Blog : The misunderstood Vectra B

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

England’s most loathed car or a Bangernomic bargain?

The British made Vectra B - Was it loathed or simply not appreciated?
The British made Vectra B – was it loathed or simply not appreciated?

Vectra: A very general motor

During a very recent ‘smoking hut with mug of tea’ conversation, a colleague swung into the staff car park, parked and joined us before walking into the office to clock on. His friend is trying to sell his car and has been doing so for a few weeks now getting nowhere for his efforts. There have been one or two viewings from local buffoons and Danny Dyer wannabes trying to steal it from under his nose but the lad’s a smart cookie thus sending the clowns away with a clipped ear. Is the car too expensive? No, I don’t think so. Is it in poor condition? Quite the reverse in fact. Here’s the problem – it’s a 2000 1.8 Vauxhall Vectra SRi.

The car is lovely in condition with its snazzy two-tone fascia and half-leather sports seats with the only non-standard item being a bad ‘ass rear silencer and a wireless that imitates something from The Matrix. The original Grundig CD player will go back into the dash once sold and, if I was in the market for a sweet looking five-door hatch with a hint of vim and vigour, I would do worse than having a punt with the Vauxhall. You see, what I have realised yet failed to understand is just why exactly the Vauxhall Vectra B seems to be hated and laughed at even more than Justin Bieber.

Well, in fairness, if the Vectra was a holiday it would be a static caravan in Rhyl, if it was any time of the week it would be Wednesday morning or, if it was a treat, it would be Opal Fruits – in other words amazingly and crushingly boring. The Vectra burst onto the scene in 1996 to replace the capable Cavalier 3 – a car that just got better and better. Not by a long way was the Vectra a bad-looking car – in fact, some say it had some nice styling cues especially those tear drop  mirrors. Being a Vauxhall, it was almost guaranteed to be easy to own and hassle free to run via its plethora of sensibly located dealers.

Launched with some glossy advertising and epic TV adverts, the Vectra still managed to look slightly Cavalier-ish to the weary eye by still being familiar to current Vauxhall buyers. Publicity spoke of  a new level of technology and driving satisfaction yet somehow it all never quite went to plan from day one. A certain strain of Clarkson fever was reaching unheard of heights and his well-known slating of the car still causes topic for debate even now. I will admit that, at the time, I thought it was funny – even if I secretly thought (and still do) the little plastic tool for removing the tyre valve caps was rather clever and useful.

What’s in a name? Everything…

My own take on the Vectra?  The name killed it. Part of General Motors plan to bring European model names into line meant that the Cavalier moniker was dropped even though that was the car which had dragged Vauxhall out of the gloomy 1970s (when they were known for mainly building rusty, dull cars) and turned the company into a European force with products featuring a real engineering-led comeback. The early RWD Cavalier was the perfect antidote to cars like the Cortina and the Mk2 simply ran away with the market share when first launched. The 1988 Mk3 was a car of genuine quality and talent on road or track, especially in later facelifted guise with some powerful drive-lines available.

Had the UK market seen the car launched as all new 1996 Cavalier instead, it quite possibly may have been a rip-roaring success and a car to be proud to drive. Hold on, though, the Vectra was far from being a flop – in fact, it sold fairly well especially to fleet sales. With its tall fifth gear, it could stay in the outside lane all day, all week, all year and still knock on the door of 40mpg in 1.8 Ecotec guise. Sensible ergonomics ensured the car was easy to operate, the seats were fairly comfortable, pretty good refinement when cruising and, as for boot space in hatchback form, well that was a Photocopier Engineer’s delight.

Our 1.8 Club I took as a part exchange and subsequently bought saw some atrocious weather and racked up 5000 miles in 3 months without missing a beat.
Our 1.8 Club, which I took this in as a part exchange and subsequently bought, saw some atrocious weather and racked up 5000 miles in three months without missing a beat

First-generation Vectras were not exactly the best handling cars – predictable road manners would be the fairest description but certain nips, tucks and fettling for 2000 model year cars addressed most of the shortcomings with reliability and roadholding. The Lion’s share of the many improvements GM made were under the skin. New front and back light clusters were obvious to everyone but the significant features of what was quite genuinely a very thorough engineering update went largely unnoticed. However, all that was in vain as, by then, the Vectra was being eclipsed by its Mondeo and Passat rivals.

Replacement and factory closure

Vectra B soldiered on until 2002 when it was replaced by a European-built, all-new model which, sadly, also saw the end of passenger car production in Luton and countless supply chain companies in the UK. I will never forget being in Bedfordshire on the very day it was publicly announced that Luton was to cease car production with the loss of thousands of jobs. Yet oddly enough, it was all quiet and tranquil again a few weeks later – an interesting comparison to MG Rover at Longbridge, the loss of which still prompts debate even eight years after the company’s demise.

I have owned three Vectra Bs, with the last one being a post-2000 facelifted example. All of them gave good service to be truthful with the last one ploughing through rain, snow and flooded roads commuting between Hampshire and Surrey with a monthly trek to County Durham in the skilful hands of ‘er indoors prior to our re-location back south. It was the only car she was ever really gutted to see go when I sold it owing to my company Audi arriving. To this day, I will defend a well-cared for Vectra B as hard-grafting, dependable bangernomic umbrellas for five which are now cheaper than sunshine, yet just as useful.

Sadl,y though, a used Vectra is nothing more that a distress purchase that seems to attract the typical buyer that my work chum is fighting off with sticks. Its reputation in the marketplace is unfairly poor, now known for being poorly customised advertisements for everything in the Ripspeed section of Halfords or faded, smoking wrecks driven by the cast of Shameless with an interior as gut-wrenchingly dismal as the contents of a cheap Tandoori restaurant’s hoover bag.  unny how the Cavalier Mk2 and Mk3 still evoke a vision of retro charm and respect isn’t it?

