Old dog, new tricks

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Time for a few honesty pills. When I first drove the Vauxhall Cavalier V6, I didn’t much like it. The engine itself was fine, but the mixture didn’t seem to work, even if it was never actually conceived as a sports saloon. Heaven knows, there are enough go-faster Cavaliers, what with the Turbo 4×4 and two differently rated 16-valvers.

No, the V6 was designed to reduce the effort of motorway driving, and with its automatic gearbox it was ill-suited to much of the original launch route around serpentine Berkshire.

But . . .

Gradually, manual transmission has filtered into the showrooms, and while this has hardly transformed the car (it’s still too soft, and the steering is horribly mute), it has at least eliminated the more common model’s tendency to hunt for gears at awkward moments. And it’s actually a half-decent Q-car. It looks as ferocious as a 1.6 LS (only a couple of subtle V6 badges offers any clues), yet it has plenty of mid-range torque and claimed top speed is 146 mph. Mind you, it feels as though you’d need an empty motorway the length of Spain to attain that giddy maximum, but experience on a long European haul proved that it will certainly cruise, comfortably, well into three figures.

For jobs of that kind, it is ideal. And, at less than £16,000 (whether you choose a boot or a hatch), it represents a lot of car for the money. Standard equipment on the GLS we tested included central locking (with deadlocks), driver’s airbag, six-speaker Grundig stereo with removable (and neat) anti-theft panel, ABS, traction control and numerous electrically operated bits. Facing strong fleet market adversaries such as the Mondeo, Laguna and Xantia can’t be much fun if you happen to be a Vauxhall Cavalier. Despite its age, however, it still has something to offer. S A

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