Essay : Not their finest hour – Vauxhall Sintra

AROnline takes a look back at some of the memorable automotive blunders in more recent times from both our own, and rival makes.

Mike Humble feels the pain of the people carrier driver and recalls Vauxhall’s answer to to the large MPV… The Vauxhall Sintra

Gone, and probably best forgotten

The Vauxhall Sintra: not a bad looking MPV but far from being a good car!

Two words that can put the fear of god into any red-blooded petrolhead – with the exceptions of insurance costs – are ‘people’ and ‘carriers’. They sure scare the life out of me – and we don’t even have them. Children, speaking as an ex-car salesman, can be the dread of your typical Saturday customer, as the Brady bunch pop by to wreak havoc in the showroom. The kids will run wild opening and slamming the doors on every showroom model, knocking over the potted rubber plants and spilling the free hot chocolate all over your keyboard and desk.

To add insult to injury, just as you are moments away from signing them up, little Billy hits little Susie and all hell breaks loose. The customer’s attention is gone and they leave the showroom in part embarrassment, promising to come back – often never doing so. Any readers who have worked the pitch will know exactly what I mean!

From pleasure to pain

Now don’t get me wrong. I like kids and in fact, I am an Uncle to two gorgeous and intelligent little girls who also cheeky and inquisitive – very much like how I was when at their age. But my younger brother has told me many times, he intends to keep his Golf GTI Turbo and the wife’s Focus company smoker, and simply make do – rather than buy a dreaded people carrier. They serve a purpose and cater for the larger family or mini cab driver – and a good friend of mine in Suffolk who’s partner runs a childminding business, could not operate without their Zafira CDTi. So there! They do have their place in life.

I worked in a huge Vauxhall showroom a few years back, and will never forget the customer who came in with his wife, a toddler and new born baby in a carrycot. Outside, having a sneaky snout, I witnessed them arrive in an oldish, but immaculate silver BMW 530i in the parking area. Stubbing out, I hot footed it back into the showroom and pumped myself full of Wrigley’s Extra and subsequently went on to sign him up for a Panacotta coloured Zafira CDTi Exclusive. But you could see the pain in his eyes having to part with his beloved BMW – and I felt his loss of changing the ultimate driving machine for a brick on wheels, with a Tweenies CD in the head unit. Rather than something by Tom Petty.

An often unloved car

As I type this, memories come flooding back to me of the day a customer came in to get a part exchange valuation on a knackered early Ford Galaxy. It drove like a home-made go-kart, and had an interior akin to fly-tipping site. After I took all the relevant details down, I gave the appraisal sheet to my used car business manager who sent the sheet back while I was sat with the customer as we thumbed through the glossy for the new Meriva over a Kenco.

Glancing at the valuation form, I noted where the make and model box was printed, he had crossed out Ford Galaxy and written ‘Shelvoke Drewry‘ as the model type – we had a similar sense of humour you see!

Kia Sedona: the only thing more shameful to have on your driveway than an old and stained mattress. But pound for pound - an unbeatable car as I regularly would find out!

There have been some good and bad people carriers. The current Zafira is a popular car helped by the fact they are affordable, reasonably well kitted out and not too offensive on the eye. The Volkswagen Sharan also continues to sell in decent numbers, being considerably more expensive than the Vauxhall, but having that VW kudos that appeals to the brand-conscious. The car that started it all, the Renault Espace, is now an also-ran car, which sells in penny numbers. But its smaller brother, the Scenic, was a sales hit.

Well, it was until the current range came along, which now threatens to kill off this one time maker of wonky but oddly appealing cars.

An ever growing automotive sector

Even the Koreans have jumped in with cars like the Hyundai Tragedy (Trajet) and the simply awful Kia Sedona. Backed up with warranties other makers would die for, cars like the Sedona make a really good case for themselves, instead of buying a secondhand Sharan. But for a buyer with no other priority than having the cheapest large new people carrier to simply run into the ground, the Sedona is a tough one to beat.

The number of sales I lost to the bloody Kia was countless. I recall one customer who was after nothing other than a deal – after much haggling, we worked out that a Zafira with the same level of equipment was something like £4000 more than the Sedona diesel he had been offered. And that was taking into account we were making just £150 on the car we were selling!

Even after I explained that the Sedona diesel was as environmentally friendly and pleasing on the eye as a pyre of burning cattle back in the last foot and mouth crisis – never mind being worthless after five years – he was not convinced with my counter-argument. Cheapest is rarely best, and the same guy came back to me a while after buying the Kia having realised how slow, thirsty and awful it was. He popped into the showroom, shook my hand and apologised for wasting my time and how he should have listened to not just my advice – but also another dealer who sold SEATs – and then he was gone.

GM modified

But hark at me slagging off the opposition, when Vauxhall sold one of the world’s most shocking people carriers ever made: the Sintra. Have a really long hard think, and try and remember when you last saw one of these bad – and I mean really bad MPVs. I thought so. You can’t.