Vectra and Vauxhall – possibly England’s most unloved car and maker… You decide!

Mike Humble

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade.

Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications

92 Comments

  1. I’ve driven a 1996 1.6 LS automatic and a facelift 2000/X 2.2 CD manual both were perfectly acceptable cars and the CD had loads of kit even including a built in telephone system (just pop your SIM into the glovebox) but I suppose the problem was the MK3 Cavalier was just so good the Vectra was no replacement.

    I also seem to recall the Cavalier getting better with each passing year whereas post facelift the Vectra just soldiered on for 3 more years being outclassed by a new Mondeo, a new Primera and Rover’s lovely 75.

    Its also worth noting that Vectra came out 2/3 years after the Mondeo, yet I don’t think GM took any notice at all of the Genk Global Car and just carried on tweaking those door mirrors…..

  2. Mike is right about GM’s naming policy with the 1988 Cavalier. Its Opel counterpart was renamed Vectra at that time and it was in ’96 when the british replacement car matched up names.

    I personally think the last facelift Cavaliers were an improvement on the original MK3 and certainly better than the Vectra. At least the next generation Vectra looked better than the 1996 version – well I think so.

  3. I owned a ’95N 2.0 SRI back in 2001. It performed brilliantly and could still do 40mpg on the motorway if you stuck to 70 ish, something my current 55 plate Mondeo 1.8 has never quite managed despite being both newer and slower, but probably a lot heavier. Looking back though I have more affection for the Cavalier mk3 1.7td it replaced, due to its looks, more solid feel, smoother ride and a dashboard that was far more pleasant to look at. Parts for the Vectra always seemed expensive too because everything for the 2 litre was double the price of the 1.8 (brake discs and an exhaust were examples of this).
    I would definitely have a Vectra again if I needed a banger but would be looking for a 1.8 or diesel and avoid the SRI as it didn’t handle or ride well.

  4. I like them, always have. I think it was much more imaginative than the Passat, and better looking than the Mondeo of the time.
    I think they would have had a better reputation had they not struggled in the BTCC so much, as they didn’t like the aero rules.

    What is a “distress purchase”?

  5. I’m not sure keeping the Cavalier name would have helped. There was a big overlap between the Mondeo launch in early 1993 and the Vectra arriving in Autumn 1995. By then the Cavalier had started to look and feel very old with absolutely massive – even by todays standards – discounts to keep them selling. I think the name change, bringing the car into line with continental Opels, was the least of the Vectras problems. I had an early model as a company car in the mid 90s and it really was the worst Car I have ever lived with – although the 1998 facelift cars did seem much better, certainly in terms of quality.

  6. I’ve been a distress purchaser on far too many occasions- however the only Vauxhall I’ve ever owned was a 94 Astra Diesel- not the finest car I’ve ever owned.

    I’ve driven a few early Vectra Di diesels- certainly not the most inspiring of cars, but by no means a bad car by any stretch (although I’d have liked to have nailed the cahoneys of the dweeb in Accounting to the outer edge of the non-folding door mirrors and spent the day driving down some of the narrowest lanes in the Stroud Valleys)…

    A fairly dull car, certainly, but it handled like a go-cart compared to the contemporary Carina E- now there was a horrible car if ever there was one!

  7. Sister had one, it was about as reliable as a chocolate fireguard and she was glad to get rid of it. Also the namr Vectra sounded a bit too much like Victor, a product notorious for premature rust that nearly led to Vauxhall’s demise in the seventies.

    • Er….well actually it was the 1957 Victor which was the rustbucket using inferior steel , and that had been long forgotten by the 1970s, the FB, FC101, and FD/FE Victors having come in the meantime, all of which were quite good cars

  8. I had use of them as a company car. 2.5 v6 with flashing blues and reflective stripes. IMHO they were crap,handled like a drunken duck on one leg trying to turn around, the interiors were uncomfortable and cramped and on the saloons the boot lid hinges restricted carrying capacity by a huge amount. Quick up to 60 yes but above that were skittish and tried to take off. The Mondeo equivalent we had alongside it was by far the better car,roomier, better seats and it handled better. small wonder Ford were and still are the market leaders

  9. The Vectra when launched developed a reputation for poor handling, so much so that it had a minor facelift after just over a year on the market (the car gained a high level centre brake light at the same time). My Dad had a 2.5 V6 SRi as a company car at it was a brilliant car, felt well screwed together (German buit) but if it required a part it would always take the local dealer a week to get hold it! Much later I had a 1.8 LS out at work and it was a real “Friday afternoon” car, bits of trim were falling off, the gear gaiter kept popping out of the console and it would spin its wheels if you so much as breathed on the throttle pedal. Good fuel economy on the motorway though.

  10. I had a 1.8 LS as a company car in the late 1990’s It had no end of engine management problems,stalled and cut out continually. The final straw was cambelt snapped late one Saturday night on the M20. (apparently the garage hadn’t changed it when said) After that I managed to get my hands on a Golf GTI. I did a 100,000 miles in this, without a problem.

  11. I vaguely remember a friend who had an early Vectra as a company car telling me that a lot of the drivers suffered back pain on long journeys. The problem became so severe that Vauxhall had to release a pamphlet that detailed how to adjust the seat etc to minimise that.

  12. Why do German or Japanese cars never get slated for being drop dead boring to he same extent that the Vectra did? It wasn’t a dull car, in my opinion. More just “inoffensive”. I think you hit the nail on the head with the name though. I think it was a step too far to align it more with Opel. It was reminiscent of the Cortina/Sierra debacle.

