BY STEVE WALKER
By 2005, the cat was out of the bag so far as the Vauxhall Vectra was concerned. The initial launch hype surrounding the car had told of new ground being broken in the way the Vectra performed and handled, this an attempt to distance this model from its notoriously bland predecessor. The reality, however, was one of a car improved in many areas but still far from the most sparkling steer on the block. After a few years on sale, the Vectra's strengths and weaknesses were well known in the marketplace and the 2005 facelift we examine here was tasked with retaining the good points while improving on the bad.
Models Covered: 4-door saloon, 5-door hatch and estate, 1.8, 2.0T, 3.2 petrol 1.9, 3.0CDTi diesels [Expression, Active, Life, Energy, Exclusiv, Club, LS, Design, SXi, SRi, Elegance, Elite]
This Vectra was launched in 2002 but the facelifted version of the car was announced in the summer of 2005. It saw the Vectra inherit the rakish frontal styling cues previously seen on the MkV Astra hatchback. Handling sharpness was also improved and the range-topping 3.2-litre V6 powerplant was replaced by a 2.8-litre turbocharged V6 with 227bhp. That engine was later boosted to 253bhp and installed in the VXR performance model. In the early part of 2006, the 120bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine that propped up the range was replaced by a more advanced 1.8-litre unit packing 140bhp. The newcomer offered better economy and performance at the same price. From the autumn of 2006 the VXR performance model received an upgrade to 276bhp.
What You Get
When the facelifted Vectra was unveiled, we were told then that the car's styling was completely new from the A-pillars forward but on viewing it, there was the sneaking suspicion that the front end had been sighted somewhere before. It had: visually, the Vectra appeared to have been driven into the back of an Astra family hatchback at extremely high speed. The resulting concertina-effect saw the bonnet, lights and grille of the smaller car protruding from the front of its larger sibling. This was no bad thing of course: the Astra had been hailed for its bold, sharky looks since launch and this Vectra inherited them. The large headlights jut upwards into the bonnet and the grille, married effectively to the under bumper assembly, provides real presence on the road. At the back, the bumper was reworked on some models and the range of wheel designs was also given a good going-over. For the first time in a while it was possible to say that the Vauxhall Vectra had an element of drama about its exterior styling. This Vectra's cabin was always a haven of tranquillity. Ever since the launch of the original version of this car, it has provided a suitably relaxing environment for marathon motorway trips and this facelifted model upped the anti. 'Soft touch' is revealed as the key phrase as you run a finger over the surfaces, press the buttons and flick the switches in the tried and tested manner. The old cabin was a little too grey for many tastes but upgraded seat fabrics and trim inserts, a smaller, more sports-orientated steering wheel and a jazzed-up instrument panel all help to make this model a more interesting place to be.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
The reliability of the Vectra is thus far unquestioned but that's hardly surprising given the fact that its mechanicals are all well known and proven. General Motors spent an enormous amount of money developing the Vectra and the thoroughness of its effort shows. So far no significant faults have been reported.
(Based on a 2005 Vectra 1.8 Club ex. VAT) Spares are priced very reasonably which is what you'd expect from Vauxhall. A full exhaust will be around £275. A full clutch assembly will be in the region of £80, while brake pad sets will be just under £20. A replacement alternator should be about £90, a radiator around £140 and a starter motor will cost about £75.
On the Road
In the Vectra's engine room, there are some strong units. The petrol line-up opens with a 140bhp 1.8-litre 16v powerplant, then there's the tried and tested 2.2-litre with 145bhp and the 173bhp 2.0-litre Turbo engine that's offered with the more frenetic models. All of these were carried over from the pre-facelift Vectra but the range-topping petrol model wasn't. This is the 2.8-litre turbocharged V6 making 227bhp when offered with Elite trim, mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox. The same powerplant churns out 276bhp in the later iterations of the performance-orientated VXR which will fire you from 0-60mph in 6.1s. Earlier models had 'only' 253bhp. The diesel range remained unaltered from the post-facelift cars but Vauxhall have some accomplished oil-burners in their ranks. The 120 and 150bhp versions of the 1.9-litre CDTi were the biggest sellers but those craving more torque can upgrade to the mighty 174bhp 3.0-litre CDTi. It's a fairly well-established fact that in its day the Vectra could match any car in the medium range sector on grounds of refinement and comfort. The trick for engineers who worked on the facelifted car was to retain those respected qualities while injecting more by way of driver involvement and improving the car's dynamic abilities. It sounds a fine balancing act but they managed to pull it off, to an extent. There's more steering feel and better chassis control in this Vectra but the crown jewels of that silky ride and the whisper-quiet cabin remain intact. In fact, Vauxhall claimed that refinement is actually improved as well.
This generation Vauxhall Vectra was comfy, refined and spacious right from the outset but it lacked the excitement, both visually and from a driver's perspective, that many were hoping for. The facelift that was unveiled in 2005 successfully addressed these issues with a sharper driving experience and more attractive styling. It all meant that towards the end of its reign the Vectra had matured into a very competent and even desirable family car.