General Motors Europe has invested around £700 million ($US1 billion) in building its all-new mid-sized (by European standards) Vectra which will eventually wend its way onto various world markets with Opel, Vauxhall, Holden and Chevrolet badges.
Like its key rival, Ford’s Mondeo, the new GM volume-seller is larger and better equipped than its predecessor with a cabin apparently built with materials of a much higher standard.
However, just-auto has yet to see a car ‘in the metal’ as GM’s UK arm excluded us from last week’s international press launch.
What is apparent from a press kit, though, is GME’s determination to avoid the early quality and driving dynamics glitches that blighted the previous model, though a good car did eventually emerge after appropriate tweaking.
The new model is stylish and looks like a quality machine, and it will need to make that impression in showrooms to win out against the Mondeo, out about a year now, and the VW Passat, which dates back to 1997 but was recently mildly restyled.
The new Vectra has 1.8 and 2.2-litre four cylinder petrol engines, a 3.2-litre petrol V6 and two and 2.2-litre turbodiesels, all familiar from previous GME models. Five-speed manual will be the preferred transmission of most Eurobuyers but there is also a new five-speed automatic option which earns additional points for also being available with the 2.2-litre turbodiesel. A ‘six-speed’ CVT will be offered with the 1.8 from next autumn.
Following its international debut at next month’s Geneva show, LHD Russelsheim-built saloon sales start almost immediately with hatchback production starting at Ellesmere Port in the UK in April. RHD sales start in the UK, where the Vectra sold 85 percent to fleets last year, in May.
A long wheelbase luxury Signum version, which is a taller, SUV lookalike, and an estate car (station wagon) follow next year.
Opel has followed the VW and Ford approach to a classy-looking interior by using additional soft-touch materials and chromed door handles, handbrake and gear lever. There’s also wood, with less of a fake, after-thought appearance than in the previous Vectra or a now-fashionable titanium/chrome-look alternative.
However, equipment levels don’t appear to set any new standards and there are no cabin innovations of note – this appears to be a catch-up car.
That’s not to deride, for instance, the addition of electric closing assistance for doors and tailgate, but we have seen such items before on other makers’ cars.
Opel has however introduced Interactive Driving System (IDS), a “complex electronic management system which connects the control and safety functions of individual chassis components”. In other words, it links the new electro-hydraulic steering, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, cornering brake control, traction control and brake assist. Electronic stability control is standard on top models and optional lower down.
Suspension remains MacPherson strut in front with redesigned four-link rear axle.
An initial thought is that this new Opel would make a fine Chevy Cavalier or Saturn L-series replacement in the USA. For miminal investment. But we understand this has been ruled out and only the Vectra’s new Epsilon platform will be used as the basis for more home-grown products.