The reason being, was that Vauxhall didn’t sell that many of them to kick off with – and that’s because they were so very poor. Made in the US, the Sintra was quickly modified for European consumption, but that still did not disguise the fact that it was expensive, thirsty, badly built and a cheap knee-jerk answer to the Galaxy and Sharan. But it did without the market research-led design from Ford, or the percieved brand quality of a VAG product. In short, it had nothing going for it. No USP. Nothing. Nada.

It was a big and spacious car, however. But where the wheels fell off, quite literally, was in the vehicles passenger safety criteria. The Sintra lost all hope of success following the early vehicle’s performance in the Euro NCAP crash testing – the very same that wiped out our Rover 100 and the Peugeot 106. After they tested the Sintra, it quickly became a known and well publicised fact, that you and your loved ones stood a better chance of survival by jumping from a fast moving train than suffering a high speed crash in a Sintra.

Used values tumbled like a falling boulder and the trade ran away in fear – the Sintra was bad news!

Another sucker punch to GM came in the JD Power owner satisfaction survey, which placed the Vauxhall Sintra a convincing 182nd out of… erm 182 cars. Sales of the big Vauxhall went from painfully slow to a full stop – and GM wisely and silently deleted the car from the range in 1999. GM opted to heavily develop the already successful Zafira range into the model we see today, and the larger Sintra was never replaced.

The Vauxhall Sintra was once described to me by my friend, and one time work colleague, Neale Greenhalge as the, ‘Vauxhall Kiddie Coffin’. Slighty harsh maybe, but also not too far from the truth either it seems!

Crash! Bang! Wallop! What a Sintra. The car performed badly in the Euro NCAP safety tests.
Mike Humble


  1. OI! Mike! I bought a Sedona new! It really was one of the best cars we have had, use to go Switzerland in one hit, without the kids fighting. Alas Mrs E really twisted the chassis rails of an Iveco 7.5 tonner with it… but it stood up rather well, all the doors opened even if the front was missing! We bought (I think) ET53NBN and ET53NBK on the same day for just over £13,000 each. Fabulous cars that 6 up would actually take luggage behind the seats too. Bloody quick too the common rail lump, as much as the 16v JTD lump I have now. An impulse buy Grand Voyager followed which really was a rocket (3.3 – you could get the average MPG to hit 6/7 quite easily!) then a lowly Zafira which really has an excellent load arrangement and an adult sized rear seat, even if everything is coal hole black inside.

    Mike BTW I believe they are magnezium (or some such alloy) seat frames in the Sinita, high tech huh?

  2. I saw a Sinatra for sale kust the other day – it was up for £450 with 30,000 miles on the clock!

    The Sedona was a good car for the money and offered so much more. And they are pretty well built – a taxi driver friend of ours has done over 200,000 in his and its still going.

  3. BSD






  4. They were Andrew

    One of the most reassuring features of the Sintra was in a Vauxhall service bulletin I read once. It mentioned about the steering wheel shearing off as the airbag deployed in some U.S crash test.

    All of a sudden, I feel the need for a V plate two tone Sedona diesel (ex taxi of course)

  5. I had the pleasure of driving my brothers 2007 Chevrolet Uplander which is basically a updated Sintra, it’s all sintra apart from an ugly updated front end and a 3.9L v6 auto and a different interior
    I drove ok much like a boat but for some reason they are still popular state side.

    Also known as a pontiac ventura

    But they rust like there is no tomorrow, well in NY they do.

  6. Based on a Chevy “minivan”, a stopgap measure when the popularity of MPVs was gaining.

    Euro NCAP was 2.5, not that bad when an e36 and Xantia were getting 1.5 stars, the Grand Voyager got 2 stars.

    Strangely it did better in crash tests in the states as the Chevrolet Venture:

    The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 1997 Chevy Venture a rating of four stars out of five in a head-on collision, and five stars in the side-impact collision. Tests on subsequent model years yielded results of four stars in most categories, and three or five stars in others. The NHTSA does not conduct offset frontal crash tests.

  7. one of the worst MPV’s of all time be it a pontiac or whatever,if you bought one second hand it was scrap if it needed a £500 windscreen and two hours to change a battery?head gaskets on lame 2.2 were a monumental nightmare total and absolute rubbish.

  8. Great choice of cars for this feature. As I recall, the Sintra was a fairly cynical (and cheap) way for GM to get in on the burgeoning European market for people carriers in the late 90s, before the Zafira was ready to market. As soon as the Zaf came out, the Sintra went. Pity help anyone who bought one!

  9. I actually saw one of these the other day – parked up in town respendant in that dark sewage outflow green that Vauxhall seem to think is a good idea. It always reminds me, when applied to the lesser spotted people carrier, of the result you get when a Brachiosaurus has had a bad case of Montezumas Revenge…

    I’ve not had the joys of driving a Sintra, thank the gods, but I did end up behind the wheel of a Plymouth Voyager in the US. To be fair to the Voyager, its a reasonable car for its type, in good fettle.

