Car Test   R0240
  See also R0215 
May 2002
First Drive Vauxhall Vectra
Printer Friendly Page Featured Model 1.8/2.2 LS Hatchback
THIS IS OUR "SECOND DRIVE" OF THE VECTRA - see R0215, which concentrated on the diesel saloon. This time we drove the 1.8LS "base" version and the one-up Elegance with the 2.2 litre engine - both petrol powered, both hatchbacks. We also sampled them back home in the rural Heart of England, on a typically cross-country route. This proved very instructive.
   The 1.8 and 2.2 LS versions show off the new Vectra in its most competitive guise, in terms of value-for-money. The list of notable features (shown opposite) is extremely impressive for a roomy hatchback costing around 15,000 - many are expensive options on ostensibly, similarly priced rivals. What's more, they tend to work well, once you've got the hang of them, although daily renters who don't read the handbook could be less impressed. The cruise control, indicator stalk (with its three-pulse lane-change function) and rain-sensing wipers all fit into this category.
   Furthermore, the interior fittings and seats are all extremely supportive and well angled, in a Teutonically firm sort of way; front seat legroom adjustment, for the very short as well as the lanky, is exceptional. The latter get better headroom, too, in the LS, without a sunroof. The hatchback loses no space or comfort to the saloon and costs no more.
   The trouble is that the new Vectra's road manners still fall short of the high standard of its now-established rivals - notably the Mondeo. A typical cross-country route, where the bends and bumps are the rule rather than the exception, makes the new Vectra feel simply an improvement on the old one - which just isn't good enough. There's still too much steering imprecision (though the assistance is well judged) and the damping continues to feel unsure and allows some lateral rocking at times. Bridgestone tyres may contribute towards an over-inflated abruptness over sharp-edged road faults as well.
   However, these engines both make amends by offering smooth and refined progress - particularly at motorway speeds (where the Mondeo tends to be too vocal). The Vectra 2.2's balancer shafts keep it exceptionally smooth when ambling, but it isn't in the same league as its diesel counterpart if you're looking for lusty low-speed acceleration. Both 1.8 and 2.2 need a gearchange to keep up the pace - but the shift quality is mediocre.
  
AT A GLANCE
  considering size, price and rivals
Controls/displays
Handling/steering
Comfort
Space/practicality
LIKES ...
  • dual cushion-height adjusters
  • double door seals
  • lower sills/flanks plastic covered
and GRIPES
  • prominent road rumble at times
  • "space-saver" spare wheel
  • prominent rear centre hump
VERDICT
The new Vectra has a lot going for it in this LS petrol-powered guise. Buyers writing their own cheques shouldn't be lured by the cosmetic attractiveness of the Elegance - you don't get enough for the extra. And cosmetics can't disguise the Vectra's flurried response to more demanding driving. No, keep it cheap and the Vectra will keep you cheerful.


BRIEF SPECIFICATION
engine petrol, 16 valves. 1.8: 122bhp/125 lbft with belt-driven double overhead camshafts. 2.2: 147bhp/150 lbft with chain-driven double overhead camshafts; balancer shaft
suspension front: independent damper/struts with integral coil springs. Rear: independent multi-link with coil springs
wheels/tyres steel with 215/55R16 tyres
brakes ventilated discs front, solid discs rear with ABS/brake assist (plus traction control on 2.2)
CO2 Emissions 184/206
0-62mph* 10.7/9.7
official mpg 36.7/32.9
* maker's figures

THE VECTRA RANGE
size and type upper-medium (mid-priced) saloon, hatch; estate (later)   trim levels LS, SXi, Elegance, SRi, Elite, GSi (later)
engines petrol:4cyl/1.8 litre/ 122bhp, 4/2.2/147, V6/3.2/211
diesel: 4/2.0/100, 4/2.2/125
  drive front-wheel drive, 5-speed manual (5-speed stepped automatic with torque converter optional on 2.2 petrol and diesel, 3.2V6; continuously variable auto on 1.8 later)
notable features standard on LS
 ABS, crash-responsive head restraints and collapsible pedals, extra curtain airbags, alarm, centre armrest, cruise control, two-way wheel and eight seat adjusters, auto-dimming interior mirror, rain-sensing wipers, air conditioning.

VITAL STATISTICS (cm)
length x width
(folded mirrors)
460x183
front
- legroom 82-112
- headroom
(no sunroof)
96-103s
rear
- typical legroom 101
- typical kneeroom 77
- headroom 93
- hiproom 135
load space
(all seats in use)(litres/cu ft)
485/17.1
load length
(seats up/folded)
96-155
load width 99-110
load sill height (inside/outside) 18/71
boot height 48
load aperture height 79
s 90-96 if sunroof fitted
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