GT is the kind of small car, styled in the current Euro/Japobox chunky shape, with neat bumpers and side-rubbing strips, that makes one wonder whether big cars are really necessary. It would be a very good substitute for many who cannot afford, or dislike the heavy petrol-thirst of, large cars, at its price of £5,399. — W.B.
More Mazda turbos
BASED in Bournemouth the Elford Turbo Ltd. concern have earned a high reputation for their conversions of the Mazda 101-7 rotary engined sports cars. Now they want to expand their interests and tell on that they are offering SK Sanyo turbocharger kits for the piston-engined Mazdas, particularly the front drive 1300 and 1500 GT models. Mazda are running such a 323 1500 GT as part of their normal press fleet, no we may well wain a first hand look at the kit in action. Prices? Elford merely say, “prices for the SK Turbo kits have not yet been finalised, but Elford are confident that they will be more competitive than any current turbo conversion available in the UK .”