Recently we have been debating Opel and Vauxhall. The general consensus is not that good for a brand fielding its best products since the last lot of good products…
…which, if you think about it, it is pretty much most of their cars with one very debatable model and one not debatable model. For reasons known only to Opel and Vauxhall’s marketing staff, Opel have been tarred with a Clarkson-shaped brush. Good old Sir Jeremy, now Lord, Clarkson, saw fit to damn the Vectra “B” because it wasn’t an Alfa Romeo, Porsche or BMW M3 but happened to suit the needs of regular motorists.
In so doing he seemed to crystallise a lot of bad will that had formed around Vauxhall, bad will that I feel was probably mostly grounded in some lingering class war. I agree that the Vectra “B” lacked a lot of excitement. However, other car makers have offered cars which lacked a lot of excitement and, today, still do but without being on the receiving end of what I can only call knee-jerk vilification.
The candidates are now presented….
The Escort of 1990.
The 2010 Citroen C4.
The 1995 Mercedes W210.
The 1995 Nissa Almera.
The 1981 Renault 9/11 duo (here’s an 11).
Each of these cars is some form of mediocrity and even allowing that the Vectra B is on the same level, the five companies responsible for the stars shining above this text don’t generate the same level of oppobrium.
About the 1990 Ford Escort, Honest John says, “The 1990 original was a deadly dull and deeply cynical car, dreadful unassisted steering, rust kills them off.” Since then Ford have fielded not a few duds, some less fairly judged than others (the Fusion got a kicking it didn’t deserve) but recent cars are not that inspired.
About the C4, Honest John says: “Array of warning chimes can be annoying. Relatively crude suspension not in the same class as the Focus or Golf. EGS ‘automatic’ takes getting used to.” HJ calls the styling neat. I call it garbled and over-wrought and the craftsmanship was shoddy. I reviewed the 2015 version and forgot I did so until now. Citroen is possibly one of the most persistently disappointing brands. There have been exceptions. The C6 is an honourable attempt in recent times. The rest is mediocrity plus airbumps. They sell very well though, being now a Skoda/Volvo/Hillman sort of brand (I was thinking 340 more than 240 and 740 there).
About the W210 Mercedes, Honest John says: “Severe, catastrophic rust problem, body and structure; even brake pipes and fuel delivery lines.” If nobody really expected excitement from Opel/Vauxhall, everyone expected quality from MB and this repellent car under-delivered hugely. MB continue to market a very variable range of cars. All forgiven though. One simply never hears much about this lump except maybe from DTW.
About the Renaults 9 and 11, Honest John says: “After decades of flamboyance, this was a step too far towards boring conformity for Renault, and its lack of fans bears testament to this.” Today Renault hardly stands out. While on the styling front they are doing some interesting things, none of them are driver’s cars and none innovate in terms of engineering. Nothing wrong with that; it sells cars.
About the Almera, Honest John says: “A Focus, Leon or Corolla of the same age is nicer to drive, especially on a twisty road.” On balance, despite the neat design, I consider it a wasted effort, one among many from Nissan at that time.
For the sake of balance, Honest John says this about the Vectra B: “Lacklustre handling, fares badly in reliability surveys and can suffer from a long list of mechanical problems.” That puts the car in the middle of this pack though some owners find reliability has been okay. The RAC says this: “As a used buy, however, the Vectra range makes a lot of sense. The large range, proven mechanicals and of course, Vauxhall’s extensive dealer network all add up to sensible, low cost family motoring.”
In the end, the Vectra is just a car and Opel only a car company. The bigger point is about what we know and what we think. I laboured for a long time under the misapprehension that motoring scribes were reliable sources of opinion and absorbed a lot of their biases. At one point those same same scribes rather liked Opel. I have a wad of favourable articles about the Senator, Monza and Ascona.
Then, when I can’t say, “it’s just a Vauxhall” began being the standard position. And that was, for a long time, my own view. My experience of the cars changed in the last few years having driven most of their range and having applied a fresh look to the much-maligned Astra F. All I would like to do is to get readers to question what they read (apart from this article, of course) and try to find other bits of received wisdom that are not founded on enough evidence.
I’ve made my point about Opel. Are there other makes or models which might be re-evaluated up or down? Over to you…