  13. How many Vectra B’s in the car parc and how many Mondeo CDW 27’s?. I wpould assert the Vectra quite easily.

  14. We had a 2.0l CD Vectra. Loved it as it was very well made and felt very solid. My brother in law had a co car (Vectra) 1.8L and commented that ours was much better built. However, very soon we fell victim of electrical gremlins. Air Flow, seat belt, air bag lights on constantly and then it wouldn’t tick over,cutting out at almost every junction. Sadly the towns main and huge dealer had it so many times and could not fix it. In the end we found a “fred the shed” who were a couple of Vauxhall trained mechanics who had had enough and set up on their own. They fixed the cars faults in full first time in a morning and all because they worked with skill and not the computer.

  15. I’ve owned Vectra Bs for seven years, firstly a 00 W 2.0LS and now an 02 51 2.2CD. Both have been faultless, quick and amazingly practical for carrying such things as bikes, beds and stuff to the dump. OK, my brother’s Mondeos were always a more sporting drive, but I thing the Vectra looks nicer and is far cheaper. I had three Cavaliers beforehand which were lighter and better handling, but less reliable. Given what Clarkson and co have done to classic BL cars in the name of a cheap laugh, I’ll happily continue driving a car he hates!

  16. If the facelifted Vectra B had been launched in 1995, it would have given what was then called the Mundano a good run for its money.

  17. @18,Only in looks, when introduced and in the right colour the 4 door Vectra saloon looked superb,it looked more taught anyway,especially the radii or the rear arches and the excellent door mirror to wing detail. The CDW27 on first introduction almost looked japenese but was the better car and it was way better than the E46 BMW to drive and steer.

  18. Mark 11, my sister’s 1996 Vectra had terrible engine managment problems and also let rainwater leak in. It was rubbish as the 1993 Cavalier she had before was such a good car.

  19. Surprised no one has mentioned Jezza’s contribution to the downfall of the Vectra !
    He really had it in for this poor thing…

  20. Aesthetically I think the Vectra is a tidy piece of design in pre-facelift form and certainly not dull. The black mouldings are nicely integrated into the design and break up the ordinary body shape. The facelift’s colour coding makes it look like a generic transportation device. It’s not the only car to suffer from the over use of colour coding – see Volvo S60 facelift .

    Classy launch advert which puts their latest offering to shame … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hh0Jq680aZM .

  21. I had the pleasure of owning 2 of these much maligned motors and can vouch, with plenty of experience that they aren’t the crocs they are meant to be (even if I will never buy an Opel).
    My first was a 1995N first of the line 1.8i GLS hatches. This was my first ‘big’ car and boy was I proud. I got the car at 70k miles and all I did was swap the steelies for Cavalier Mk3 SRi turbine alloys (really looked good on a Vectra) and fitted a stainless steel twin exhaust back box (not loud but very tasteful) and that car was very reliable. In the 110k miles I did in it, the only issue I had was the idle control valve got sticky but a quick clean and she was light as rain. The seats were very comfy and all the electrics worked without fault.
    Next was a 2000X Opel Vectra 2.0DTi CDX estate. Again, an effortless car to drive, felt better than my first but it was oh so very comfy with supportive, well padded leather thrones. I once drove the 420 mile trip from Helmsdale to Blackpool in 1 day and I will tell you, no other car I’ve had the pleasure of owning has been so good at such a drive and having done a similar length trip in both my current Mondeo Mk3, a Xantia 2.1TD, Focus 1.6 and a Mazda3 1.6 – the car did very well.
    What killed the Opel was the shoddy electronics the Germans deemed suitable for the Irish market. I went into ownership thinking that Opel was the same as Vauxhall and that German engineering was the best in the world. However very wrong I was… Now, I don’t know for sure if the Opel versions were made in Russelheim or not but the bits that were different between brands were;
    1. Xenon headlight control unit – Vauxhall dealer showed me the different controllers (they ordered the VX one first) and my God! The VX one was an all in one unit which generally lasted the lifetime of the bulb and was attached to the headlight. The Opel one was separate and fitted down in the inner wing and was susceptible to water ingress and the like. Terrible packaging!
    2. EGR valve. This went on my last MoT for the car and my dealer located the standard VX one and it didn’t work with it.
    3. Suspension – The self levelling suspension was different on the Opel. Started to leak eventually and replaced with better quality VX units.

    I would have another Vectra B, especially a UK specified 2.0DTi CDX saloon (missed the sunroof on the Opel) and will never buy an Opel and certainly no longer view German engineering as the pinnacle of human progress like so many people do now.

  22. Was the Vectra B the last car they built at Luton then? What else did they build there at the time of the end of car production , as i thought they had stopped with the Cavalier.

  23. @ 8 I think that was part of the reason why the Vectra name was not adopted in 1988 for the MK3 Cavalier.

    On a similar point, Opel South Africa was the only division to keep the Kadett name for the MK3 Astra hatch (they did call the saloons Astras) right up until 1999.

  24. Andy 25, in 1988 memories of the Victor were still too fresh. Actually the FE wasn’t a bad car with the rust problems partly solved, but the damage had been done in the sixties.

  25. I had a 1.8 Vectra and a Mk2 Mondeo TD.
    The Vectra was a perfectly capable car for motorway cruising, as was the Mondeo, but the Ford beat it hands down for comfort.
    Something I have always found Ford to do brilliantly and Vauxhall to struggle with is interior comfort for my spazzy back.

