||Vauxhall Vectra 3.2 V6 Gsi
9th May - 16th May 2003.
Roadtested by Neil.
Confession time I don’t like Vauxhall. I don’t like their adverts – Griff Rhyss Jones caused me much discomfort and the new Vectra – new world wasn’t much better. Don’t get me wrong I’m not as bad as Clarkson, but in the past their cars have not really conjured up the right images or feelings.|
However I have been turning, ever so slightly as a result of a number of Omega taxis I have been in recently. These have been a bit of a surprise, a revelation you might say. A mixture of much improved cabin and good diesel engines and dare I say it great ride. So I greet the new Vectra with interest and even enthusiasm.
The car in question is a Saturn blue Vectra 3.2 v6 Gsi, delivered to the door and ready for me to sample. I like the front end, it works well and is distinctive (although I can now see parallels to the Avensis). From the side the car looks solid and purposeful. It is the rear that causes me issues – it is not quite right. Still three out of four sides isn’t bad and it certainly has more presence than the old model.
The seats are part leather / part fabric and very firm, providing good support and feature extendable leg supports at the front – good for people like me with long legs. The steering wheel is a good size and has very neat computer and cruise control integrated into the front of it. The front interior features a platinum effect insert that goes down each door and across the front of the car. This is a lot cleaner looking and less dated than the wood effect that appears on other models in the range, and the lines that this produces are square, with ninety-degree corners where the doors meet the facia. This can appear abrupt, however I actually liked this; it was different from other cars.
The switchgear in general is very good throughout the car and there are no obvious places where it is let down. The air vents are also clever, as when closed they are flush / neat. There is also a glasses holder is in the roof, which is quite useful.
The central console is crammed with technology including multi-CD stereo, ‘smart’ electronic climate control and satellite navigation. The layout is good and easy to use, once you have familiarised yourself. The satellite navigation is particularly good and allows you to drive around with the map displaying your current location, without needing a route planned. In addition when it is instructing you, you can specify pictograms in addition to the map. With this option enabled the car flashes up cartoon like interpretations of the road junction to make the directions clearer. The system is available as an optional extra and I definitely recommend it. The dash is clear and stylish with dark grey dials with white text. The dials are chrome edged.
There’s adequate legroom, and thats behind my 6’1 frame.
The boot is well sized at 500ltrs:
Under the bonnet the engine looks smaller than you are expecting. It is a very compact unit and even though this is the bigger and most powerful ever in a Vectra – it doesn’t look too big for the car. The engine is badged Ecotec – underplaying its size too.
The engine fires up and a prod of the accelerator produces a great V6 roar – not quite Alfa Romeo but not that far off. On the move the car reassures me that there is plenty of punch available from its 3.2litre 208b bhp/221lb ft engine. It pulls away well and the push continues up the rev range. The engine has never been something you could criticise Vauxhall for – they have always had good ones, and this, the biggest ever in a Vectra is no exception.
The ride is firm but not overly, enough to handle enthusiastic driving but not too much to spoil moderate travel. The steering is light but not as bad as other cars I have driven and general feel is ok. The gear change is also pretty good, if a little long. This is a car you can enjoy, a car that will reward you - as long as you don’t mistreat it too much.
A big part of this car is the engine. It has more character than say the ST220’s – and thanks to the extra torque always feels there for you.
With traction control switched on the car has a habit of taking the power off you in the lower gears. With it switched off you can enjoy the car better and I tended to disable the system most of the time on back roads. This allows you to pull away better and you feel more in control. Only when you really put too much power down do you end up spinning the wheels and wasting the power. The handling isn’t bad, but you can tell that its primary focus is on ride comfort, something that Vauxhall has openly stated. It is only when you shift the car's weight from one side to another (in a series of bends) that this become more obvious. Grip is good too, with the 215/50 tyres being used to full effect.
Performance wise the following is the average results achieved with the race-technologies AP22:
The Gsi is priced at just under £21k and is available in 5door guise only. Its competitors are the Mondeo ST220 (£21,754), Subaru Impreza WRX(£21,495), MG ZT190 (£21,695) , Honda Accord Type-S(£19,095), Alfa Romeo 2.5 V6 (£20,750), Lexus IS200 (£21,205).
The Gsi does not set out to be an out and out sports saloon, but fitted with a 3.2ltr engine can't fail to be compared as one. It has the abilities to keep most people happy – although for those who want more it is not as focused as the ZT190, WRX and ST220. However it does ride better and is comfortable. It also has a good interior and is cheaper than all but the Alfa.
Therefore the Gsi should be a good bet for those who want something fun but don’t want to compromise ride and comfort.
Thanks to Vauxhall for the loan of the car.