    This one wasnt.

    This one couldnt even grasp the *concept* of driving in a straight line, it drove like a B17 with two engines out in a tornado… it was scary at even US speed limits. I wonder if it was possessed since it had the unerring wish to turn left, it wallowed, it misfired, about the only thing it didnt do was rotate its headlights and blast vomit..

    I laughed when you mentioned the mobile bombsite – a friend of mine who will remain nameless had a Sedona, for the life of me I dont know why, since shes single with no kids, but the interior was utterly vile. You sat half up to your knees in years of secondhand McD’s takeout bags & wasp infested plastiform coke cups. There wasnt so much a carpet as there was a layer of spongy compost. Ack, I will never understand people who can live like that.

  10. Yes – think it was originally a Pontiac. Worth mentioning that the Sha-laxy was quite a good car in comparison – a well developed blend of the best of Ford and Volkswagen, Ford supplied the chassis and the original interior, at least, VW did the engines and the body I think. Only thing that spoiled it was that the Ford version used the Pinto DOHC unit in the petrol 4-banger which was pretty nasty. The six-pots used the excellent VR6 engine.

  11. Some clarifications from U.S reader:
    That Van was marketed in the U.S.A. as The Chevy Venture and later facelifed and re-launched as the Chevy Uplander. It was marketed as the Pontiac Trans Sport which evolved to be called the Trans Sport Montana and later, just Montana. It was also offered as the Oldsmobile Silhouette and the Buick Terraza. Finally there was a Saturn version, the Relay. With the Uplander, the Terraza, late versions of the Montana, and the Relay, there was an effort to market these as a cross over SUV type thing. They attached a long nose and tacked on cross over styling. The unfortunate Pontiac Aztec was also based on this car.It lives on in China as the Buick GL8. So many versions of such as terrible car it boggles the mind!

  12. Hey the Pontiac Aztec is great! The difference in crash testing ratings between the UK and US makes a mockery of both systems. Sharlaxys are pretty much VAG inside, switch gear wise. I might add I believe our Voyagers were all Graz built at Steyr in Austria too.

  13. Wasnt there a 3rd ugly sister in the Galaxy/Sharan/? pile up. I seem to recall it had a SEAT badge on the back. The SEAT Alhambra…?

  14. Just been looking at the 2012 GM minivans and crossovers. I actually rather like the look of the Buick Enclave. Wonder if it would sell over here as a budget GM rival to the X3? Maybe Vauxhall could try the Sintra idea again…

  15. @11 it was a VAG/ford joint venture called auto europa,hence a lot of parts having AE stamped on them,and considering things was a success now seeing fewer and fewer espaces!

  16. At that time, manufacturers were piling into the mid to full sized MPV market led by the Voyager and Espace. The PSA and FIat had their joint venture, Ford and VW their joint venture, Toyota had the Previa etc and into this crowded sector came GM with this rehashed American offering.

    But then the market shifted to smaller vehicles, led by the Scenic, then followed by a series of 5 and 7 seater vehicles based on Golf/Astra sized vehicles of which the Zafira was one of the best. Indeed, other than taxis and Addison Lee type fleets, who else buys the larger Sharan/807/Espace any more?

  17. True, the Espace has been deleted from the UK market, while the Scenic is a runaway success.

    The Citroen C8 was useful for large families as it was a genuine 8 seater. Rarely see them though – the mk1 Picasso was a huge seller.

    I guess that people would rather have a people carrier with a car-sized footprint, and those that wanted a bigger vehicle have now moved onto SUVs.

  18. Looks horribly like the Grand Voyager from the doors back, which also had a reputation for being a bit of a coffin on wheels.

    I remember knowing someone years (mid-90’s or so) who had been made paraplegic afetr a car accident. The next vehicle they bought, suitably adapted, was a Grand Voyager and the first thought I had was “Haven’t you suffered enough?”.

  19. Never fancied a Sintra or any MPV for that matter. Sintra says to me “badge emgineering at its worst”. From a time when a Griffin badge would be stuck on any GM product to convince you it was a genuine British Vauxhall. The front grille looks a bit like the Omega, but that’s an Opel inspired car anyway.

    Having said that I know we have to accept that Vauxhalls and Opels are one and the same. I think the last true British Vauxhall was the Victor/VX FE series.

      • The Victor FE was inspired by the Opel Rekord, but used updated versions of the slant 4 engines used on the FD. However, it did mark a trend for Vauxhalls to be based on Opel designs, and by 1979, when the Viva was phased out, Vauxhalls were almost identical to Opels..

          • The forgotten Vauxhall and actually a very good car for the money, with a smooth revving and reliable Opel engine and nice to look at. Also the Carlton Mark 1 was the last big Vauxhall to come out of Luton.