  26. The reference to rust problems of 60’s Vauxhalls has to be taken into context with (almost) every other car of the period. I’ve just come back from an excellent three days at Netley Marsh Steam Rally – marred only by the inappropriate and totally inaccurate negative references to health and safety by the commentator – and his total inaccuracies concerning some models on the show ground. His comment was ‘if you bought one of these early 60’s Vauxhalls and it had’nt rusted away by its third anniversary – you were going some’.
    The fact is that if you had bought a Mk 1 Cortina, Mk 1 Escort, the last of the Vanguards, a Hillman Minx, an Austin Cambridge or a Daimler Conquest – or just about anything else (with some exceptions I know) – you would have had the same problem. During the 50’s there was a definitive reason – the steel we used was poor quality. We have much less of an excuse for the 60’s – we just did’nt concentrate enough on core design or paintwork in places we can’t see. For the most part we couldn’t get enough cars either – so quality dropped as we fed the eager salesman. It ain’t new and it ain’t rocket science.
    With regards to the first Vectra: when I started my company in 2002 I had to sell my beloved 109 Landy and get something ‘presentable’. I paid about £1000 for an R reg. Vectra 1.8. I had it for a year and did thousands of miles in it. It never broke anything, it never failed to do anything I wanted it to do and I thought the cabin was far superior to a Mondeo in MHO.
    An Alfa it certainly wasn’t – but there must be millions of drivers out there who simply wanted to get from A to B and not take the bus. This car surely satisfied their needs to a T.

  27. i had a ’96 N 2.0 GLS 5dr in satin red. yes the parts were expensive from the main stealers but i was lucky to find a local cavalier breaker who had branched out to vectras too.

    bad bits:- cam sensor, crank sensor, cam cover seals, f18 gearbox(buggered dif x2) a/c compressor, both front springs snapped

    good bits:- double lumbar support- probably the most comfy seats i have had, traction control saved front tyres (lol), good ergonomics, ski-flap in back seat(funny how you miss it when its not there)

    this was a car of many firsts for me- T/C, ABS, A/C, 16v, steering wheel control for stereo and when it was clean the satin red pearl paint looked so nice in the sun!

    by no means a faultless car but i liked it all the same but by god am i now glad of jap car reliabilty lol

  28. Back in 2003 I had an Aussie-built 2.2 Vectra (must have been a 2000/2001 model) as a company vehicle for a short time whilst waiting for my new Astra to be delivered. It was hardly exciting, but it was a comfortable and capable cruiser on the open road, and seemed well-built. It had done quite some mileage but was hanging together well and hadn’t caused any problems in its two or three years with the company. I handed it back to the lease company with some regret. It was certainly, to me, a superior vehicle to a facelift Mk1 Mondeo I’d had the dubious pleasure of for some months a couple of years earlier.

  29. Ummm! The Vectra out sold the Mondeo and Passat for a few years! Ive had about 15 Vectras. Nothing mechanicaly normaly goes wrong. Just all the sensors normaly fail. Mondeos rust a lot worse than Vectras!

  30. I thought that the way the bonnet swage lines merged into the door mirror housings was a fantastic bit of styling/ design when I first saw the car, and I still do.

    There have been many worthy but (percieved) dull cars around in the last 10 years, and why the Vectra seems to be particularly attacked escapes me.

  31. I used to get these as hire cars from Avis and was thoroughly under-impressed by the Vectra in comparison to the Cavalier 3 that I owned personally. On the early ones the handling was stodgy to put it mildly and the interior was dull and boring. Yes, the long gearing was great on the motorway but it all went wrong when you reached the slip road. Soggy feel free brakes and the kind of steering that could easily leave you in the middle of the roundabout if you weren’t paying attention made anything other than a straight road painful. It was also all too easy to spin a front wheel – even with the base model 1.8.

    Even the later models, which I also drove regularly, weren’t much better. The narrow coal hole cabin really needed a makeover although I never really had any problem with the seats. If you had to carry 5 people then the middle one in the back would not be a happy bunny. The Cav 3 was much better in this respect too.

    Given the choice of hire cars I would always have picked the equivalent Mondeo which was so much better to drive. Not that I would have wanted to OWN either of them!

    One of my friends had the V6 on lease for a couple of years and, like some previous comments, said that it was great in a straight line but scary if you threw it round. He swapped the Vectra for an Accord as soon as the lease was up.

    Of course, the Vectra clutch change was a nightmare after the Cav. The Cav clutch took 45 minutes and could be done from under the bonnet but the Vectra was 8 hours garage time and remove the subframe! That was enough for me and I moved away from VX at that point having previously owned Novas, Astras and Cavs.

    In summary, an out and out rep mobile designed for the motorway. Otherwise, terminally dull, dull, dull.

  32. My memory of driving a (first generation Opel) Vectra…

    “First generation Vectra’s were not exactly the best handling cars – predictable road manners would be the fairest description”

    No mate, I once drove one of those and my description of the roadhandeling would be “dangerous”…

    Worst handeling car I’ve ever driven, period.

  33. Horrid Car! I had the unfortunate pleasure of driving several of these over the years, all provided by hire companies when I worked for an energy company back in the late 90’s/early 00’s. It was horrible to drive as the seat had no support and the centre arm box was placed so badily that you banged your elbow on it! The Gearbox was notchy and very long, while it handled worse than my old man’s Sierra. And worse of all was that blasted Traffic Master system, which you could not turn off and every 5 minutes a computerised lady would say “Traffic moving fweelly”. The only saving grace was the 2.2 engine in the last one I drove, which went like stink (in a straight line but with huge torque steer).
    Compare this car alongside its smaller sister the Astra, and the Vectra never stacked up well. The Astra was an excellent car, excluding the cheap plastics, which rode and handled well and was easily a match as a hire car to the equivelent VW Golf/Bora and Focus.

