The Vectra. Thanks to a now notorious debut on television in 1995, the car had become a joke before it arrived in showrooms.
A more modern-looking replacement for the Cavalier, its problems ran deeper than just being ‘boring’.
Many criticisms were addressed with a facelift in 1999, but it wasn’t until it was replaced in 2002, with the ‘New Vectra, New Rules’ advertising campaign was it able to lay to rest the ghosts of the original. Except that it didn’t.
The TV ad was so awful, it overshadowed the fact that the car was actually rather good. Or at least it would have been had the Ford Mondeo not been exceptional, and had better diesel engines.
Vauxhall launched this Vectra with a choice of 99bhp and 125bhp diesel engines, neither of which used common rail diesel technology, and despite the significant volume of the 99bhp 2.0 DTi sold to (fleet) customers, they never made one available to the media to test.
Then late in 2003, the estate version was launched. This was something else. It used the longer wheelbase that came with the Vauxhall Signum, but was a proper five seater.
New technology, such as adaptive forward lighting (AFL) available with bi-xenon light could transform the darkest of roads to a near-daylight scene.
There was a turbocharged petrol engine, although refined and economical diesels had to wait until the 2005 facelift.
Which brings me to the car that is the subject of this blog entry.
When the Vectra was revised in 2005 there were significant changes made to the chassis, and UK versions had a different set-up from those sold elsewhere in Europe.
It felt much sharper than before, although still comfortable, and the steering was more involving.
We were told on the launch that all future Vauxhalls would be given a bespoke UK set-up. Of course, that never actually happened for any future Vauxhall.
One hack suggested it wasn’t as good as a Mondeo, but to the type of people that drive these cars from new – probably half of them having no choice over what car they drive – the differences were so slight that they’d never know what they were missing on the Ford.
Back at the business end of the Vectra estate there was up to 1850 litres of luggage volume. This was more than the Omega estate, the most in its class, and second only to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class estate, which was much more expensive.
In versions where the front passenger seat folded forward, it provided a maximum load length of 9ft 5in – long enough for Robert Pershing Wadlow, the tallest man that ever lived, to have stretched out along the car with room to spare.
And the FlexOrganiser – a system of rails, rods and separators to keep smaller items secure during travel – was a great item to choose on the options list.
So the Vectra gave way to the Insignia at the end of 2008, and the Insignia Sport Tourer replaced the Vectra estate in 2009. Although the Insignia has helped raise Vauxhall’s brand image, the Sport Tourer is half the load lugger that the Vectra estate was.