What's the used Vauxhall Vectra hatchback like?
It's a practical family hatch, built to please company fleet bosses, so it's tough, simple to fix and cheap to own. However, it is also dull to look at, sit in or drive.
The steering column doesn't adjust on the oldest models, so making yourself comfortable can prove tricky, but height adjustment came in from 1997. There's plenty of space up front and generous stowage - including a big boot - but headroom is restricted in the back.
Mid-'90s cars felt stodgy to drive even when new, with steering that gave little feedback and brakes that weren't progressive enough. The ride at town speeds is jittery, too, although it calms down at motorway speeds. However, face-lifted cars from 1999 onwards felt livelier. They were more generously equipped, too.
The car gained three stars from Euro NCAP for occupant safety, which is good for its era.
Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used Vauxhall Vectra hatchback?
Warranty Direct points to suspension and electrical system as causing the most trouble, and repair costs are higher than for some rivals.
Early Vectras suffered badly with wonky suspension and leaking coolant. Some rust badly, too - check under rear wheelarches. Face-lifted ones fare better all round, but knocking sounds from the engine or gearbox still signal potential expense, while squeals under the bonnet signal a dodgy water pump, but this isn't too pricey to fix.
Check the air-con units, as they're likely to fail and are expensive to fix. And, make sure the clutch is in full working order, as replacing it is a lengthy and complicated job; the parts are cheap, but the labour bill will be nasty.
The other major worry is that the cambelt will snap and wreck the engine. Vauxhall halved the recommended change interval to 40,000 miles and it's vital this is stuck to.
What are the most common problems with a used Vauxhall Vectra hatchback?
Is a used Vauxhall Vectra hatchback reliable?
What used Vauxhall Vectra hatchback will I get for my budget?
How much does it cost to run a Vauxhall Vectra hatchback?
The Vectra's greatest asset is that it is cheap to buy and straightforward to service, while spares are generally low-priced. Previous owners will have taken the biggest hits on depreciation and any loss in value from here on in promise to be kinder.
Repairs will be more frequent as the car ages, but using a local garage helps keep bills sensible. However, clutches and air-con faults can hit your wallet hard.
Insurance groups run from groups 6-16, which is pretty much par for the course for this kind of car. The most popular 1.8s sit in group 9 and the 2.2 petrols in group 11.
Economy is a strong point: expect close to 40mpg from 1.8s, a touch less from the 2.2 petrol and 40mpg or more from the 2.2 turbodiesel. The 2.6 V6, meanwhile, struggles to get above 20mpg.
Which used Vauxhall Vectra hatchback should I buy?
Buy a face-lifted car from 1999 onwards. These have a much better drive, as well as higher cabin quality and specification. Engines range from a weedy 1.6 petrol to a 2.5 V6, with some drab diesels in between.
Stick with the 1.8, 2.0 or 2.2 petrol engines, and preferably the largest of the three, which is smooth, responsive and not too thirsty. The 2.0-litre diesels are slow and gruff, but the 2.2 version is adequate.
Trim levels run from Envoy, LX and CD to CDX. The sporty models are SXi and SRi. Go for a face-lifted car (T-reg or newer) and LX has all you'd want, including remote locking, electric windows, twin airbags, anti-lock brakes and air conditioning. Move to CD for plusher trim and climate control, while CDX adds leather seats, a CD changer and a trip computer.
Our pick is a 2.2 LX or SXi, the newer the better. And, go for a hatchback, not the saloon - it's more useful.
Buy from a trusted independent dealer - preferably one that sells plenty of Vectras.