  34. @Isildore

    I didn’t realise the RHD Opels and Vauxhalls were so different! I’d assumed all RHD Vauxhall-Opels (and possibly Holdens) were built on the same assemably line with badging differences.
    Must be a headache for dealers all over the island, given the amount of grey import Northern Opels / Southern Vauxhalls.
    In the North you can still often see examples on the PSNI fleet. No doubt getting the moneys worth from the expensive bulletproofing measures. Surely some sort of record for police fleet age?

    I’ve driven a 1996 1.8 Vectra with 180k miles on it. Even at that mileage, it was still an acceptable driving car.

    Not that it shone in any particular way, while comfortable enough it wasn’t comfort oriented like the Xantia, nor did it have a fine handling compromise like the 406.

    At the mileage though I did doff my cap to it, as it kept soldiering on. The only injuries being the usual dot matrix display, and some central locking solenoids installed by Schroedinger (is it locked? is it not? You don’t know until you try!).

    Sold well to fleets, but it was the start of the end of the success of the mainstream D segment.
    Families started choosing SUVs and MPVs, fleets had the pick of the germans at the top end and Skoda encroaching on the lower end. The C segment was starting to get bigger – Focuses and Astras were offering as much space as a D segment saloon used to.

    Would it have helped to keep the Cavalier name? I’m not so sure. Ford had already changed the name of their contender twice in the Cavalier’s lifetime (Cortina -> Sierra -> Mondeo) and so could’ve capitalised on the Cavalier being yesterday’s name (albeit the Escort soldiered on, and the C segment hatch is still called Astra).
    The mk3 Cavalier was such a departure from the mk2 in terms of styling that it should’ve been called Vectra. Then, the Vectra B would’ve been seen as a progression of the Vectra A style, not as a half hearted effort at a ground up replacement.

    The one thing the Vectra B did have that the A didn’t was an estate. The mk2 Cavalier had an estate from Holden, the mk3 did not offer this – instead relying on the Carlton estate.

    Internationally, it was sold as a Holden in Australia and a Chevrolet in South America (where they currently sell an Astra saloon as a Vectra). It had an appearance in disguise in the US as the Saturn L series, initially with a Xantia style grille, facelifted to resemble a Mondeo with a wide grille.

    In terms of advertising, while the mk3 Cavalier was sold on it’s safety features (Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer used to good effect) and in a ‘corporate’ advert (Nigel Hawthorne’s JD), the Vectra had a space-age advert that used Bjork’s play dead as the sound track, with a tagline about the upcoming millenium. Billboard adverts had a barcode numberplate.

    Would I buy one? As a desperation car, yes. Though most good examples have long since been taxied/minicabbed. As I seem to alternate between D segment cars and coupes, my late 90s choices were Xantia and 406. The only Vauxhall I considered buying was an Omega 2.5TD, the last mainstream RWD E segment contender, that turned out to have very rusty arches.
    The last Vectra I drove was a VXR, ridiculously fast but the handling never inspired confidence.

  35. Interestingly varied comments on the Vectra B.

    Two things:

    1. Is it true that you need to take the dashborad out to change the instrument lights?

    2. The 2.2 DTi engine was a dog. I had it in a Saab 9-3 and the engine gave me serious trouble -so bad I sold the car and bought a MG ZT-T.

    The estate looked okay though

  36. Could the curse of the Vectra B have led to Saab’s demise. Pre GM ownership, Saabs like the 900 and 9000 were rock solid reliable and would last forever. Then as Mike @38 points out Saab started using Vectra engines and the quality went totally downhill, surveys like JD Power saw Saab fall every year.
    Actually I was a big Vauxhall fan, owning Cavaliers, until the Vectra came along.

  37. I remember the Vuaxhall fleet sales team coming into my leasing company to give us the Vectra corporate launch. I’m sure we were almost as embarrassed as they were as they tried to talk it up.

    It was clearly a backward step after the Mk3 Cavalier.

    And what’s this ? No adjustable steering column ??? It’s safer they said – because the airbag will be in the right place in an accident. Okayyyy… – so why were adjustable columns re-introduced so soon after launch ?

    Having said that, I had a couple of V6s as fleet demonstrators and they weren’t that bad. The handling was ‘interesting’ ( we called them “a pig on stilts”) but that made them all the more satisfying to drive quickly and tidily.

  38. Jeremy Clarkson slagged off the Vectra on Top Gear when it was launched, and then it all seemed to go downhill for the Vectra after that..

  39. It was probably the start of the Clarkson era of car reviewing or ‘car banter’. He was getting ever more confident on ‘old Top Gear’ and the Vectra was his target. He made no apologies for being a Ford fan, though the Cosworth and later GT.

    He feeds the type of people who hang on to his opinionated (and often changing opinions as he admits himself) reviews and comments (cue ‘Saabs are just Cavaliers’ / ‘X types are just Mondeos’ from the same people who own Audi Octavias…).
    Certainly did MGR no favours with his Rover bashing.
    He did seem impressed by the BTCC special edition Vectra though.

    Probably the start of the era of mega ‘premium’ german advertising budgets too, which seemed to help their products get better reviews than their competitors. Mondeo/Vectra man became 3 series/A4 man.

  40. They’re crushingly dull cars. GM’s interior design, after the simplicity of the RWD Manta B/Cavalier, went in this direction of so-so ergonomics and a kind of reluctant attempt at styling otherwise pretty grim plastics. Awful handling really – the V6 again managed to be just horrible enough to be unpleasant, yet not dangerous enough to become interesting again.

    In a country where taxation and car prices meant that the Vectra was “baseline” engineering and you had to pay more than double for the qualities of, say, the BMW 3 series that eclipsed it – as was the case when import tariffs raised the cost of cars in various territories – it would make sense.

