The 3rd generation Vectra is built on the Epsilon platform that was developed by the Opel specialists for the General Motors mid-size front wheel cars. It also features on a Saab 9-3 and several Cadillac and Pontiac models. The new Vectra has grown in size, but its pure muscles compared to the previous generation as it has shed some weight and become sportier.
The Vectra resembles the design lines first featured on the Astra with the same high flanks, lowered glazed area and bulky front end. With the Vectra, they confirmed that they're moving away from the smooth and rounded design, making the most of the 'boxy' look. However, the Vauxhall's 'boxy' look is not like the 80s Volvos it's a brand new approach. What's even more important, the cars have improved their aerodynamic characteristics - it must have been a hard job to bring the drag coefficient to 0.28, which is a great achievement for a car this size. It goes to show that the long 25,000 hours spent at the computers and inside the aerodynamics tunnel have paid off.
Although the Vectra might fail to excite with its exterior, it is a solid, good-quality design. Concerning the interior, there is a huge difference between various trim levels. The very basic level is... well, basic. It will only include the absolute minimum to keep the price down. As we move up the ladder, the quality of interior improves. The higher trim levels even feature real chrome and wood inlays. The comfort of the seats also depends on the trim. The middle to top of the range models includes very comfortable seats with several adjustment levels. Basically, the Vectra offers a good-quality space and the extra inches in length has definitely improved the comfort.
Although the first impression is positive, there are little things that may annoy a perceptive driver including the layout of the dashboard which is awkward and the direction indicators which take extra effort to make them work.
The Vectra offers a good line-up of petrol and diesel engines that include the 1.8-litre 120bhp, 2.0-litre turbo 172bhp, 2.2-litre 152bhp and 3.2-litre V6 208bhp petrol units. The diesel engines include the 1.9-litre 147bhp, 2.2-lite 123bhp and 3.0-litre V6 174bhp.
The Vauxhall's 4-cylinder engines are well optimised and offer good power-to-economy ratio. They can all achieve over 30 miles per gallon and the basic 1.8-litre modification can even do closer to 38mpg. As for the power, they're all considerably over 100 horses, but due to the problems that often occur with turbo petrol engines, you might want to avoid the 2.0-litre turbo.
The best option from the diesel engine list is the 1.9-litre common rail unit - delivering up to 50mpg and still managing under 10 second acceleration, it is a good achievement for a medium-level car. The 2.2-litre direct injection turbo diesel definitely lacks the edge, it neither offers more mileage nor more power, so might as well be discounted by a used car buyer. There is a certain attraction in the large 3.0-litre diesel engine, although a little noisy, the large diesel provides excellent pull and keeps fuel consumption within 37mpg.
Regardless of the engine choice, be it diesel or petrol, the Vauxhall Vectra is capable of around-10 second acceleration to 60mph and is confident on a highway. It offers good mid range performance, but for that extra bit more, choose the GSi model with a V6 petrol engine which will give you 7-second acceleration and is guaranteed to offer extra excitement.
You cannot help noticing that Vauxhall is trying to target an entirely new niche with their 3rd generation Vectra as it's not designed with the family in mind any more. They want to attract medium executives and business buyers who are looking for a good and inexpensive company car. The Vectra is trying to be bigger than it actually is.
It's an easy car to drive but we wouldn't call it lots of fun, unless you go for the GSi. Vectra's suspension is too soft and the electronic steering assist returns very little information about the road.
The newer Vauxhalls have got a good reputation in terms of its reliability. The soft suspension tends to go out of order quickly on older cars and it can result in an expensive repair so be sure to test-drive the used Vectra on various road surfaces. The older engines are susceptible to engine oil leaks so it's important to keep checking the oil levels regularly. Being more sophisticated than the older generation Vectras, this car can develop ECU faults, the software is unpredictable and may need "rebooting" which is not a very expensive job though.
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