Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Roadsters Remembered 4: Vauxhall VX220 turbo

Sometimes, for no good reason, you don’t get off to the best start with a car. With the Vauxhall it was difficult to get any sort of start. I put the key in, turned it and nothing. The sort of nothing familiar to owners of old wrecks when the solenoid on the starter motor fails. No one told me the VX had a starter button; the button itself was not labelled and looked like an innocent piece of interior trim.

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The first thing I noticed when I started driving was steering like an old Mini, the feeling of a lightweight car with unassisted steering and wide tyres. Power assisted steering is so common the feeling is denied to most drivers. It felt reassuring, an indication that messages between the front wheels and the driver’s fingers were clearly communicated. The gear lever also felt slightly old-fashioned with plenty of movement between each position and a slightly loose feeling. It felt as though it was taken directly from a front-wheel drive hatchback – which probably wasn’t far from the truth.

If the sensations were old fashioned the performance was right up to date. Strong acceleration, surefooted cornering and even a decent ride; it was difficult to fault the way the VX went. There was something about the engine and transmission that made the performance a little lumpy, a feeling of thrust – pause – thrust in each gear. Maybe familiarity would improve matters, or perhaps the idea was to make the performance feel more dramatic. A smooth, almost seamless flow of acceleration would have done more to impress me. Closer gear ratios would help as would a non-turbocharged engine. Maybe I would prefer a non-turbocharged VX220.

There isn’t anything else to criticise about the VX, it is a bit basic but it is supposed to be and I don’t know how effective the hood is at keeping out the rain. You would need to be keen to use one everyday but the VX220 does offer many of the sensations of an old car with the convenience of modern hardware.


David Wilkins said...

Actually, you don't mention the biggest drawback of the VX220 and its LOtus Elise/Exige sisters - the fact that it is almost impossible for anyone who's older than 30 or a bit on the tubby side to get in and out of it!

Fourwheelsteer said...

I've not driven an Elise so I don't know how they compare. I don't remember it being difficult to get in or out but the roof was off and I was under 30 when I tried. With the roof on I imagine it would be much more difficult.