Their Eyes Met Through Glanmire’s Mist

It is only twenty years since the world’s press welcomed the Opel Vectra C. We consider it again today.

Opel Vectra C

The Vectra C made its public debut at the 2002 Geneva Salon. The styling continued the themes of the 1999 Opel Astra G and so managed to form the heart of a range of crisply styled Opels that included the 2003 Meriva (a jewel of a car) and the 2004 Tigra, concluding with the Zafira B of 2005.

It’s very much a car of its time. The Vectra C shares some of the clean surfacing and crisply defined edges that also feature on the admirable 2000 Ford Mondeo, but the closeness of the launches would indicate that this was a coincidence.

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Designers at Ford and Opel were probably reacting to the shocking success of VW’s 1997 Passat, which changed perceptions of what a middle-market car was supposed to be like. Opel had experience in this form language and the Vectra C draws heavily upon the styling of the 1999 Opel G90 concept car, so it wasn’t something they just jumped on. It’s actually a lot cooler than VW’s B5 Passat. The chiselled edges are quite unlike the Passat’s softer transitions.

Opel Vectra C

The Vectra is more of a packaging-led car than the corresponding 2000 Mondeo Mk3. Opel’s designers evidently wanted more headroom in the back of the Vectra, whilst Ford’s team went for a lower, smaller greenhouse. It’s really a matter of which compromise you prefer: more room or sleeker looks. When you look first at the Vectra and then the Ford, the Mondeo does seem very much more planted.

Ford Mondeo Mk2: source

It’s interesting to compare both the Vectra and the Mondeo to their upper-crust peers from Audi and BMW. Ford and Opel seem to have aspired to the austerity of the 1994 Audi A4 B5 Typ D rather than the fussiness of BMW’s 1997 E46 Three Series. If design rigour was your thing, then you were well served by the middle market. BMW’s sales weren’t hurt much by its frilly E46 but perhaps their design staff felt like outliers. I find nothing to look at in the E46. It’s as banal a design as one can imagine, just a notch above not that bad. Complacent?

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As usual with Opel, the Vectra C could be driven with any one of a long list of engines. I count twelve of them, from a lowly 1.6 up to a tarmac-tearing 3.2 litre petrol V6. Today, the equivalent car comes with just seven (or perhaps eight) power units. The estate had a usefully long wheelbase, which ought to be on your shopping list if you can’t live with an LWB Citroen CX.

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These days, the Vectra C has begun to take on some period charm, a product from a time when something like austere good taste could be expected to hit the mark. As with Mercedes and BMW, the constant chants from critics led designers to move away from rationalism (or complacency) and towards more overt expressiveness. The Insignia A is by no means an offensive bit of shapework – I got used to the blade styling feature on the side, and the graphics and sculpting hold together well. However, it is not a progressive bit of design whereas, ironically, the austerity of the Vectra C clearly is. It is world away from the Vectra B, while not attempting to be a critique of its predecessor.

Opel Vectra C

The Vectra C featured improved packaging, interior quality and driving character without throwing the baby out with the bathwater in making these enhancements. The Insignia A is a car that sacrifices quite a bit of practicality in the name of styling: the low roofline, high waistline and oddly-shaped boot are not the work of designers soaked in Ulm Hochschule philosophy. Rather, is more indicative of a car designed with one eye on up-sexing Buick, the marque name carried by the Insignia A in the US market.

The Vectra C adhered to Opel’s ideals of robust practicality and decent, contemporary styling, just like the Omega A and many earlier Rekord and Ascona iterations. For me, the austerity makes the car worth looking at repeatedly, much like its peer from Merkenich. The follow-up cars are all nice enough, yet lack the heft and focus of these millennial models.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

58 thoughts on “Their Eyes Met Through Glanmire’s Mist”

  1. Good morning, Richard. I strongly dislike the C pillar on the Vectra C. Ford did a much better job with the Mondeo. I only drove a Vectra C once and it was fine. No complaints.

    I absolutely adored my E46. It’s not the best looking Bimmer, but it drove beautifully. The steering was so nicely weighted as were the rest of the controls and the sport seats were sublime. I miss that car. I can’t say the same of either Vectra or Mondeo. Those are fine, but I have no attachment to them whatsoever.