  20. SEAT Alhambra, as good as the Sharan/Galaxy but a few grand cheaper!

    When my parents bought a Scenic in 98 they were tempted to upgrade to the Alhambra, SEAT were doing a 5 seater for about £15.5k and the mid ranger Scenic was £14.2k at the time but I think the Renault dealer made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

    What is interesting is how many families have some kind of MASSIVE people carrier yet only have 2 kids?

  21. Never been keen on the scenic,possibly because owners drive at 26.2 mph everywhere,MK1’s are reels of cotton in terms of rust,the MK2/ph2 seem better protected the 02-03 onwards 1.5 diesels were always coking up no1 port triggering a misfire and the elctrics were pitiful,the only one french mpv i seen little of was the xsara picasso,very reliable indeed i thought.The sharalaxy seemed to capture the market far more than the espace,that said the espace was seen as a premium MPV often reflected in its price and was huge,remember the galaxy advert?it stood in the footprint of the mondeo.Of course the smaller MPV market was sewn up by the scenic until the zafira was launched which was very clever in terms of flex7 and in its current form a visually good looking piece of kit.

  22. My wife had a 2.2 16v Zafira A. Went like stink for the type of vehicle it was, but was never good at cornering or inspiring confidence. She now has a 1.9 CDTI Zafira B. A much better car to drive albeit slower :(. My nephew has a Touran. Both the VW and GM offerings are really pretty good and much easier to live with than the first generation mini MPVs.

    At work we have a Kia Sedona oil-burner (I’m a funeral director and it is one of our private ambulances). It is a very good, reliable, flexible and reasonably economic work-horse. It may not be pretty but it doesn’t look too bad in black!

  23. The Sintra was one of those 90s car that failed to make the transition across the Atlantic – The Ford Probe, Cougar, second generation Maverick and Escape where also complete dogs. Acceptable in a country where all new cars have interiors like a Hotpoint Fridge and never have to go round bends, but completely hopeless in the worlds more sophisticated markets.

  24. Vauxhalls of this era are genuinely awful: the Corsa was a horrid buzzbox. I had a one litre Corsa with three cylinder engine as a courtesy car and even by the standards of the time it was as basic as a Mark One Fiesta, lacking even an airbag, had a radio/casette that had a mind of its own, and basically was such a cheaply made hateful little car I vowed never to go near a Vauxhall again. A shame as I had a Mark 2 Cavalier which was a far better drive than a Sierra,had a boot like a people carrrier, was excellent on the motorway and gave me very little trouble. I think Vauxhall kinda lost the plot when the Cavalier went.

  25. @Jemma “respendant in that dark sewage outflow green that Vauxhall seem to think is a good idea” Yep, you’ve described the colour of one on our street, a 2.2 version. The owners love it strangely, but they freely admit that it gobbles petrol and isn’t fast. Horrid thing.

    I’m not much of a Vauxhall fan, I had a 2005 Zafira as a courtesy car back in the day, it was a hateful thing, cheaply made out of cheap plastic, it constantly misted up meaning the AC had to be on full all the time and was powered by a surprisingly powerful and economical 1.8 petrol engine – which sounded like it belonged in a 1980s Cavalier. All this in a six month old, £20k car!

    The only MPV I’ve ever been impressed by was a neighbour’s Renault Scenic. It had an enormous boot, storage space galore including two compartments for walking sticks/umbrellas/French baguettes, moveable seating and took up no more room than a normal car. It was made out of quite cheap plastic though, albeit well assembled cheap plastic.

  26. There is one of these somewhere around here, a red one, seen from time to time. I remember the blonde woman from Top Gear at the time saying how crap the Sintra was.

    And yes, Vauxhall did loose the plot after the deah of the Cavalier. I wouldn’t touch one post-1995!

  27. “Sharlaxys are pretty much VAG inside, switch gear wise.”

    Yeah then for some reason they have a nasty Ford gearknob shoved in them!

    None of the MPV’s exactly look stunning, but then they’re basically a functional vehicle. Problem with the Sintra is it was not only dull looking, it was even less comfortable inside than many vans! You were probably better off with a Ford Tourneo (aka Transit Minibus with a Hatchback) it was better equipped and handled better.

  28. “And yes, Vauxhall did loose the plot after the deah of the Cavalier. I wouldn’t touch one post-1995!”

    Surely ‘Vauxhall’ no longer existed after the ‘introduction’ of the Mk3 Cavalier, it being simply an Opel Vectra A with different badges?

