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Motor Max: Roadtest: Vectra puts on the style; Ellesmere Port's new stunner gives rivals lots to worry about.

Byline: MIKE TORPEY

SO HERE it is. The new, ``driver-focused'' Vauxhall Vectra hatchback that will go head-to-head with Ford's Mondeo for fleet sales.

If the bigwigs at the Blue Oval have experienced some tremors in the tummy area then they can be excused, because the latest Vauxhall is a formidable adversary.

On looks at least, this product of the Ellesmere Port factory is some stunner. Not only does it look an altogether sleeker car than its saloon sibling, but it carries more style than the Mondeo.

Those familiar with previous Vectra models will really notice the difference. Better equipment and more attractive options may be standard fare for next generation cars from most manufacturers, but in the Vectra's case there's appreciably more space too - half a size to be precise.

While the interior looks a bit drab and feels more functional than attractive, there's no doubting either the quality or accessible placing of the switches.

The hatch lifts high, has a low lip for ease of loading and can accommodate easily as much clobber as its principal rivals.

And in common with most cars in this category, space for four is excellent for head, leg and elbow room, but poor and uncomfortable for a centre rear passenger.

New Vectra comes in six different trim levels and with a choice of five engines - two of them oil burners.

The test car's more powerful of the diesels, a 125bhp turbocharged unit, really does the business. Once on the move you would never know this wasn't a petrol powered car.

It's quick, has terrific pulling power from low revs, yet will return around 43mpg if driven sensibly.

But the greatest strides are with the Vectra's handling. High speed stability is first class, roadholding excellent, ride quality supple and steering feedback nicely positive.

The only disappointment on the test car, and to be fair it was a preproduction model with 3,400 miles on the clock, was that the gearchange felt excessively loose.

Otherwise it was a car that thousands of motorway munchers are going to enjoy. Prices start at a competitive pounds 14,645 for the 1.8i LS model, though if you want a 2.2 DTi Elite - which is admittedly loaded with kit - the tab hits pounds 20,300.

And just a few miles from the Vectra's new home, entry level Jaguar X-Types are being produced for pounds 350 less than that.

spec check

MAKE: Vauxhall

MODEL: Vectra 2.2 DTi Elite hatchback ENGINE: 2,172cc 16v

ECOTEC-4 diesel POWER: 125bhp at 4,000rpm

PERFORMANCE: 0-60 in 9.8 secs, top speed 128mph

ECONOMY: 32.5mpg Urban, 54.3 Extra Urban, 43.5 Combined

INSURANCE: Group 9 PRICE: pounds 20,300 on the road

SHESAYSIF the badge had been covered up I would have said it was a Mercedes or Audi - that's how solid and well made the new Vectra feels.

HE SAYSAT LAST, a family car with really striking looks. And the blend of power with economy from this engine takes some beating too.

WHAT'S HOT: Bigger, betterequipped and more stylish than its predecessor; refined diesel engine.

WHAT'S NOT: Drab dash and fascia; sloppy gearshift; high price of test model.

MAIN RIVALS: Ford Mondeo,Nissan Primera, Renault Laguna, Volkswagen Passat.

RATINGS

LOOKS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 EQUIPMENT . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 RIDE & HANDLING . . . . . . . . . 5 PERFORMANCE . . . . . . . . . . .4 VALUE FOR MONEY . . . . . . . . 3

CAPTION(S):

STUNNER: The new Vectra is more stylish than its main rivals, with excellent space for four and first class handling. Overall, a genuinely first class package; FUNCTIONAL: The interior looks a little drab, but the switches are of good quality
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 19, 2002
Words:596
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