    1. I think the C pillar on the hatchback version is much better looking than the 4 door version. I also quite like the facelifted, Astra H inspired front end.

    2. For my eyes it’s not the C post itself but the way the door opening does not blend in with it or anything else. This form of door opening was a typical Opel solution because the way the upper corner of the door’s trailing edge is pulled high up and back prevents elderly people from bumping their head against the C post when entering the car. Opel used this particular design feature throughout their model range from Astra to Omega and it became kind of an Opel trademark but always looked quite weird.
      Designing a car specifically for the elderly is hardly a recipe for success and Bob Lutz certainly was right when he said of the Vectra C that it was a car that did not make you instantly want to open your purse. This remark was spot on but infuriated many Opel people with the result that the facelift not much better.

  2. I liked the design of the Vectra C. Some time ago I noted a similarity to a US Ford show car from around the same time, but typically I cannot now recall what that was called (nor any detail that would allow me to Google it.)
    I was no fan of the revised nose treatment applied to the Vectra C at facelift time. Presumably the intention was to increase the family resemblance to the rest of Opel’s range at the time, which it did, but it seemed somehow ill matched to the rest of the car. Maybe that in itself was testament to the quality of the original design, as in isolation the updated nose was a perfectly normal and inoffensive Euro front end at the time.
    I agree the Audi 80 A4 B5 was a design triumph, but while the E46 BMW did look a bit frivolous and fussy by comparison, I do think the E46 was a lot more than competent. All the details are nicely finessed, which one can’t say of its E92 successor, let alone the current BMW range! I can certainly see why Freerk remembers his so fondly. (I must admit here to having loved my 2001 Mondeo as well.)
    Final question, boy, why de reference to Glanmire? I recognise at least one of your photo locations, but Baggotonia is some distance from Cork…

    1. The Vectra C’s facelift primarily was a desperate attempt at driving up its hopeless sales numbers. Market research showed that the Vectra’s styling was a major off putting factor. One has to wonder why they didn’t do this research in advance but its results led to Bob Lutz’ bitter comment on the Vectra C.
      The Vectra C simply appeared at a time when volume manufacturers lost market share to the three corporate leasing contract specialists. Even the inifinitely more attractive Mondeo didn’t sell as well as it deserved.

    2. Thanks for noticing the reference. One of my first paid professional jobs was doing a geophysical survey of Glanmire so they could ruin it with a by-pass. This is long before the Vectra. The link is poetic. And thank you for using the term “Baggotonia”. I have only seen it used in print once before. It´s great to see it circulating.
      I will come back with comments on Universal Design in a moment (the access for elderly).

    3. Good morning Richard. As other commenters have said, that C-pillar on the saloon is very odd looking. It looks very much as though they first designed the hatchback, which is very handsome, then cobbled something together to convert it to a saloon. Happily, we were spared the saloon in the UK, there being no market for it here.

      I’m not a fan of the facelift. It corrupted the purity of the original design and made the front end rather ‘beaky’ looking.

  3. I always saw the design language of the Vectra C and Astra of the same period as something of a reaction to Ford’s New Edge design. I think it did have a name but I have forgotten it. It was kind of austere, more so than New Edge, and perhaps too much so at a time when people started to want more pizzazz.

    On the E46, it was, as I recall, the first BMW over which Bangle had an influence. I see it as the last of the traditionally/ elegantly styled 3 series, and I much prefer it to the subsequent E90. There’s a really nice detail as the feature-line in the front wing just brushes the top of the wheel-arch, giving the sense of a low bonnet-line … nice.

    1. In the Germany press, the narrative was established that those models’ conservative, solid-looking design was a reaction to Opel’s quality crisis during the first half of the ’90s. I wouldn’t know what it was like in the UK, but over here, the dreadful reliability records of those Lopez-era cars profoundly damaged Opel’s reputation.

      The business of a relative of mine ran a fleet of Opel company cars back then, also because the Rüsselsheim factory was an important customer. Yet at some point, complaints from staff using the Opels had become so overwhelming that the fleet was switched to Skodas & VWs.