  29. The Kia Sedona – or Carnival as they are known as here – had the distinction of being the one car that made me physically unwell as a passenger on a reasonably sedate motorway drive. We – the editorial team of a publishing house specialising in those door-to-door car papers sponsored by local dealers – were heading back from a kart outing and when I finally got out I stood in the parking lot breathing fresh air for at least ten minutes before I could stomach getting into my own car and driving home. Awful.
    Whoever at the factory thought that the turbodiesel version would look really snazzy with that Imprezaesque bonnet scoop had a ‘special’ sense of humour, too…

    Anyway, the Sintra. The Dutch press office probably knew they weren’t very good cars, so they offered us a 2.2 petrol version with an Irmscher tuning package as a road tester. They probably thought that if we ended up hating it they’d just point at the aftermarket wheels, lowering kit and exhaust as the culprits for its substandard driving manners. All I remember is that it drove like a van with a nice, rorty exhaust. Which of course it was.

  30. When I was a child, my parents got me, my brother, and everything we needed into a mk2 Fiesta. The need for people such as that BMW guy to get rid of their nice cars for an MPV is beyond me.

  31. @ James
    I remember 7 people (3 adults 4 young children) getting into my father’s Renault 4 (3 in the front as it had a bench seat!) – now that was a car! Luckily there wasn’t an accident or I wouldn’t be here today…

    But wouldn’t be allowed now, all children have to have seat belts and proper child seats, and thus the normal 5 seater is no good when you have extra children to pick up (say after football), whereas the Zafira has that flexibility.

  32. For a family with two (small) children most medium sized cars will do fine – we have a Rover 416 Tourer and all fits well even for long holiday trips. With a bit of a squeeze we can even go on holidays in an ADO16 including the two child seats. The problems start when you want to take a 3rd child with you – most normal cars or estates today will not take 3 child seats or leave enough space for a 3rd person between two of them on the rear seat. Here any small van or MPV opens chances that normal cars just don’t.

  33. Kia Sedona as a private ambulance? I thought they were all Toyota Hiaces?
    I think the Impreza-style scoop was due to the turbo intercooler position?

  34. Great, entertaining read as ever from Swiss Mike :-).

    @ Jemma. I want to hurt people who treat their cars like that, even more so when it’s a nice car. I’ve seen a BMW 8 series with finger marks on the windows, a festering kebab on the floor and dog hair everywhere. One of the few things that actually make me properly angry.

    @Itzhak. Yes it was marketed as the Opel Sintra. The Vauxhall/Opel Sintra shared its platform (the GM U-Body) with loads and loads of horrible US MPVs.
    Trust me, you’re lucky not having them in Israel!

  35. in fact, the only ‘interesting’ MPV available at the height of their popularity was the quirky FIAT. Can’t remember it but I drove one and it weren’t half bad. Fun looking interior too.

  36. BSD




  37. I’ve never thought of much MPVs if I’m being brutally honest here. Though they do have their uses for larger families, childminders and mini-cab firms. If there was any I took any liking to was the Ford S-Max or the Mitsubishi Grandis.

    @Frankie the 75 nut, the Zafira GSi and the latter VXR will appeal to parents who need a practical 7-seater. That still has the teenager inside of them when it comes to their cars. Also, have the joy of deliberately embarrassing their offsprings 😉

  38. @ Itzhak. You’re welcome. Google “GM U-body” and you’ll find lots of technical information about it. Some of the cars the Sintra are related to are shockingly ugly…and some are even still being built.

    @ Luke McCormack. Or if you only had one kid and two dogs to lug around then why not a V70 R? That was my Dad’s Family Nuttermobile of choice…I was never embarrassed about that 😉

  39. @ Will M. And some of the Volvo estates had the pop up seats in the back. Not great in a rear ender though…

    @ Adrian. And oddly enough, the richer the person, the scruffier the car gets! One of the properties I used to work at had immaculate grounds and a spotless bespoke interior and yet two fairly new, but filthy cars that had literally never been cleaned since they left the showroom.

  40. Well, what can I say? After having a delightful (I use the term loosely) F plate, facelift 2.0 petrol Espace, we went looking for a replacement. We found a Sintra, BRG, grey cloth interior, looked ok, and it very nearly ended up being bought, but the salesman couldn’t be bothered to give me a PX price against my 75, so we walked, maybe a blessing in disguise, as after a trawl of various internet sites we ended up buying a Zafira instead. That car did us proud for almost 5 year, it never let us down, and only needed usual servicing and maintenance all the time we had it, bar one corroded brake pipe that was spotted one MOT. The only thing I never got on with, was it’s woefully low gearing, great for howling away from the lights, and scooting around town, annoying pulling almost 4000rpm at 70 on the motorway.

    When the time came to say goodbye to the trusty Zaf, we looked at a new Sedona, but passed on the fact that you still had to fully remove the 2 back seats from the car when you didn’t want them, harking back to the Espace days. A Citroen C4 Grand Picasso was high up on the list, but the usual French reliability issues worried me, a Mazda 5 was also up there, but it’s a 6 seater really, the middle middle seat isn’t really a seat, just a folded bit of padded fabric, so we bought an S-Max! I have to say it’s fricken superb! Basically being a Mondeo underneath it still drives like a normal car, it’s sporty enough and goes well enough from the 2.0 TDCi lump, I’d have had the 2.5 turbo nutterbastard version, but the wife wasn’t keen alas.

