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Holden's Vectra is a German design and began life in Australia as a full import from Europe, but some models were built in Australia for a while before Holden went back to full importation. Sales were never particularly good and Vectra was deleted from the Holden line-up late in 2006.
Vectra started off as a medium-size car but in its latest format, which went on sale in 2003, is significantly larger. Indeed, it is similar in dimensions to the original Commodores.
These later models can be used as a family car. However, buyers haven't embraced the later model with any enthusiasm. It seems that if they want a large Holden, they will go all the way up to Commodore.
The Opel-built Vectra first reached Australia in June 1997 and was hailed by keen drivers for its dynamic abilities. It appealed to people who enjoy their motoring.
Road grip is impressive and Vectra is happy to change direction promptly during the hardest of cornering. At the same time, it retains its composure pretty well on rough-and-ready country roads and even manages to remain stable on corrugated tracks.
Vectra was initially imported as a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback from 1997. A five-door station wagon was added to the lineup when local assembly began in August 1998. Wagons were taken off the market at the end of 2000, though some may not have been registered until the first months of the new millennium. Be sure to date the car by its time of manufacture, not its initial registration.
Interior room is good in the front but rear legroom is marginal before the 2003 model if the front seats are set well back. The front seats are well shaped and provide good support for spirited cornering.
The boot volume is good in all versions with the wagon having a nicely shaped load area that can carry reasonably bulky items.
Under the bonnet
Initially the lower-cost Vectra models used a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. Its capacity was increased to 2.2 litres with the change to Australian manufacture in 1998. This unit has good torque output over a large spread of revs, though it is not as refined as some in its class.
The topline Vectra CD (hatchback only) used a 2.5-litre V6. That engine is typically European in its setup and doesn't have a lot of grunt at lower revs. Rather, it's aimed at slow around-town work and high-speed motorway cruising.
The larger-bodied 2003 Holden Vectra offered a choice between a 2.2-litre four-cylinder engine and a 3.2-litre V6, the latter built by Holden.
Most Vectra V6 models came with four-speed automatic transmission only, until the ZC model was introduced in 2003, when it moved up to the extra refinement and performance offered by a five-speed auto. The rest of the Vectra range gives buyers the choice between a four-speed automatic and a five-speed manual.
Vectra is a modern car and therefore relatively complicated in design, so all but basic servicing and repairs are best left to professionals. If you do your own work, make sure you have access to a workshop manual. We recommend that you don't tackle any safety-related work yourself.
Vectra has the advantage of being backed by the huge Holden dealer network. However, some spare parts may not be stocked in remote areas, though they can usually be shipped there in a day or so.
Parts prices are around average for a European car of this type — meaning they are often more expensive than for locally built Holdens, though not excessively so.
Insurance costs are generally on the low-to-medium side in their range. We know of no insurance company that discriminates between four and six-cylinder engines in premiums.
Be sure the engine starts virtually immediately and the four-cylinder idles reasonably smoothly. The six should be all but imperceptible when it's idling.
Engines should pull without hesitation even when cold, run without any rattles and not puff smoke from the exhaust under acceleration.
Manual gearboxes generally hold up well, but be suspicious of one that baulks and/or is noisy during changes. A fast three-two downshift is usually the best way to find out if there is a problem.
Look for signs of body damage or previous repairs. The latter can most easily be spotted by checking for wrinkles in the panels. They are seen more easily if you look along the length of the panel against a good light.
Check for poor quality repairs in hard-to-see areas such as under the bonnet and in the boot.
Paint that isn't an exact match from the old to the new paint indicates a former respray.