Car Test   R0351
 
August 2003
First Drive Vauxhall Signum
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 2.2 Direct Elite
The Signum is one of those sector-straddling specials which we’re now seeing in growing numbers. In this case, Vauxhall’s new Vectra-based ‘premium’ model is neither orthodox saloon, hatchback or estate – or rather, it’s all three in one. By offering clever FlexSpace seating versatility (something of a Vauxhall speciality these days), it’s designed to combine unrivalled passenger comfort with outstanding luggage space.
  
   When the two back seats are slid right back, rear legroom exceeds that of even Skoda’s splendidly spacious Superb and the almost equally roomy Renault Vel Satis. Clever that, because the Signum is only 4cm longer than the Vectra – it’s the stretched (13cm-longer) wheelbase that deserves the credit. It’s extremely comfortable, too, because the backrests recline by up to 30 degrees and there’s a lot of footspace and headroom for two. Pity the third rear passenger, though, on the ‘occasional’ perch in the centre.
  
   In fact, in the Elite, this area is occupied by the so-called Travel Companion – a (removable) bulky box of tricks containing a coolbox, fold-out tables, drinks holders, a waste bin and a clamp for a DVD player. There’s also stowage space for family knickknacks in the long, overhead storage console.
  
   Moving the back seats forwards increases the boot length by up to a useful 13cm. What’s equally nifty, though, is the way that, in one easy movement, the 40/20/40 split back seats fold flat to form a long, well-carpeted load floor. And, if you then fold down the front passenger’s seatback, long objects can stretch from tailgate to facia.
  
   Our car was powered by Vauxhall’s new 2.2-litre direct-injection engine. It’s an all-alloy, balancer shaft-smooth unit that’s not only Tractable at low rpm, but sprightly, too, particularly if you give it a generous dose of revs – beyond 4000 it really feels on song. When motorway cruising, though, we often felt that it would be nice to have the longer-legged stride of the new six-speed 'box that’s standard in the more-powerful 2.0 Turbo and 3.0 V6.
  
   From the centre pillars forward, the Signum is very much Vectra, so expect dark trim, and seats that are pretty unyielding – partly due to the leather, perhaps. But at least their eight-way electric adjustments – for both – help to give a first-rate driving position at the reach-and-rake adjustable wheel. One thing that takes time to adjust to, however, is the way that the audio system, climate control and trip computer all have to be set up via the central display screen (for the optional satnav, too).
  
   The longer wheelbase doesn’t bring about a magical transformation to the Vectra-style ride, which can be fidgety on bumpy B-roads. It improves considerably on main roads and motorways, however, where the car bowls along with well-settled ease and modest tyre noise. The brakes feel fine and although the electro-hydraulic steering isn’t pin-sharp around the straight-ahead position, it feels good when bend-swinging. A little more self-centring action wouldn’t come amiss, though.
  
AT A GLANCE
  considering size, price and rivals
Controls/displays
Handling/steering
Comfort
Overtaking Ability
Fuel Economy
Space/practicality
LIKES ...
  • soft rear armrests with big grab handles
  • most cubby holes rubber lined to reduce rattles
  • height-adjustable rear seatbelts
  • plastic film partially protects rear bumper
  • centre rear seatbelt stows neatly in the headlining
and GRIPES
  • driver's door mirror's double image confusing`
  • rain drips off opened tailgate's lip
  • revs slow to drop after accelerator lift-off
  • centre console warning lights tiny
  • rear headrests don't lower flush with seatback
VERDICT
How much you enjoy the Signum rather depends on where you’re sitting. Up front, driving it isn’t an especially rewarding experience, but, if you’re relaxing in the spacious rear in those comfortable seats, accompanied by the Travel Companion, you see the car in a very different light. This is one case where it pays to take a back seat. The question is, however, will this stretched Vectra limo estate, that’s trying to please everyone, end up satisfying only a very limited market?


BRIEF SPECIFICATION
engine 2198cc, 4-cylinder petrol; 155bhp at 5600rpm, 162lb ft at 3800rpm; belt-driven double overhead camshafts, 16 valves
transmission front-wheel drive, 5-speed manual; 21.8mph/1000rpm in 5th
suspension front: independent MacPherson coil spring/damper stuts, anti-roll bar
rear: independent multi-link with coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar. Automatic self-levelling optional
wheels/tyres 7in alloy with 215/50R17W tyres (Goodyear Eagle NCT on test car); temporary-use steel spare
brakes ventilated discs front, solid discs rear with brake assist/ABS, cornering brake control (CBC) and electronic brake force distribution (EBD)
0-60mph* 8.8sec
official mpg§ 26.6/42.8/34.9
maximum speed* 131mph
AA mpg range 22-43
AA typical mpg 34miles
CO2 emissions 194g/km
* maker's figure  § urban/extra urban/combined

THE SIGNUM RANGE
body large/executive five-door hatchback (mid-to-premium priced)   trim levels Elegance, Design, Elite
engines petrol:4 cylinder/2.0 litre/175bhp, 4/2.2/155, V6/3.2/211
diesel: 4/2.0/100, 4/2.2/125, V6/3.0/177
  drive front-wheel drive; five-speed manual, six-speed manual on 2.0T (close ratio) and V6 3.0 CDTi; five-speed stepped automatic optional (not on 2.0T or 2.0DTi)
notable features multi-purpose Travel Assistant, sliding/reclining back seats with FlexSpace folding, overhead storage console, driver information centre with trip computer, twin audio system, rear side window sunblinds, tyre pressure monitor, automatic self-levelling rear suspension


SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
  in centimetres (5-door hatchback)
  outside
  length 464
  width - including mirrors 205
    - mirrors folded 184
  height 147
  load sill height (inside/outside) 2/58
  steering
  turns lock-to-lock 2.75
  turning circle (metres) 11.4
   
  easy to park/garage?
  inside
  front - legroom 86-110
    - headroom 92-99~
  rear - typical legroom 108+
    - typical kneeroom 82+
    - headroom 95
    - hiproom 134
  load area(all seats in use)
  load space
(litres/cu ft)
380-435/13.4-15.4
  load length (89-102)-188#
  load length to facia 272
  load width 106
  load height (to blind/top of aperture) 40/73
~ no sunroof  # rear seat folded  + rear seat fully rearwards
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