    You may be old, have kids etc, but there are MPVs out there that do the job well, AND drive like a normal car, the S-Max is one, just watch the delectable miss V B-H take some old dears out for a spin

    And Ben, to answer your earlier question about having a 7 seater when you only have 2 kids, let me just say “Can my friend come with us too?” times that by 2 kids, you end up with 4 kids and yourself, and put 4 kids on a back seat with no child seats, watch plod have a field day! Gone are the days of piling kids in the back, or in the boot of the estate car with no worries, they have to wrapped in cotton wool, then encased in bubble wrap, then strapped into a seat that has been welded and braced and superglued into place so there is no chance of them breaking a finger nail in a car these days to stop the authorities classing you as a bad parent, throwing you into jail, and putting your kids into care for daring to take them in a motorised box without the proper equipment!

  41. That 5th gear clip is very funny. The woman in the middle seat looked somewhat queasy.

    We have got a 2nd shape Renault scenic – 06 plate short chassis 1.6 petrol that I run as a company car having opted for the allowance. Previously I had 2 first shape Zafira diesels, one company car then one I owned. I really liked the Zafiras but my wife did not. They were dark inside and there was not much storage space. But that is the only criticism really. The Scenic is much more interesting and the storage space for bits and peices is second to none. The electric handbrake seems a bit gimmicky but it works well and frees up some very useful space between the front seats (I have not got that horrible roll top bin thing thankfully) It goes reasonably well once on the move (it is no racing car) and is very quiet and smooth on most surfaces. It is not bad on fuel either – 39mpg average. Some of the interior materials do not seem very robust but we do not have small kids any more. In 2 years it has done 35000 miles and fingers crossed seems happy.

  42. Frankie the 75 Nut (46) back in the day I had Volvo 145. My record for getting people into it (on private ground, naturally) was 22 kids in the back and 3 adults in the front. And it drove. Maybe that’s why I have also had a succession of Transit minibuses and my wife now has the Zafira B.

    And Rob (47) you are right about the Zafira’s gearing. Our 2.2 Zaf A was much the same. The 1.9 CDTi Zaf B has a 6th gear and cruises at 70mph at around 2000rpm. And it still pulls reasonably well.

    For us the choice of a mini MPV wasn’t about the kids. We only have 2, although one is 6′ long (He is normally horizontal). For us it’s that you get a big estate car on a budget. The Zafira will take both our bikes upright (front wheels off) and camping gear without a problem.

  43. You can get the Zaf with a light grey interior, the in laws was that colour, however it’s not a good choice with small kids with the mess they can make, at least black hides a lot of sins!

  44. @Dennis (30)

    Surely Vauxhall went when GM took them over… But you must know what I meant. Sure the 90’s Vauxhalls.Opelds?GM’s whatevers may be crap to drive, not particularly pretty or in any way exiting. But they were solidly built, mechanically tough and relatively rot proof, The numbers of ancient Astras and Corsas knocking about must mean summat 🙂

    Back to MPVs we actually had a discussion relating to this subject in the work canteen this evening. One chap admitted to owning a Sintra. Said it wasn’t too bad, no worse than the Espace, Voyager and Sedona he also owned. He now drives a Fiat 500 (kids have long since grown up).

  45. “Sure the 90′s Vauxhalls.Opelds?GM’s whatevers may be crap to drive, not particularly pretty or in any way exiting. But they were solidly built, mechanically tough and relatively rot proof, The numbers of ancient Astras and Corsas knocking about must mean summat”

    No i agree, up until the 90’s ‘Vauxhalls’ were pretty terrible. The rotted, the trim fell to bits and a lot of the time the engines weren’t much cop. They seemed to make a giant leap in the early 90’s though, in terms of rust protection, reliability and design. The Corsa B (mk1 VX Corsa, mk2 Opel Corsa) was far more avant garde than the mk3 Fiesta. Vauxhalls did seem to suddenly make this great leap though around the time Luton finally relinquished almost all of what it had left of it’s own design operation to Opel. The 80’s Cavalier was basically an Opel, but had an awful lot of Vauxhall input, the 90’s Cavalier other than the name was almost totally Opel.

  46. @ Dennis and Bob M. Yup, they may be dull and not very nice to look at, but my ideal garage would always contain a Vectra along with the Jags, old Bimmers, and assorted BL things-you know it will work and do everything you ask from it-a true workhorse.

    And people who drive Vauxhalls go back to them time and time again…

  47. BSD


    Thank’s for the tip!

    I googled as you wrote,and in Wikipedia i found lots of information about the U body vehicles.

  48. @ Itzhak. You’re welcome. A favourite game of mine to play is going on Wikipedia and seeing what car shares its platform with what-sometimes you can trace its origins back something very obscure!