      The ‘you can trust me with your pension funds’ appearance of this Vectra was said to be an attempt at reestablishing Opel as ‘der Zuverlässige’ (‘the reliable one’).

      S.V.: Yes, E46 was CB’s first project – yet he was still held on a very tight leash by Wolfgang Reitzle by that point.

      I also have a lot of time for that 3 series -especially the coupé & cabriolet version, which I find satisfying in a way Richard does this Opel.

    2. The dashboard of the E46 was also something of a masterclass: formal, with the centre console canted towards the driver, nice plastics and proper BMW IP/ dials. The HVAC and ICE controls were a bit of a button-fest on some versions (no doubt helping to make the case for iDrive in the next generation of BMWs).

    3. I had no idea people liked the E46 in an active sense beyond it being competitive and not off-putting. To me it´s as banal a shape as Ford were once accused of producing. I congratulate its market penetrating capability and the solidity of its interior trim. My brother owned one and it was an enduring monument to nothing special. It was quite some achievement of BMW to retain and enlarge its customer base when all the main players upped their ante in the mid 90s to produce a selection of the best four-door saloons ever made. None of them dislodged BMW from its perch though at least three of them deserved to.

    4. I looked-up the E46 as I had forgotten what it looked like. My first thought was ‘Jaguar X-Type’ in that there’s a bit too much going on for that size of car to carry. The coupés nice, though.

    5. Richard, you’re overegging that Contrarian’s Pudding a little, if I may say so.

      Please don’t claim you’re unaware that 85% of people with an interest in the automobile would describe the Vectra C, rather than E46 as a ‘banal shape’. It’s endearing that you keep on fighting for Opel’s cause, but doing so at the expense of a rather accomplished BMW is taking it a bit far.

    6. Christopher: we settle this one in usual DTW style. We shall have a 24 donut duel on the beach at Cap Ferrat. The first man to regurgitate the donuts loses. We´ll have to do it early to avoid getting a fine for messing up the sand. I suggest we duel by the water line.
      Putting on my sincerity bowler hat, I don´t accept percentages as an indicator of anything other than percentages. I really do think the Vectra is a superior bit of artwork and the E46 to be a better bit of marketing and branding. I don´t find anything of interest in the E46 but I could look at a Vectra C for the length of time it takes to smoke a half corona and then I´d want to smoke another. If people don´t agree with me, I am fine with that too. The main thing is to draw people´s attention to aesthetics and heighten their senses.

      How about vanilla creme-filled donuts? Or do you prefer chocolate creme?

    7. Richard, I most certainly wouldn’t call for anyone to adopt a supposed majority’s stance towards anything. I was merely trying to point out that your surprise at the regard some people hold E46 in may have been somewhat exaggerated.

      Donuts? May I suggest a pastry of Austrian or French origin instead? Anything including some puff pastry and/or a bit of salted caramel would have me on board, frankly.

    8. In the spirit of compromise, I accept your proposal with the proviso the pastries are coated in English custard.

      I am not not surprised about the general preferences for the E46 but this was despite its ordinary appearance and because it did a lot of other things quite well. It did improve on its predecessor the E36 which I really dislike other than its child-friendly rear seatbelt arrangement (the belts buckle together outboard not inboard). That isn´t enough to rescue the E46 which borrowed the styling grooves left over from the first Rover 800. Thankfully they aren´t all that common around here whereas a day seldom passes when I can rest my weary retinas upon the gracious, rational, enduring, soothing forms of Opel´s automotive contribution to the beauty of the universe.
      The E46 isn´t dreadful, I agree. Also, it´s not as if I am bothered some people like it. I personally expected more of BMW. My ideas of good design and quality were cemented by my exposure to BMW´s earlier cars. And it is also true Bangle himself wasn´t thrilled with it and thus went on to strive for more compelling formgiving with his later cars.

