new Vectra is big news in Europe and Opel is pinning its hopes on this
model to revive its fortunes on the continent where it is expected to
sell by the thousands in Europe's demanding 'mid-size' car market.
The Vectra to Europeans is what a Corsa is to Indians. So by Indian standards,
the Vectra is a luxury car and when GM India launch it in India this September,
it will fall squarely in the D-segment against the likes of the Mondeo,
Accord and Sonata in the sub-Rs 20 lakh bracket.
The new Vectra is a huge improvement over its predecessor which was routinely
castigated by the international press for being too lacklustre. This and
the fact that more accomplished rivals like the Mondeo were trouncing
it in Europe forced Opel to seriously up its ante. The result after many
years and billions of Euros on development is a car that promises to set
the benchmark in its class. So what does the new Vectra bring to the party?
quite a handsome thing in steel, even when parked next to its rivals.
The flared and creased wheel arches and strong waistline, which folds
down around the front wheel, echo the Mondeo. The rear end owes much to
the Astra coupe and cabriolet with its jewel-effect tail-lamps and distinguished
strip of chrome. The overall effect is handsome and the car has presence,
aided by the pretty distinctive headlamps.
The Vectra's steel monocoque is based on GM's new Epsilon platform. It
is bigger than the outgoing Vectra's in every dimension and claims 76
per cent better rigidity to the benefit of handling, refinement and crash
performance. To minimise the consequent weight gain, seven per cent of
the sheet metal is
aluminium and magnesium is also extensively used.
Climb inside the Vectra and things get better. The interiors have an air
of quality that is difficult to beat. Firstly, the grade of plastics,
with their soft-feel and rich grain feels like it's been borrowed from
a limo. The fit and finish of everything is just superb. The way the vents
scroll up and down, the tactile feel of the switches which are placed
just where you want them, and the damped gliding action with which everything
opens, sends signals to the brain that everything smacks of quality.
The long wheelbase has been translated into good interior space and the
Vectra is pretty spacious. Width however is not as generous as the Accord's
and legroom a touch down on the Mondeo as per a subjective evaluation.
Owners (most of whom will be chauffeur-driven) will find that the rear
seats are one of the most comfortable around. Apart from the wide opening
doors which makes getting in and out easy, the hip point or 'H-point'
is set pretty high. The seats are a bit on the firm side and you don't
sink into the leather bench but slide on to it. The front seats are again
extremely generous and it is easy to find a comfortable position, thanks
to the multi-axis adjuster and a steering wheel that adjusts for both
reach and rake.
Ergonomically, the Vectra is spot-on except for some irritatingly designed
switchgear. Opel chose the Vectra to re-invent the turning indicators.
There are no positive clicks left or right. Instead, you simply dab the
stalk naturally, the indicator blinks until cancelled - this is the tricky
part. To cancel the indicator, you merely prod the indicator in the other
direction but you invariably tend to overdo it and start indicating that
you're going the other way.
Following other test Vectras and watching their blinkers do a jig left
to right, it was obvious others has the same problem. The switchgear pod
for the electric mirrors and power windows is another confusing design.
A pair of buttons share the operation of the front and rear windows via
a sliding collar switch which has to be set for 'front' or 'rear.' Opel
say that customers will get used to these design features and sure enough
by the end of the two-day test drive in the Costa Brava region around
Barcelona, most journalists had learned how to control the offending turn