  49. If anyone wants to see a Vauxhall Sinatra in daily use, go to Rudgewick in west sussex at 08.15 every weekday morning. There you will see a maniac tearing up the high street in a blue 1998 S reg beauty.

    @ Mike, you need to re-think about Kia, although I dont own one,I have been looking closely at the new Sportage,(Which I think is a cracking motor) they currently have some great cars, great packages (inc a 7 year warrenty, so they must be screwed together ok). Who cares about ‘uber’ brand cudos? If we all did, no one would be driving a Skoda Octavia, Superb, Yeti etc etc.

    My brand fairness however stops short with the MG(6), Proton and Peroudia

    Fair enough?

  50. Actually Kia have made huge advances in the design and quality of their cars in recent years. Cars like the Rio are bigger than a Fiesta and retail for less money and also have the 7 year warranty. The Soul is surely a far more interesting proposition for an MPV than a Vauxhall Meriva and looks far more distinctive.
    Locally the Kia dealership is a family dealership with 50 years in the trade and a high reputation, the Vauxhall dealership is a franchise whose customer care is on a par with Arnold Clark.

  51. “And people who drive Vauxhalls go back to them time and time again…”

    Yeah but they did that in the 70’s and 80’s too, when the cars weren’t very good.

    You do find though that people tend to stick with the same brand throughout their lives. Some always have Ford’s others always have Vauxhall’s. Some will even buy one that is constantly in the garage and falls to bits and they moan about it, but then they’ll replace it with the same brand again!

  52. Apart from a few years with a Renault 18 my Dad had Vauxhalls as company cars from 1977-2003.

    After retired from full time work he got a year old Mondeo from Fords Of Winsford & is only just thinking about replacing it as it’s only had the odd problem in 9 years.

  53. Its about time the Fords/GM/VW’s of this world offered a 5 year wrn’te. If they did, they may win back some of the ground lost to Kia/Hyundai etc etc

    Whatever we think about the rise of the Asian motor brands, they are certainly raising the game for those who opt out of the company car scheme.

    Ford – 3yr/60,000m wrn’te
    Hyundai – 5 year / UNLIMITED mileage wrn’te + 5 year RAC top level cover
    kia – 7 Year / 100,000 mles

  54. Ford & GM etc don’t need to offer those gigs to shift tin, simply because their dealer on every street corner ideal appeals to the mass market, and to a degree, their products are kind of seen as aspiring to own.

    The likes of KIA or Hyundai are not geared up for high volume sales nor are their parts and finance houses. They are playing the long game and it will come, but when their time comes, the Ford and GM marketing machines will make sure they are one step ahead.

    As stated before, the Asian cars are fine, so long as you stay in their custom owing to pitiful resale values. Run em till they drop or take full advantage of tempting finance offers to trade up to new models after 3 years.

    Just be ready to exit the VW showroom slightly ahead of the salesmans boot when asking about part ex values against a Sharan with your doom blue Sedona!

  55. “Ford & GM etc don’t need to offer those gigs to shift tin, simply because their dealer on every street corner ideal appeals to the mass market”

    I agree, many car buyers are lazy, they don’t travel far to make the second biggest purchase of their life. You often find that a town with one franchised dealership is populated by that marque of car, buyers are apparently too lazy to go to the next town.

    “As stated before, the Asian cars are fine, so long as you stay in their custom owing to pitiful resale values. Run em till they drop”

    Which is generally a very long time. Japanese cars especially.

  56. I own a 3L sintra and have for nearly 4yrs now and yes around town it does like it’s petrol but that is any big engined car but get it on the motorway and it comes into its own, I tow a trailer tent and it does it with ease, my family love it.

  57. OK. Yes, we had a Sintra in the late 90’s. There’s probably a limit on the number of words here, so I can’t list everything that went wrong. I could put in a blank line for the things that didn’t.
    From faulty electrics to water in the headlights. Windscreen surround that blew off to flapping sun visors. Major engine parts to minor trim. It was a complete mechanical and electrical disaster.
    Actually not unpleasant to drive (2.2l petrol engine and a fairly hard ride) – when it worked.
    Our local dealer Rowcliffes were actually very good, and recognised very quickly the pup they had sold. Most of the repair and parts costs they covered themselves (even when Vauxhall refused to) and we thank them for that. But it was good to get rid of it.
    Working in Spain for a while, a colleague there had one and had very few problems with it – many of the issues apparently stemmed from a completely bodged left to right conversion.

  58. Had to bump this up as for all the Sintra is bad, anything Chrysler imported in this period was even more dire, although the Neon just about did it as a cheap 2 litre family car that looked normal and is occasionally seen now.
    However, while the Sintra was bad in most respects, at least it looked passable in a nineties Vauxhall way compared with the momstrosity that was the Chrysler PT Cruiser that came out at the same time and hung around like a disease for several years. This was another MPV type car, except made to look like a forties Plymouth hotrod as an MPV, and resembled a London taxi trying to look cool. Add in noisy and thirsty petrol engines, poor performance, awful handling, a flimsy and ugly interior and a hopeless record for faults and breakdowns, and this was probably the worst car of the last 20 years. Sadly two still exist locally.

