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What Car? says

2 out of 5 stars

For Cute looks and fun to drive

Against Everything’s just a little too wee

Verdict Not bad looking, and cheap to run, but too small

Go for… 1.4 manual

Avoid… 1.4 auto and 1.6

Vauxhall Tigra Coupe
  • 1. The cambelt needs changing every 40,000 miles - check it was done on time
  • 2. When test driving, check for steering wheel play and listen for knocks and thumps from the suspension
  • 3. Cabin is really a two-seater, as the rear seats are very cramped
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Vauxhall Tigra Coupe full review with expert trade views

Take a popular supermini, slap a sporty-looking body on it, and what have you got? The Vauxhall Tigra.

Back in 1994, this pint-sized coupe captured car buyers’ attentions and the car sold in healthy numbers.

Don't be fooled by those sporty looks and expect the Tigra to be that rapid, though – only 1.4- and 1.6-litre engines were available, with a maximum of 104bhp on tap. It's warm rather than hot and the ride is a little bumpy, but at least the handling is quite good.

Don't go thinking it's a real four-seater, either. Because head- and legroom are so restricted in the back, the Tigra is effectively a two-seater. Even in the front, things aren't that great - if you’re tall, you might find that headroom is limited. And, everyone will find rear visibility poor and think the cabin has a very snug feel.

Boot space is only just acceptable, but you can fold down the rear bench to create a larger luggage bay.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Modern hairdresser's car but practical and easy to resell. 1.4 best value

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

With only two engines available, there isn’t much choice. The 1.4 16v unit produces 89bhp, and the 1.6 16v gives 104bhp, but there isn’t much different in performance between the two, so the 1.4 is a better buy, as it's cheaper to run.

That said, steer clear of any 1.4 car fitted with the optional four-speed auto 'box as it doesn’t do anything for performance and dulls the overall drive. There was only a five-speed manual on the 1.6-litre.

When you're shopping, buy the latest car you can, especially one from after 1997, when Lotus tuned the suspension and improved the handling noticeably. What's more, throughout the car's life, the range was revised with ever-higher levels of kit as standard.

Finally, choose your colour carefully, as there were some unusual ones (such as a light metallic green) available when the car was new. These look strange today, so pick one that will ensure your car is easy to sell on for a good price.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Prices on the increase even though more coming onto the market

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The Tirga is based on the Corsa, so parts availability isn't a problem, and, while Vauxhall dealers are plentiful and good value, an independent garage will be even cheaper. Service intervals are every 9000 miles on pre-’95 cars, and every 10,000 for those built after - pretty much par for the course.

Regular running costs aren't bad for a coupe. The 1.4-litre has an insurance grouping of 10, compared with the 1.6-litre’s 13, so it’ll be noticeably cheaper to insure. Fuel economy is good, too, with the 1.4 returning 36.8mpg and the 1.6 36.0mpg. The automatic manages 34.0mpg.

Buy the right car, and you shouldn't have to spend too much on unscheduled repairs. Warranty Direct puts the Tigra towards the middle of the sports car reliability table - but below the Tigra's biggest rival, the Ford Puma - with roughly 30% of all cars needing attention. The engine and axle and suspension produce the most claims, though, and these can be expensive to fix.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Modern hairdresser's car but practical and easy to resell. 1.4 best value

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

The Tigra gained a reputation for unreliability. There are problems with the electrics, engine, suspension and brakes

So, your first priority should be to look for a full service history, as it shows the car has been cared for and should ward off one major headache, head gasket problems. Look for sludge on the inside of the oil filler cap, too; as long as there's none there, you should be fine. The cambelt also needs changing every 40,000 miles, so check when it was last done.

When test driving, check for steering wheel play and listen for knocks and thumps from the suspension. Also look at the tyres for uneven wear – this could also indicate suspension issues.

Check all switches and control work correctly and inspect the boot because the tailgate has a habit of leaking.

Finally, there were a number of safety recalls on the Tirga, so check with the servicing dealer to make sure the work has been done.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Prices on the increase even though more coming onto the market

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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