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Vauxhall Vectra CD 1.8i 16v 4-door Saloon

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      04.12.2000 20:52
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      Dull to look at, dreary to sit in and depressing to drive, Vauxhall's first take on the Vectra compounded its sins by coming bottom in the 1998 JD Power customer satisfaction survey. But an early-1999 revamp corrected most of the ailing rep-mobile's flaws, finally making the Vectra a plausible alternative to the Mondeo and 406. It's still dull to look at, though. Despite much talk of body-colour this, chrome that and 20% brighter the other, the new Vectra is virtually indistinguishable from the old. Take your eye off it for a moment and it'll be lost in the motorway mire of Primeras and Avensises. And it's still dreary to sit in. There's now a choice of three interior colour-schemes - beige joins the funereal black and grey options - but the dash is uninspired and the seats too short. The steering wheel still only adjusts for rake, not reach, so finding a comfortable driving position can be tricky. And the ergonomics aren't great, with electric window switches on the centre console and the optional sat-nav practically on the floor. But the ride and handling are transformed. Retuned suspension means the Vectra is now as happy off the motorway as on it. It tackles twisty A-roads with the best of them, that rubbery numbness banished from the steering. And the engines, already the Vectra's strong point, are now even better. The new 1.8-litre Ecotec unit revs with tremendous enthusiasm, and the 2.0-litre is deliciously smooth. All that remains to be seen is whether the revitalised Vectra is as pleasant a car to own as it is to drive. It certainly feels as well screwed together as any of its rivals, and nothing dropped off ours. So if your fleet manager hands you the keys to a new Vectra, you no longer have cause to grimmace.

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