    GM have taken far too long to understand that ‘good enough’ and ‘that’ll do’ are not the phrases car buyers want.

    I started out being really into Vauxhalls, thanks to my Chevette, but GM have consistently under developed, cost-reduced and devalued any brand equity they retain. I can’t think of a single reason to buy a modern GM/Vauxhall/Opel car.

  41. Given the opportunity in 1996 I’d much rather have a Rover 620, a far classier car than the Vectra or Mondeo with its upmarket interior, classy styling and refined performance. Also reliability on these tended to be quite good.

  42. @Will M

    Its just goes to prove that sadly many people DO believe what they read or hear in the press / on line / or TV.

    From a showroom point of view… I had respect for the last of the Vectra post 2006 facelift – they earned me a fair few bob!

  43. @Glenn

    Agreed but also violent fuel consumption and no where as much cabin room as the exterior would have you think counts against them.

    That said… I adored my V plate Ti – and would have another NOW!

  44. @Glenn

    I saw a 600 at the weekend and noticed how classy it still looks, and as much as I like Accords, that generation of Accord that the 600 was based on just looked ill-proportioned in comparison – with its fastback-style saloon shape.

    The platform lives on in China, underpinning the Saab-based Beijing C70G.

  45. I’ve driven a few Vauxhalls in my time and the best by a country mile was a Mk3 2 litre Cavalier. The Cavalier always felt like a car that would go on and on for ever and a day, the 2 litre gave terrific performance with good fuel economy.
    The only Vectra I’ve had the fortune to drive was an 1800cc petrol, but somehow part of the ‘pleasentness’ of the Cavalier was lost, duiluted perhaps into an even more boring stodge and while mid size Vauxhalls were never the worlds most planted cars, the Cavalier just seemed to be slightly more ‘complete’, just a bit more comfortable and just a bit easier to drive.

  46. Hello, Mike, there was always the option of a diesel 620 in the era before diesels became over complicated that would do 55 mpg on a long journey. Still far more tempting than the Cavalier and first generation Mondeo, which had a habit of locking out the driver. Of course, in 1996 I’d daresay buying one of the last top of the range Cavaliers for a song used would be a good idea over a 1.8 Vectra.

  47. Ey Up Glenn

    Agreed with you there. I bagged an N plate Eco-Tec Cav GLSi for next to nowt from a spit n sawdust trader in Darlington in 2004.

    What a damn fine car!

  48. A friend of mine bought a MK3 1.8 Cavalier with 320,000 on the clock. Externally it was battered but it drove well with no knocks , bangs or rattles.

    I remember my first ride in a MK3 Cavalier . I distinctly remember how superior it felt in comparison to my dad’s Sierra.

  49. Mike 51, there are still two M reg Cavalier TDIs running locally. Haven’t seen a nineties Vectra for a few years which says something. Actually at the start of the nineties Vauxhall had some really good cars like the Cavalier, Carlton and Senator, reliable and very comfortable long distance cruisers.

  50. @antigoon35
    Bearing in mind the thousands of Vectras sold and the not inconsiderable positive reports on this very site (although of course there are always a minority of detractors), the following might be relevant;
    The car that you experienced as ‘dangerous’ may not be typical of the model?
    The car you drove was on defective tyres or had suspension malfunctions?
    Your expectations of a humdrum saloon car were too high?
    Thinking about it logically, if they were as a model all ‘dangerous’ this would have become evident shortly after release (as in the case of the GM Corvair) and the model would have died in the showrooms. In reality it was a huge sales success.

  51. Sorry guys.

    Jezza Clarkeson had it spot on.

    A company that I used to rep for tried to palm me off with a red Vectra 1.8.

    HAHAHA

    “it goes or I go”

    Horrible handling, gutless engine that needed caning to make it move, and seats designed to make one cry.

    I had the 2.0 GTi carina after this….superb car.

    A sales persons car, needs to be:

    Comfy
    Easy to drive
    have some poke (someone else pays for the fuel!)
    Decent interior
    Decent stereo
    be able to make good/rapid progress cross country.

    A mondaino did this with aplomb. BMW/Audi/VW Passat understand what the customer wanted.

    GM doesn’t understand the market segment.

    Now, a underrated GM car….how about the Omega?

    For a family car that is good to drive, atom bomb proof and drives well and is CHEAP…try a primera….but find a 2.0litre one.

  52. @Jeremy Austin

    The Omega I looked at was rusting round the arches like a 70s Fiat. Otherwise a comfortable cruiser, 2.5TD engine (as fitted to the Rover 75) would’ve been a good mix of speed and economy.

    Vectras and fleets are like peas and pods.
    I know of one company that has offices north and south in Ireland. The northern branch got a mixed fleet of Mondeos, 406s, Xantias etc. but the southern branch got a fleet of Vectras from an Irish hire car company selloff.

    The old fella likes to wind up his colleagues, phones up the southern office and asks how many cable ties do they need?
    They’re a bit puzzled.
    He continues on that they’ll need them to keep the Vectra wheeltrims on…

  53. @54
    The Corvair was not dangerous, in fact it was one of the best handling yank cars of it’s time (not that that says much!) It was Ralph Nader who was dangerous, just look at his lasting legacy

  54. Noting the comments comparing the Vectra with the Rover 600, this was the situation I was faced with in 1996 when choosing my next company car. The standard issue car was a Rover 600 2.0 in whatever trim was the second grade up from the base. To me it was a bland and boring box and not particularly fast either. For slightly less money in company car units I could get a Vectra SRi with the newly –introduced British built 2.5 V6. No contest. The Vectra had a nicely jazzed up interior, spoiler, nice looking wheels and that V6. Fantastic engine – powerful, refined, fairly economical and with that lovely V6 sound. In retrospect it was an excellent choice with faultless reliability and my only criticism of the car was a lack of steering feel which sometimes made cornering a worrying experience.

