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A Grand Monday: Vauxhall Vectra

Published 28 November 2016

It was the car that Jeremy Clarkson famously refused to drive. A model that, in his view, was so devoid of character that even Vauxhall's own PR department turned in desperation to its aerodynamic door mirrors just to give them something to write about, while in the process unfortunately drawing journalists' attention to the fact that, while they may have been slippery and streamlined, the mirrors weren't actually any use for seeing what was coming up behind you. And given the main role of a door mirror, that's admittedly a tad unfortunate.

But while Clarkson and many of the media were cruel to the Vectra when new, time has been a little kinder. Today, it still looks quite modern, while its 'wider, fatter, lower Cavalier' proportions were always reasonably smart, especially in the higher trim levels.

What's more, Mk1 Vectras are now starting to get very rare indeed. Like all everyday fleet and family cars, the attrition rate is such that a model once seen on practically every street corner is now capable of turning the odd head - and ours were turned when we saw this 1999 Vauxhall Vectra 2.0i 16v GLS for sale.

In spec terms, it's nothing overly special, but it's quite a nice one. No GSi or V6, but the GLS was the poshest non-executive or sporty trim level, with plush velour trim, climate control, cruise control and a multi-function steering wheel. Back in 1995, this was big news.

GM Vectra 3

What makes this one worth grabbing, though, is its pedigree. It has covered just 41,000 miles, and has had just one elderly owner from new. Rather than spend its life being thrashed up and down motorways, or acquiring sticky stains on the school run, it has had a mollycoddled existence. And as a result, there can't be many Mk1 Vectras left in as good condition.

For a few quid short of a grand (and we reckon there's room to haggle) this is one of those cars that, if you buy now, will be something of a curio in the really quite near future. If you look at the sudden surge in interest in models such as the Ford Sierra, Rover 800 and Vauxhall's own Cavalier in the past couple of years, buying this now could well be perfect timing.

And despite what Clarkson said, they're not that bad. No, really - they're not.


Mattymatty    on 29 November 2016

Great article. Though the UK "mk1" is actually the "mk2". The cavalier mk3 being the vec mk1. Bound to confuse our European guests!

Christopher Baglin    on 1 December 2016

I seem to remember a light pressure diesel version of the very early Vauxhall Vectras, think it was called a Di, that I used to deliver when I had a 'job on the side' back in the mid '90s for a nationally well-known car hire company.

It actually drove quite well. Far, far better than the contemporary 'understeer at any speed' first-generation Vauxhall Corsa. More recent Corsas aren't exactly anything to write home about, but can't really be called bad cars.

The Vectra was vastly superior to one contemporary, the supposedly 'European' biased Toyota Carina E- the only concession to European tastes apparently being that the indicator stalk was on the left! Otherwise, an underwhelming chassis seemingly fitted with wooden tyres (such were their lack of grip), 'letterbox vision' out of their rear window, and general lack of charisma, really only commended the car to minicab drivers grimly determined to seek out extra-terrestrial mileages before being medically retired due to terminal boredom.

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