    9. Jam doughnuts (note correct spelling!) for me please…😋

    10. Ha! That Rover 800 comparison mirrors what – if memory serves – Achim Storz had to say about E46 upon its unveiling.

      I find little grace in the Vectra C personally. To me it’s represents a ham-fisted an attempt at conveying solidity, without much concern for details and, well, grace – but then again, I’m a former Jaguar owner, so I’m hardly the kind of thoroughbred rationalist my Finnish-German heritage. Perhaps I need more baroque in my life than I’m prepared to admit.

      English custard is fine. I have something along those lines in mind:

    11. That is a lovely looking pastry. The cost of the duel has gone up markedly meaning we might not have enough pastries to make it in any way a risky endeavour.
      There are one or two details on the C that could have been improved. However, none of them really offend. I think that the very qualities you don´t like are the ones that appeal to me. And further, I have a romantic idea of the Opel that perhaps would be more commonly associated with Alfa Romeos or old Mercedes.

    12. I’m a terrible snob when it comes to sweets, I must admit. But even in this regard, I’m certain we’ll be able to come up with a serviceable compromise, eventually.

  4. I noticed that if cars have any characteristic design elements, any curves really, are often described as “fussy”, “unclean” in DTW articles. Any car that doesn’t follow the most simple, geometric and modernist shapes is rather disliked here by you Richard. Even E46 witch is considered one of the best modern BMW designs…

    The problem I have with it is that for most people, those perfect, geometric shapes are just plain boing and repetitive after a few years. It’s no coincidence that car styling goes forward and backward all the time. Simple forms and more complex forms alternate. I will point out that I am not defending the current disproportionate and vulgar designs. It’s just that not everything has to look like a washing machine.

    I have will use analogy with architecture, a lot of people are very tired of modern, simple buildings as not being friendly and inviting to people. Humans biologically like curves, roundness, and decoration. For many decades, however, many designers and architects have tried to combat this by putting rationality first. But that’s not how the human brain works, the visceral aspect is extremely important to us. That’s why a lot of designers will say cars like Vectra C are great, bu to most people it’s just plain.

    1. Good morning Kamil. That’s a good counter-argument, well put. We DTW authors might indeed be guilty of a bit of ‘groupthink’ regarding our design preferences. For my own part, I’ve always liked clean ‘rational’ designs, in both automobiles and architecture, but there’s only so many ways that you can cut that particular cookie and automakers are in the business of selling new cars, so have a vested interest in encouraging changes in the preferences and tastes of their customers.

      The tide of taste continually ebbs and flows and we are currently in a phase where automotive design, with a few noble exceptions, is generally very busy and noisy because, one assumes, that’s what the majority of buyers want (or have been conditioned to want?)

      Architecture provides a much longer timeline to observe changes in taste: Georgian disclipine and restraint gave way to increasing florid Victorian ornamentation, 20th Century modernism was replaced by post-modern pastiche.

      It’s an interesting subject and perhaps one we should explore further.

    2. There are plenty of “fussy” designs that pass muster with me. I enjoy the baroque detailing of 70s American cars; the Suzuki Ignis is very busy and I enjoy that aspect of its character. I´ve come to really like the subtle extra lines found in 80s Japanese cars. Mazda´s recent efforts are very curved and most pleasing – they are very unlike the geometry championed here. What I don´t much care for is inconsistency and sloppy detailing.
      Regarding architecture, I tend to prefer decorative buildings over plain ones for the reasons you cite. Exceptions exist but usually something exemplary has been done with material and proportions to compensate for the lack of detail. Last night walking around Aarhus I saw a raw of late Victorian buildings standing across from two large and massive, plain office blocks. The contrast was most extreme. The individually quiet decorative Victorians made a collective assembly of considerable visual appeal. The two office blocks offered little. In fairness to the Bestseller building the material and finish were first rate. It didn´t really make the building nice so much as imposing and not a little frightening. All they do is design clothes inside it but it might as well have been the HQ of the secret service.

  5. In the mid 00’s I was in the market for a used estate. My choice was the Passat B5.5
    I also looked at a Vectra C estate, and despite being cheaper and roomier than the Passat, the design of the Passat won me over (well… maybe also the VW roundel). I really liked the absolutely functional design of the exterior and interior.

