Frank Wilksen is a veteran of the Broom editorial team. He has worked as an automotive journalist for over 50 years and tested a large number of cars both at home and abroad.
He remembers some cars better than others. Now Frank shares the memories with all of Broom’s readers. This time around the station wagon Opel Vectra in the 2002 version.
It wasn’t without reason that there were some comments when I embarked on a long-distance test of Opel’s updated Vectra station wagon in the early 2000s. “Did you get a new old man’s car?” He was among the regulars, the somewhat condescending phenomenon of the “man in the hat” was also mentioned.
Not necessarily because there were a lot of bugs in the car, but it was clear that Opel was struggling with sales and image at the time. Much of the reason behind this was the range of models that looked a bit outdated and without the necessary renovations.
Didn’t help much
One of the things I wanted to find out with the new Vectra station wagon – the Combi – was whether Opel was still better than its somewhat “cheesy” reputation. Admittedly, the new model received a positive reception when it was introduced in 2002, but significant sales numbers did not materialize.
I thought at the time that the car was “one of the most attractive station wagons on the market, and a must-have for when the family wants a new car. Not many in this class can match the combination of price, equipment, space and driving characteristics.” It didn’t help much, because most people still prefer to own a Passat, Avensis or Mondeo.
At first glance, the station wagon Vectra didn’t look very large, but it can be deceiving. The car was actually 4.84m in length, and when the back seat was folded down, it was a full 2.04m to walk to the backs of the front seat!
If you choose the option to fold the front seat forward – which was offered as a bonus – you can take really long things into the car.
The luggage compartment initially swallows 530 liters, and if you use the space to the maximum with the rear seat folded down, you can get up to 1,850 liters.
Large luggage space also did not come at the expense of back seat passengers, who have plenty of room. Legroom and headroom were good, and a massive 2.83m wheelbase meant no space-consuming wheel arches stealing space in width.
The car was also practical. For the Vectra, Opel introduced a separate system to make the most of the luggage compartment. FlexOrganizer has adapted the cargo area around all kinds of objects, whether small or large, robust or delicate, with longitudinal rails in the side walls and a selection of custom-made components.
Moreover, the car had an electrically operated tailgate that could be stopped in any intermediate position with the push of a button. This was standard equipment only on the top-of-the-line Cosmo model, but it can also be offered on the Elegance and Sport.
In summarizing after 18,000 kilometers with the Vectra Combi, I can say that “Opel did a good job with the seats in the Vectra. The driver’s seat was very pleasant. The back is high and provides good support in the right places, the seat cushion is long enough and well-designed to provide proper support from the side Also. A big plus is that the cushion angle can be adjusted independently of the seat height, making it much easier to find the perfect position.”
Navigation and phone
The driver’s seat consistently got good marks. The car has large, good outside mirrors and a very efficient electronically controlled two-zone air conditioning system.
Like more and more other models, the Opel Vectra also had a multifunction steering wheel. From here I can control both the radio/CD player, the trip computer, the navigation and the phone.
Undercarriage that impresses
It was also clear that I enjoyed driving the Vectra to read in my final report: “There is not much to complain about the Vectra even on the road, on the contrary. The car combines very good and safe driving characteristics with comfort well above average. This is due, among other things. Others, to the long wheelbase, independent suspension with for example four support arms for each rear wheel, electro-hydraulic steering adapts not only to speed, but also to driving conditions.
ESP with anti-roll brake (TC), ABS, cornering brake control (CBC), electronic brake force distribution and brake assist are also part of the chassis that is practically impressive.”
Gasoline – or diesel
At this time, electric cars were not a topic in Norway. It wasn’t until nearly ten years later that the blue light gradually turned on for fossil engines. This meant that the Vectra customer had to choose between petrol or diesel engines, and the choices were plenty.
The car was produced with a total of five different petrol engines, from a 1.8-liter 122 hp to a 211 hp V6. In addition, customers can choose between diesel engines with 100, 120 or 177 hp. Not all of these engines came to Norway. Here on the mountain, 1.8 liters of 122 hp gasoline or 1.9 liters of 120 hp diesel were the most popular options.
0-100: 11.9 seconds
For my part, it was about a 120-horsepower diesel engine. It was a good alternative in many ways. Traction was good, with a maximum torque of 280 Nm from 2,000 to 2,750 revs, and it delivered a definitely respectable performance for its time – top speed of 195 km/h and acceleration 0-100 km/h in 11.9 seconds.
In particular, the latter is unlikely to impress many people in our electric age, where most family cars race for less than 5-6 seconds in the same acceleration test!
flexible and willing
A very important argument for Opel diesel was depreciation. The factory’s claim was that the car should make do with 0.47 liters per mile on country roads, and 0.59 in mixed driving. My own experience has been several long distance trips just below the factory number – down to 0.45 on a trip to Trondheim in the summer. With mixed driving, I was consistently above Opel numbers, for the entire period that varied from approx. 0.62 to 0.65 l/ml.
Overall, the engine made a good impression – reasonably agile, smooth and willing when accelerating through gears.
Safety was also at this time a high priority topic for all car manufacturers. Opel has confirmed that the Vectra keeps up well with the requirements. The car had eight airbags, active head restraints in the front, pedals that are released in the event of a collision, adaptive brake lights and an outside temperature gauge with snow warning were some of the highlights.
Adaptive bi-xenon headlights (AFL) can be offered as an option. “This is an excellent lighting system, which in our opinion is worth the relatively high price premium (9200 on Vectra Elegance and 7200 on Cosmo and Sport).”
After half a year of living together, my conclusion is that the Vectra has impressed: “What was once a fairly spacious station wagon in the middle class, today is literally a pure spacecraft. Otherwise, the car makes a very complete impression without obvious weaknesses, And it firmly asserts that Opel will fight in this segment.
Not least for families with young children, a station wagon is a very good option, and with many models under 300,000, the vehicle is also competitively priced.”
Briefly about the Opel Vectra 1.9 CDTI Elegance station wagon 2003/2004:
Engine: 1.9 liter diesel, 4-cylinder, common-shaft. 120 hp v/3500-4000 rpm. the above. Torque 280 Nm volts / 2000-2750 rpm.
Driving: front wheel drive, 6-speed manual gearbox. Electronic stability program with counter rotation.
Steering: rack and pinion, electro-hydraulic steering adapts to speed and driving conditions.
Brakes: Anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution, cornering brake control and brake assist. Discs on all wheels, ventilated front.
Length x width x height: 4839 x 1798 x 1500 mm.
Wheelbase: 2830 mm
Turning radius, berth: 5.6m
Loading height: 608 mm
Net weight with driver: 1470 kg
Gross weight allowed: 2005 kg
Payload: 535 kg
Top speed: 195 km/h
Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h: 11.9 seconds
Diesel consumption, city/highway/mixed driving: 0.76/0.49/0.59 l/mile.
Price, Vectra 1.9 CDTI Elegance station wagon: from NOK 338200 NOK
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