    Different criteria applied when choosing in the company car market where longevity and depreciation didn’t matter to the driver and the choice was made based on leasing cost. The 600 turbo wasn’t in my price range but in any case was almost as bland as the low end 600 on the outside. On the subject of longevity I noticed in a DVLA check that the car is still registered on the road so Vauxhall must have done something right with my particular car.

  55. Poor old Jezza Clarkson.

    We slag him off for slagging off the Vectra, then we go and slag off the Vectra 🙂

  56. @58, The early Corvairs did not have the straps on the rear suspension to prevent “tuck under” during heavy cornering on adverse camber conditions,the parts cost a Doller or two to fit,it took a few bad crashes and deaths, revisiting tyre pressures and anti roll bar setting to cure and vastly improve the car.

    Stating Ralph Nader as dengerous (to whom?) is a statement of folly and lack of knowledge,he was on the side of the consumer,it wasnt just the Corvair he singled out-many cars with solid steering wheel bosses and no collapsible columns and interior brightwork that would maim you forever if you was lucky to survive the crash was also campaigned against.

  57. My Dad had an earlyish basic spec Omega but wasn’t pleased with it compaired to the Carton in replaced.

    Rust showing on a smallish dent & a few electrical troubles after 4 years were the main problem.

    The higher spec Omega he had afterwards was much better, but had to hand it back early when he changed jobs.

  58. As a Northern Ireland peeler I have driven a fair number of Vectra Bs, 2 litre petrol with full ballistic armour, not popular with drivers but loved by those tasked with keeping the fleet moving, still lots of them around unlike the Passat / Mondeo of similiar vintage

  59. I had a 2.5 SRI V6 for a company car (i really wanted the GSi but the boss wouldnt let me). Really nice car, took it to 130mph once (that was scary!), never had a fault with it, the only problem i thought was that it dated quite quickly and the next Vectra (the squared off one) seemed another backward step in design.

  60. Francis@64
    I’m still reading Brick by Brick about a man I have despised for over 40 years – and learning that actually Lenny Lord had a lot of good ideas, saved Austin before the war and was a significant industrialist.
    The same change of thought can be applied to a view of Ralph Nader who I remember simply as the guy who single handedly crucified the soft top sports car market – either by insisting on vile roll bars or killing the car completely. But I agree with you Francis, he probably did a lot of good as well.

  61. @71, Im still trying to get a read of Brick by Brick myself,im upto when they lived in a pub! work/wife/dog/time and always being on ARO (im allowed one pleasure!)holds me back at the moment. I have tried sourcing unsafe at any speed by Nadar but the book is about £80,same for AJAX the story of the Imp £60-£70. My Industrial refrigeration engineers book (2000 pages) only cost me $200 from America! nothing to do with my job just interesting,but purchased at a time when i could get away with it!

  62. There’s a mint condition N reg Cavalier which I see regularly on my commute to/from work. It must have been one of the last ones made, as I believe the Vectra replaced the Cav around the time of the N registration.

  63. I’ve been running a ’98 V6 Vectra SRi daily since May of this year and have been really surprised by it over the course of 7.5k miles. I slung on a set of Astra GSi 17-inch alloys and 215 section Yokohamas (Shock, horror modz!!!) which have improved the roadholding significantly. Its a very quick car, and the engine is strong and revs very freely and (once warm) the manual F23 ‘box is slick and shifts nicely. Very refined and stable at motorway speeds and gives a nice sound if you crack the window open and boot it. The sports seats are comfortable and the interior is very spacious as well as being squeak and rattle free. All for £600. OK, it needed a set of rear discs and ARB bushes for its MOT last week but it is fifteen years old. I now have a work van so I’ll keep it nice and drive it on weekends. Seriously impressed with a much-maligned car, these V6s seem like a bit of a hidden gem. I’ll have a 2.6 GSi saloon next thanks!

  64. I bought a 2001 130 sri petrol for a taxi 2 years ago, I still have it and have travelled nearly 80 thousand miles in it in all conditions of hard driving, I spent a few quid when I got it to get it back to good working order and is the single most best hard working car I have ever owned

  65. One more thing… The other taxi drivers laugh at my banger but I just go on mile after mile beating the reliability of there newer cars

  66. I’ve got a 2.0l ecotec p plate CDX still going stong after 215000 miles, now getting tatty and wants a bit of tlc but then I’m happy to leave it anywhere as I’m not worried about it, it won’t die!

  67. Yes, an unremarkable car, yes, an unexciting drive, but my 98 Vectra has done everything I have asked of it in 11 years. It has only ever let me down once and has only just started to succomb to the tin worm. There is no way an R reg Mondeo would still be on the road – in fact, you do still see a fair few Vectras of the same vintage. I agree with one of the posts that the pre-facelift cars with the black trim looked much smarter than the later models (way too much colour-coding on modern cars). I shall be sad to get rid of my Vectra – it has given me 11 years of cheap and reliable motoring and for lots of people, that is very important.