    With hindsight, it was probably the best / more solidly built car I ever owned, although that doesn’t equate to reliability, as I faced engine issues (water pump, turbo, tensioners), that I almost never experienced in my 40-ish years of driving…

  6. While I am surprised by this expression of love for the Vectra C, I am shocked by the comments on the E46 – one of the best looking Beemers in memory ( I love the ‘underwired bra’ headlamps !).
    By the time the Vectra C appeared the Opel name had lost much of its’ sparkle in Ireland, as owners of Vectra B models found Opel dealers didn’t want them in part-exchange (quick-release cambelts etc). I sat in a new rental ‘C’ once and saw nothing I liked, and I certainly didn’t think much of the exterior styling.

    1. Hi Mervyn. I’m another fan of the E46, at least before they messed it up in the facelift.

    2. I just checked Done Deal and they don’t show any pre-facelift Vectra C’s on sale in Ireland. I do find the facelift an improvement, as they changed the headlamps for the better.

  7. I was talking to someone about the Vectra C, in the UK I don’t recall them ever being a “new car” in that I never saw them looking new and fresh and then one day they were everywhere looking drab and tired with yellow headlights, dull paint, and driven by a scraggy man with a staffie on the passenger seat. The facelift without the droopy headlights must have sold in penny numbers or all been off the road early because you never see them.

    They almost all seem to be in drab silver or some sort of wet road grey/blue colour, and looked tired and old almost immediately. I know there is inexplicable love for The General’s European output here, but for me these must have been one of the least appealing cars one could buy new at the time; GM didn’t have to abandon the market because they were making great cars people wanted to buy…

    1. I know the sad example of the Vectra you have in mind which is why I posted the monochrome series with the street furniture. A contrasting image I have is the almond metallic green example I saw parked outside a Black Forest restaurant and the lightning blue OPC version that one sometimes can see. Things are also different in Denmark where Vectra Cs are fairly common and mostly nicely maintained. I see nice shiny ones and not the shabby cabbbie ones that are prevalent in the UK.
      About design for ingress and egress, it seems to me to be an entirely valid design goal to make vehicles most people can get into. I don´t think the Vectra C got anywhere near assistive technology-levels of ugliness in aiming to satisfy that goal. On the contrary, I see a well packaged and neatly resolved product with many good attributes.
      Regarding orgnanic-versus-curves: I´d call that a false dichotomy. One deploys forms dependent on the context. How they are resolved and deployed is where the choice succeeds or fails. To rule out one or other would be to prejudge a design problem´s outcome.

  8. For me, the most interesting (if pointless!) articulation of that generation of Opel design was this:

    1. I think of that as a) a more mainstream Renalt VelSatis b) a car for those who want an LWB saloon and c) an example of how scientific management procedures can fail. Without a doubt there was a business case and solid research showing people wanted this car. It was incorrect. That doesn´t make it pointless though. I´d quite like one if I could afford one. It seems like a really nice and useful car.

    2. Here again you got a rear door window with an arc that is not related to anything else on the car. The way the C post stretches from the straight line of the rear window around the strangely shaped rear door into the completely unrelated roof looks odd.

    3. I think the shape of the rear sideglass is entirely reasonable. To me, saying it doesn´t relate to anything else is baffling. I hadn´t even considered one could accuse the arc of not being consistent. I won´t say it´s the cure for baldness or the nicest car imaginable. What it is, is consistent, homogenous and distinctive enough without going full-on Renault VelSatis. The top of the side glass has to change direction and go vertical to reach the base of the side glass. It does so in a smooth curve redoltent of the Omega “B” and also the concurrent Astra.

    4. Of course the door window surround has to make some kind or arc on its way from roof to door panel. In this case the arc looks like on the first BMW 1er which for me is just as awful. It’s simply that I can not see any relation between the precisely-non-Hofmeister kink of the door and the vertical rear of the C post and that the arc results in a strangely tapering roof contour that flows into the C post in a very odd way.
      Around the corner from me liveds somebody with a Sigma and everytime he drives past my house I just cannot make sense of it, neither conceptually nor in terms of stylin.