  59. Oh how times change – 11 years on and you certainly wouldn’t be so critical of Kia’s/Hyundai’s! – KL (Korea Leyland) is cleaning up with cars like the Sportage and Nio, never mind the electric EV6/Ioniq 5/6.

  60. the next Vauxhall MPV, the Zafira was a lot better, & it’s fairly easy to spot the first generation ones around.

  61. The Astra is one Vauxhall car that has kept going regardless during its 43 year life. Part of the huge turnaround in Vauxhall’s fortunes in the early eighties, and I always think the Mark 1 was an excellent car, the Astra has gone through seven generations and has been the longest lived car model to bear the Vauxhall badge.

  62. There are 2 examples of Astra MK1’s at the British Car Journey visitor attraction. One is available to hire /drive on site. Still good looking cars to this day – especially the GTE

  63. The GTE offered the same thrills and quality as the Golf GTI, but with lower ownership costs. Even the 1300 Astra was a good drive, being capable of 100 mph and being a quiet car on long journeys. It was the car that moved Vauxhall forwards into a very successful eighties.

  64. Agreed Glenn – the 75bhp Astra MK1 got even better when the 1.6 90 bhp engine was added to the range. The GTE was like adding cream on the cake.

  65. Vauxhall has always been a tale of two companies: one making highly popular and decent cars like the Astra and Cavalier and the other making absolute junk like the Sintra. I will admit the current Stellantis cars look quite nice and the Corsa is never out of the top three best sellers, but the company is so hit and miss. The Mark 3 Cavalier was an excellent car with Germanic build quality and driving abilities, then it was followed by the Vectra, which was totally underwhelming and one of the most unreliable cars you could buy 25 years ago. At least in the last 25 years, Vauxhall’s arch rival Ford has been consistent and made cars that while not the best you can buy, aren’t lemons.

    • Vauxhall seemed to have a rough patch in the second half of the 1990s, with the Carlton, which my Dad considered his best over company car, replaced by the Omega, which he found underwhelming.

      The Mk4 Astra was OK if bland compared to the Ford Focus launched around the same time.

      The Signum as another oddball model launched a few years later, when things seemed to have been sorted out.

      • The Frontera was prone to serious reliability issues and seems to have vanished completely, while the Mark 1 Corsa was a miserable looking little car and the Omega was a poor replacement for the Carlton and Senator and not as well made. I reckon Vauxhall started to turn things round with the Zafira, second generation Vectra and Mark 4 Astra, and I always considered the Mokka to be a decent car.

  66. The Sintra was horrible, but so were many similar-era vehicles [if you want horrid look at the Pontiac Trans Sport or its successor the Aztek].

    At least the US versions in some cass had sensibly-big engines so they didn’t perform like a sloth who’d overdosed on Valium as soon as you hitched a trailer to the back.

    The Chrysler Voyager [as driven by Tony Blair in decades-past] did at least have a decent engine.

    Poor people needing a people-carrier in the UK bought a Vauxhall Zafira – but their tendency to turn into a five-seater baby-barbecue courtesy of the heater-fan-motor’s variable-speed circuit [despite several recalls, and a recall to fix the previous unsuccessful recall] led them to have a three-year tradein value about as good as last night’s curry-takeaway tray.

    Thankfully, the ‘people-carrier’ is now extinct, outside the likes of Addison-Lee airport-transfer cars. My local taxi-company has a bunch of Tesla Model-X [with the fold-out doors] as replacements for their old people-carriers.

    These days a Toyota Hilux or a Ford Ranger with a back-box seems to be the go-to for families with dogs/horses/boats to handle. Do it properly and you can get a seriously nice vehicle with serious VED- and BIK tax-advantages too. [the 3.2 Ranger is impressively fast!]

  67. Whenever the American multi-nationals have tried to sell domestic US vehicles in Europe its always been a disaster – Ford Probe/Cougar for example, or the full side Ford Explorer< You cant really blame GM for having a go with the Sintra. The market for people carriers in Europe was taking off, Opel/Vauxhall had taken their eye off the ball, but GM had an appropriately sized Chevvy they could rebadge and bring in from the US. It didnt work, but they wont have lost any money trying.

  68. The only people carrier I’ve travelled in recently was a Ford Galaxy, which must be one of the last you can buy as crossovers and SUVs have mostly made people carriers redundant. It probably would win an award for the most uncomfortable 21st century car I’ve travelled in as the seats were hard and thin and the suspension hard and noisy over bumps. Completely the opposite of the Xsara Picasso I used to travel in regularly in the late noughties that had really comfortable seats, a decent ride( even if it was conventionally sprung, unlike older Citroens) and that futuristic dashboard.

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