The Cavalier is phased out at last, but hasn’t Vauxhall forgotten something?
The press pack for the new Vectra is very studiously written: nowhere are the words ‘Vauxhall’ and ‘Vectra’ juxtaposed. Officially, this is the new Vectra from Vauxhall. Something to do with avoiding any confusion with the Vauxhall Victor (d 1976), apparently.
The new Vectra, which we tried in two-litre, 16-valve SRi form, is promoted as the car to take us into the next millennium, even though, visually, you could mistake it for a Cavalier with a splash of Chanel applied to its nose.
The critical differences lie beneath the surface.
There’s a fresh chassis, wider and longer, with new multi-link rear suspension, and even though it feels unmistakably Vauxhall/Opel from behind the wheel, cabin space and refinement have been improved: there are fewer vibrations, as well as reduced noise pollution from either the wind, the road or the engine.
Even in its final guise, the Cavalier’s age had been showing when it was measured against the Mondeo, the Laguna et al. The Vectra is a huge step forward in terms of ride and handling, being far less choppy than its antecedent. The 2.0 comes with electronic traction control as standard, and this is as efficient as it is unintrusive.
The engine, typically for a Vauxhall, has an admirable blend of pace and economy: quoted top speed is a vigorous 134 mph, yet it will return in excess of 40 mph at maximum legal cruising speed. Even hard use, much of it in stop/occasionally start London, yielded a return of 35-plus mpg.
Inside, switchgear and instrumentation have been tidied up, but despite a long list of standard equipment (remote alarm, neat cup-holders, adjustable headlamps, decent stereo with detachable anti-theft panel, an armada of electric buttons) there is one glaring omission from the list of furniture. . .
The steering wheel is not adjustable for rake or height, and in a car which is going to sell in droves to sales reps (Vauxhall is eventually aiming to sell 130,000 Vectras per annum), a car which will pound along the nation’s motorways for hours on end, this appears to be a rather obvious oversight. Speaking as Mr Average-Height, I couldn’t get fully comfortable, and after only 50 miles my left knee was beginning to ache. The height adjustable seat simply doesn’t allow enough room to manoeuvre.
The Vectra is well equipped, and keenly priced (prices range roughly from £12,000 — £20,000, with the pacy SRI a halfway house example at £16,735), and there is a simple fix available if Vauxhall doesn’t want 130,000 people complaining about sore knees. . . SA