  9. Good morning Richard. The Opel Vectra MKIII was a big, confortable car. I have been inside as a passenger many times, it was popular as a taxi here. The seats were great, very spacious interior, confortable ride. I found the centre console a little simplified, no screens, a few buttons, and I liked the shape of the steering wheel, and the instruments layout. The outside doorhandles were very big and were designed to fit in a large hand, the inside doorhandles were somewhat peculiar, if I remember well they were open from the upper side. The back seat was great, wide and deep.

  10. I wish I could appreciate this car, better. Apologies to those who like the design, but to me, this and the Astra G were low points. The designs look ‘cheap’ to me, with the Vectra looking ‘flat’ in to the bargain, especially in silver. I recall them when they were new and they just seemed dreary – I don’t think I’ve ever seen one which wasn’t silver. That said, I don’t find them boring, because it’s interesting to try to understand what Opel were aiming at and why others do / don’t like them.

    This Vectra sold in lower volumes than the preceding model, but on a par with the Mondeo. Volumes were about 130k to 150k per year, across Europe. That said, the Passat, 3-Series, C-Class and A4 each beat it by 50k to 100k sales per year.

    I wonder how telling it is that Opel started previewing the Insignia one year after the launch of this Vectra.

    https://www.supercars.net/blog/2003-opel-insignia-concept/

  11. I had a 3.2 litre manual hatchback badged as a Holden, it was…fine, a bit wooden in its driving characteristics but at the time, a lot of quite quick car for the money. The most distinctive thing may have been its yellow dashboard lighting which I have not seen in other cars. Now that I am in America, I see that they were presumably the basis for the 6th generation Chevy Malibu whose styling modifications seem pretty odd to this untrained eye, with random swoops added to the sedan and the oddly truncated looking Maxx hatchback, I can’t work out how to attach pictures.

    1. Yes, I remember the Malibu Maxx when Car and Driver road tested it…given the love that US market shows for hatchbacks, how many Maxx would they sold?

    2. Hi Justin. If you click on the ‘Driven to Explain’ tab above and scroll down to the bottom of the page, you’ll find instructions on how to embed photos into your comments. You’ll need to use a photo-hosting app or website such as Imgur. The instructions vary slightly depending on the device you are using; Windows, Android or Apple iOS. Let me know if you have any problems and I’ll try to assist.

    3. The SS version of the Malibu Maxx was the sort of car internet car guys always say they’ll buy…used. The less hotted-up versions tended to sell to older retired people with dogs and to fleets, the local Pepsi distributor had several for their vendor reps which were replaced with…nothing, they must have switched to reimbursing their reps for work mileage on their personal cars.

    4. The Maxx looks as if it is a disguised production car. GM is the only major car company to butcher designs in the name of platform sharing in quite this way. Ford and Fiat have never, to my knowledge, presented a car designed as X but loosely remodelled as a Y in quite the same ham-fingered way as GM. The Lincoln Versailles springs to mind as a possible candidate yet it does at least look okay and doesn´t seem like one styling theme mashed to another.

  12. Just googled Glanmire, and realised that I never actually knew where it was. I was familiar with the Old Glanmire Road, as you had to drive it long ago to reach the B+I Ferry, but I always assumed Glanmire was on the river. I assume the M8 has made the Glanmire by-pass redundant ?

    1. As it was many years ago, it´s hard to be certain. I think my bit was the north-south road called the M8. The disappointing thing about the motorways was that they didn´t change average speeds, but did raise the maximum speed. As Irish towns grew they added more traffic lights as the urban zone expanded. All those stops every 1 km ate the minutes gained. I knew a guy who averaged 55 mph from Dublin to Cork in the 1960s and the last time I did it it was also 55 mph. Motorways are a bit safer, I suppose but goodness they are ugly incursions into the landscape.
      Crossing Germany recenly I see the transport authorities are engaging in a huge tree felling program on the embankments. It´s quite dispiriting.

