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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For You get supercar looks, performance and handling - but at small hatch prices

Against The hood is not 100% weatherproof, and getting in and out can be tricky

Verdict A superb sports car at affordable prices

Go for… VX Turbo

Avoid… None

Vauxhall VX220 Open
  • 1. Look for signs of track-day (ab)use, such as plenty of brake pad changes in the service file
  • 2. Look for signs of damp in the cabin, because the hood can leak
  • 3. The standard VX's performance is sensational, but the Turbo can take on the very best performance cars
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Vauxhall VX220 Open full review with expert trade views

The Vauxhall VX220 is too extreme to be a rival for the Mazda MX-5 or Toyota MR2, so its natural competitor is the car that shares its chassis, the Lotus Elise. Unlike most contemporary Elises, however, the VX comes with anti-lock brakes and a driver's airbag as standard.

It has a choice of two engines - a 145bhp 2.2- or 197bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged unit - and basically you're choosing from fast or very fast. The standard VX's performance is sensational, but the Turbo can take on the very best high-performance cars.

The VX's light weight means there's no turbo lag to worry about, either. Instead, there's just instant power coupled to brilliant handling.

Both versions of the car go round corners superbly, and the driver is rewarded with phenomenal sensitivity through the steering wheel and other controls. There's no power-assisted steering, but the VX doesn't need it, even at parking speeds. The five-speed gearbox used is precise and keeps the engines singing.

What's more of a surprise is that, despite its sporty feel, it also has a supple ride that takes care of comfort. The only word of caution is that getting in and out of a VX is an acquired skill.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Just a toy really, something for the weekend. Values unsteady

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

We'd recommend either model, but if your budget can stretch to the Turbo, do so. It has the same delightfully balanced chassis and handling as the 2.2-litre model, but considerably more power (197bhp v 145bhp), so it's that bit quicker.

That said, the 2.2-litre model is not far behind the Turbo - it still makes a brilliant choice, and it's easier to live with than its contemporary Lotus rival, the Elise.

Most VXs will have been specified with leather seats, which are worth having, and an upgraded CD stereo, which becomes redundant at speeds beyond 60mph due to wind noise.

A hard top is a desirable option and makes the VX more winter-proof, although it can squeak and creak. There was also a special edition Lightning model (finished in yellow with black wheels), but don't pay any extra for it.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Vauxhall badge means low prices, VXR Turbo easy to retail

James Ruppert
Used car guru

For such a specialised and focused sports car, the Vauxhall VX220 is amazingly easy on the wallet, thanks to enjoying the same labour rates as a Vauxhall Corsa. The only difficulty is that you will have to find a Vauxhall dealer that has a VX-trained mechanic or track down an independent specialist. Either way, you'll need to visit them every 10,000 miles.

Insurance is affordable for a car with such performance and the car's light weight means that fuel economy of 30mpg is easily attainable in daily driving, although the small fuel tank means you won't go far between visits to the petrol station.

The tyres on a VX are peculiar to that model because of their unusual sizes - the front ones are quite narrow for a performance car. So, when you're looking at a potential purchase, make sure its tyres have plenty of tread, or you could be facing a steep bill for a full set of replacements.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Just a toy really, something for the weekend. Values unsteady

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

Check the tyres of any VX carefully to make sure the wear is even. If it's not, the car may have been crashed or the wheels bashed on kerbs. Also look for signs of track-day use, such as plenty of brake pad changes in the service file. There were some reports of collapsing suspension on early VX models, but this has not proved to be a common problem.

Look for damp in the cabin, because the hood leaks and water can leave a musty smell if it's not mopped up immediately. The seats can work loose on their mountings and rock very slightly, too, so make sure they are securely fixed.

The engines are tough customers, but ensure there is plenty of coolant in the water, because the radiator is up front and the engines can become very hot in slow traffic. On a test drive, try to leave the car running for long enough to check that the automatic cooling fan cuts in as it should.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Vauxhall badge means low prices, VXR Turbo easy to retail

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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