  68. I think the Vectra’s are excellent cars, particularly the V6 models. As someone said above the V6 engines they had we’re hidden gems! Bar the coil pack going on them they are totally bulletproof. I’ve got a ’98 Gsi, had it for the last 6 years and only really had to do minor work to it in that time. Once i had a problem with the air flow meter, but a quick trip to the scrappies and £10 later its been fault free. Rear bushes are a big problem with them, but they are pretty old cars now. Bought a Cavalier turbo a couple of years ago to sit beside the Vectra and it does feel miles better handling-wise but overall, I’d sooner sell the Cavalier if push came to shove. GSi’s, in particular, are a shed load of car for next to nothing money. They look great, sound great, pull great, lovely recaro interior(which btw, are the same recaro seats used in a DB7) and reasonably well equipped even by todays standard

  69. Ive owned my vectra b for 6 years and the only things ive had done are, 8 New tyers, rear bushes 2 New exhausts and head gasket. I Love the vectra b looks great with the sleek bonnet design and door mirrors. Ive also added a rear spoiler to the car. Finishes it off nicely. I think the car has an aggressive look. The only down fall for me is the boaring interior. So bought some after market products to jazz it up slightly. Nice car!

  70. One problem the Vecra B seemed to have was the motoring press were expecting a “Mondeo Beater” & instead got a more of the same / keep up the good work effort.

    It’s almost a “reverse emperor’s clothes” situation.

  71. Came to this after finding a 2008 Vectra 1.8 with only 19000 miles For Sale locally. Quite liked the last ones! I’ve not bought it…yet.

  72. A long way down the road, the fact is I’m impressed with mine. Boring git, defiantly so. Picked up a 2.2 CD auto estate around 2006, at 51k, German-made in 2000. Was less than £2k. (My old 2 litre Carlton estate – just great – had been crumbling at this age, rusting to burglary all over the place and towed to valhalla ignominiously at 135k miles). Under or over this Vec-B, there’s no spot of rust anywhere, at the same age. A friend’s 323i has flakey carbuncles all over, only two years older. Big-up GM’s metallic paint job. Given the engine’s reputation for oil-sensitivity I’ve not apared it routine attention. It mainly does long holiday jaunts, typically to the Alps where I nurse it to 39.2 mpg heavily laden on the autoroute, often do 470 miles to the first fuel stop, am happy to sit in the saddle for 11 hours with the odd 10 minute coffee break. Upholstery lasts well, in fact looks like the day it left the factory (in serious black). I like the lumbar support, and hate the foolish elbow rest details either side, designed by a very dull fellow indeed. Precision-scissored neoprene mouse-mat upgrades were necessary, for bog-standard elbow comfort. How absurd. But a Vec-B as troublefree as this sensible old git’s is a hell of a comfortable car for silly money. A friend of mine drove her diesel Vec-B to 160k miles, same vintage, and she loved the thing. Seems there are some good’uns, post-2000, despite all the dissing? One other thing: for fun or projectile self-expression or air-con that actually works, use a superbike and leave yer Veccy at home.

  73. I am from Australia and have a Holden/Opel 1998 5 door Vectra 2 litre ecotec . It’s great, I really like it. It has the close ratio F16 5 speed so it seems a little short geared, I find myself skipping gears when driving it (2nd to 4th, 3rd to 5th) It does it with ease, I even sometimes do 2nd to 5th. I would have preferred the wide ratio 5 speed for better highway cruising ( Longer gearing and longer 3rd, 4th and 5th gears). The head gasket failed at approximately 251,000 ks. It was an easy fix for myself to do. I saved $2000 by doing it myself. The head was still like brand new, valve stem seals still soft and no oil sludge on the head. It did need a valve re-grind, a few valves were slightly leaking. Not leaking enough to cause drive ability issues. While the head was off I checked the bores, very minimal wear. It has a very slight ridge at the top of the bores (extremely slight), I’d guess it’s good for another 250,000 ks. They do have factory issues that the engineers should have picked up on. I have fixed the factory issues myself. For example the breather hoses from the valve covers do need to have an oil trap otherwise oil mist gets into the intake clogging up the throttle body and idle air valve. It has above average torque for a 2 litre engine which makes it feel more powerful than it really is.. We also have a 2001 2 litre hyundai Elantra that on paper says it has 10 kw more power 110kw vs 100kw. The vectra would easily beat the Hyundai in a race. It has great steering feel and is nicely weighted. The Vectra also rides bumps smoother. I really do like the Vectra. I was going to sell it but I think I’ll keep it.

  74. Can’t knock the car really my dad bought a vectra b 1.8 club saloon back in 2004. After it being registered in 01 it was a disability car for the first 3 years so was still practically new when he got it. He was a lorry driver so it was good for the miles he had to travel sometimes. Well he had it for 7 years and passed it on to me back in 2011 when he downgraded to a Mercedes s320 1999. Ok iv had to change the gearbox and rebuild the engine after the timing went and all 16 valves bent up but only cost me bout £200 so was worth it but even to this day the car is reliable and i wont get rid of it I’ll buy another car but it won’t be going anywhere

  75. I think the vectra was up against it from the start, what with Clarkson and the Ford advertising program aka top gear running it into the ground. The vectra wasn’t perfect but niether was it the dog it was made out to be. I’ve owned a few, we currently have a 1.8 club hatch, and my only real complaint would be the small door mirrors are shallow door pockets. I like the driving position and I think the handling is nicely weighted and for anyone to say it’s dangerous must have been driving on flat tyres! Against the Mondeo I think it fair to say that vectra was nowhere near as bad as the motoring press said but the Mondeo was nowhere near as good as they said. I drove on a regular basis a 1800 mondeo back in the mid nineties and although I wouldn’t say it was a bad car, on the contrary it was very nice but I didn’t think it particularly outstanding and I couldn’t help notice the rather cheap plastics used on the interior. The front of the bonnet had rusted through after five years and a 1.8 vectra had more poke. It’s also worth noting that you still see early vectras and mk 3 Astras but I can’t remember the last time I saw a mk1 mondeo or pre 98 escort.

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