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Road Tests

New Holden Vectra goes up-market

The Vectra saloon

Class topping 3.2-litre V6 with 157kW

The Vectra hatch-back

On 16-inch wheels, the hatch looks great

Inside and out, the Vectra impresses

After a few years with the current crop of Vectras, GM has decided its time to update the ageing model with something a little more dynamic. Opel, the European arm of the General, has released some new info on the upcoming Vectra, which will be sold on local turf under Holden badging towards the end of 2002, around October.

So, what does the new Vectra have to offer potential customers? Well, quite a lot, by the looks of things...

The new Vectra has moved upmarket, a place it should have been in a long time ago. Anyway, the new model is based on the same Epsilon platform of the 2002 Saab 9-3. Now, this doesn't mean instant luxury, but it wil contribute to that Euro-style handling and ride that many are keen to experience.

More than anything else though, the new Vectra points towards the new-look that Opel is slowly introducing to all its models.

The 2002 model Vectra is undeniably Euro, with bold lines giving it a modernistic look. The new headlight cluster is also very pleasing and the only solid resemblance to the older models are the taillights. The overall look is nicely balanced, confident and more upmarket than the previous model.

It seems as though there's a small amount of intent present in the new Vectra too, with mild but purposefully flared wheel arches, slight side-skirts and low frontal spotlights. While only small cosmetic features, together they add a more purposeful look to the already pleasing '02 Vectra.

This new third-generation model is also larger than its precursor, adding some 60mm to the wheelbase and increasing the roof height by 52mm. As such, it also offers more interior room than the outgoing model, something mid-size cars need plenty of to avoid being dropped down to a small car segment.

Available in two styles - a four door saloon or a five door hatchback - the new Vectra is substantially sexier than its predecessor. Inside, potential buyers can opt for the luxury leather trim, satellite navigation and cruise control.

Together with larger dimensions and the new styling cues, the Vectra is also more aerodynamic and better at damping outside sounds than previous models. With a drag coefficient of 0.28, it complements the sophisticated sound attenuation measures that help drastically reduce all outside sound, including tyre and road noise.

Not to be outdone by its Germanic counterparts, Opel has fitted the Vectra with all sorts of useful technology. Taking advantage of an IDS (interactive driving system), the Vectra is surprisingly well-equipped. With electro-hydraulic power steering, a new multi-link rear-axel and through the use of lightweight aluminium materials, the new Vectra is aimed at providing the driver with improved handling and and a more precise ride.

Aiding the driver during poor conditions is a new active safety feature, dubbed ESPPlus. In essence, this ESP reduces wheelspin and loss of traction in all four wheels and is the first time such a system has been included on the Vectra.

ESPPlus works a little differently from your more orthodox traction control systems. Instead of applying brakes to one rear wheel, on the inside of the corner, akin to more conventional systems, Opel's new system can apply auto-brake force to up to three wheels at a time, ensuring the stability corrections are more progressive.

Other notable features include front, side and full-size curtain head airbags as standard, an integrated electronics system involving intelligent climate control, navigation systems, eight-way adjustable driver and passenger seats, even an automatic rain sensor that switches on the windscreen wipers.

A number of engines will be available to the Vectra, with more coming in the two year lifespan planned for the car. While the Europeans will get four engines to choose from, the two diesel mills aren't as likely to make to the voyage to Australia. Instead, you'll get to choose between a 1.8 and 2.2-litre Ecotec engines. There is also word of a newer and much larger six-cylinder engine making the cut.

Update: News just in. The new Vectra will, in fact, be available with a 3.2-litre V6, pushing some 157kW. The V6 engine is being packaged with the 'GTS Vectra' model in Europe and creates an astonishing 300Nm of torque. End.

While the two four-cylinder engines will be great for fuel economy, we feel Holden would be unwise not to include something that would add a little more character. It's Euro-rivals have the advantage of turbocharged engines, but as this isn't an avenue Opel (and Holden) normally travels, the chances of it happening are slim.

For a car that was the number one selling car in Europe in the mid-car segment in 1996, 1997, and 1998, the new Vectra has a solid base to work from and with its undeniable good looks (which easily eclipse the previous model) Opel and Holden could very well have found a big-seller in the mid-size market.

The 2002 Vectra will make its official premiere in March at the 2002 Geneva Motor Show, soon after which the car will be sold across European territories.

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