Vauxhall Frontera Diesel SW 1998 - 2003

Vauxhall Frontera Diesel SW 1998 - 2003

Review by it
Monday, May 16, 2016


  • They are cheap
  • Good level of equipment


  • Reliability issues
  • Limited choice of economical engines
  • Poor off-road abilities


When the Frontera was re-styled in 1998, many people started calling it the 2nd generation or Frontera B. In reality, the construction remained largely the same. Apart from the facelift it received a couple of new engines and an improved interior kit. The Vauxhall’s 4x4 has limited off-road capabilities and most of the times it’s only bought because of the low price.

Exterior and Interior

The two-door Frontera Sport does look good, it’s stylish and dynamic, but is less practical and 16 inches shorter than the 5-door estate. Especially after the facelift that saw the Frontera Sport getting a new plastic roof and some cool tuning elements, the car is really fashionable. You cannot say the same about the 5-door version. Something is missing and its prolonged body is lacking the same fluidity. The main reason why the Frontera doesn’t look like a Vauxhall is because it is a re-badged Isuzu Wizard and was designed by the Japanese engineers in 1989. All the major parts including the body and transmission is based on the Wizard. Vauxhall only added the engines and then, after realising that their powerplants cannot cope with off-roading, switched back to Isuzu’s engines. The interior is very simple and dull. The face-lifted model has improved the quality of materials, but has lost the style. The older Fronteras featured this bulky cosmic interior styling with straight lines and blocks. After 1998, it was attempted to smooth it out and the result is horrible. The steering wheel is very uncool and the dashboard lacks any integrity or purpose. Improved is the level of equipment, thus even the basic models of post-1998 Fronteras were offered with air-con, decent sound system and better safety equipment.

Performance and Economy

After the Frontera was accused of sluggish performance, it was decided to introduce a 3.2-litre V6 petrol engine. Although, it permits the car to make 0-60mph acceleration in less than 10 seconds, the trade-off is the fuel economy. The engine will consume as much fuel as a V8 normally would, it can only manageo 20mpg! The best choice is the 2.8-litre Isuzu diesel. Although they’ve only managed to squeeze 113bhp out of it, which is a poor job, the engine is reliable. The 2.5-litre Italian-built diesel, that is the most popular diesel engine of Frontera is worse, both technically and from the point of view of reliability. Neither of the diesels will make the Frontera an economical car, 30mpg for a light or medium-size 4x4 is not a great result. As for the off-road abilities, there are limitations to what a Frontera can achieve. Uneven country roads is an easy task, but when it comes to sticky things and serious off-roading, just don’t attempt it, the Frontera won’t make it.

Like to Drive

The suspension is ok and it will offer a decent ride on a smooth surface. Country roads and minor off-road conditions will make the Frontera display its choppy character. Driving a Frontera is not a lot of joy – the gearbox is imprecise. It will take an extra effort to get into the right gear. Most of the engines are underpowered and it takes close to 20 seconds to reach 60mph. The 3.2-litre V6 offers much better performance, but in a cheap car like Frontera, it somehow feels out of turn. The Frontera can be used to carry important people around because the rear seat is very comfortable. There is plenty of legroom and the seats are aligned at a good angle. The driver’s seat is not comfortable at all your legs will get tired very soon.

Faults and Repairs

The Frontera is not at all a reliable car. Although the engines can manage good mileage, other major mechanical parts may take excessive and frequent repairs. The gearboxes are likely to lose gears or go out of order completely. The 4x4 gear is very capricious and it can easily destroy itself if you don’t notice the problem fast enough. Although a modern car should offer a good bodywork, the Frontera is susceptible to rust, especially around the wheel arches. Before buying one, there should be checks on the steering and brake systems. Smaller engines also have several reliability issues. The Frontera might be considerably cheaper than other 4x4s, but its repair bills can easily run into thousands of pounds.