  13. That Chevy looks okay – quite cheerful looking.

    One thing in the Vectra’s favour – they seem to last. There are quite a few available in the UK, ranging from £1,500 to £3,000 for the best ones. Even pre-facelift ones are available. Here’s a post-facelift one with 28k miles. They do mostly seem to be various shades of grey.

    https://www.motors.co.uk/car-62812393/?i=12&m=sp

    1. Wow – an average of 2K miles per year ! Only used to go to church on Sundays ?

  14. I tried to form an opinion by walking around real Opel Vectras, and watching their painted metal under natural lighting. One yellow and the other dark blue. The finishing curve of the rear side door is blending nicely with the c pillar curve. And the rear lights are designed to fit into the whole. These cars had the steel wheels, the star alloys would have been much better.

  15. I distinctly remember when the Vectra C was launched that the designer cited the Mercury MC4 concept of 1997 as an influence – yes a Ford concept (!) – which is how the Mondeo II & Vectra C ended up with similar design language and how the tall headlamps on the Vectra looked very similar to the ones on the European 2002 Ford Fusion and 2002 Ford Transit Connect van…

    1. Thank you marcus. Here’s the MC4 (1997)

      Regarding the genesis of that headlamp configuration, this SsangYong concept predates the MC4 by two years:

  16. Growing up on the American West Coast, my first time in Europe was in 2009 when I visited my great-aunt in Brussels. She picked my grandmother and me up in her Astra H five-door and I thought it was just the best thing in the world! I absolutely adored what I perceived as Opel’s consistent, ultra-Germanic, industrial forms in comparison with the lackluster and inconsistent output from GM’s American marques.



    The Meriva and Vectra C stand out to me as the most committed to this corporate style. The ‘surprised’ headlights on the facelift C, Astra, Zafira, Corsa, and so on really weren’t as nice though the forms were still cohesive.

    What was it about mainstream Euro manufacturers having such strong core styles back then? Ford had New Edge, Opel had this, Renault had le Quement’s neoclassicism, Peugeot (for what it’s worth) went full catfish, Volvo was under Horbury, etc. Now cars all look too similar with basic graphics being the way to convey brand identity. Back then it was more about entire shapes and forms, of course even more so as you go further backwards.

    1. Thanks for putting a word to the Peugeot style, Alexander: “Peugeot (for what it’s worth) went full catfish”.
      One thing that might have happened was the way silhouettes settled around one basic form so the identity had to be conveyed by graphics and superficial feaure lines.

  17. I’ve been trying to find a concept which signalled GME’s design direction at the time and one of the answers, apparently, is the Snowtrekker. I guess the Signum and Slalom concepts also showed the way.

  18. I had a Vectra C (57 plate) estate, bought used at five years old. ‘Elite’ spec, with the 3-litre V6 turbodiesel, self-levelling rear suspension and all the goodies. £4500 from a dealer. Brilliant on a motorway, legroom like a limo in the back, and able to swallow a 2-seater Ektorp plus all the other things one inevitably comes home with after a trip to IKEA. I liked the styling – clean and tidy with a sensible squared-off back.

  19. Good morning everyone. Since I have read the article, I started spotting Vectras Mkiii. I have seen many of these, dark blue, black, dark gray, silver, in the 4 door form. No green or brown though. All the 5 doors seem to be grey, light and dark, but no other colours. All these in very good shape, really. I especially liked a grey 5 door I saw two hours ago, and I spotted a small screen in the centre console, that all Vectras had. Maybe it is the digital clock and trip computer display?

  20. Vectra C verges on visual perfection in its Hatchback iteration.

    The Estate is also very succesful, especially if one finds virtue in a visually opulent “wheelbase signature”.

    The sedan, however, loses coherence in the rear part of the DLO,
    due to the unnatural
    radius imposed by
    the relaxed ‘kopf-freiheit’ ingress/
    egress feature.

    E46, while pleasing in many details, is essentially an amputee, as its front overhang is ridiculously small.

    It’s main virtue is its absolutely sober “aero-footprint”, which is
    cleverer even than the E36.
    (cabin volume is smaller than many contemporary
    “A-segm.” labelled cars
    (eg.Lupo).
    In this regard, and esp.in its resultant torsional rigidity
    (while managing to be really comfortable on the inside/boot volume etc.), it is a packaging masterpiece.

    Styling wise, it couldn’t hold no candles to the Vectra C Hatchback.

    Al Pinaweiss

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