Used Holden Vectra review: 1997-1998
May 14, 2005
When the production agreement between Holden and Toyota fell over, ending Holden's access to the Apollo-badged Camry, the company turned to Europe for a replacement mid-sized car. The JR Vectra was relatively new, even in homeland Germany, when Holden went calling, so it was a current model when it arrived here. It helped Holden develop a Euro image with an Aussie flavour, which has worked well with local buyers.
Holden's front-wheel drive Vectra, designed and developed by Opel, was a hit in its home market and backed that up here with a solid performance against the Camry, Magna and Ford Mondeo.
Easy on the eye, its aerodynamically shaped rear-view mirrors flowing from the bonnet were a stand-out feature of the exterior. Inside, the sweeping dash had easy-to-read gauges and controls organised sensibly within easy reach of the driver.
While airy and welcoming, the interior wasn't as roomy as the Apollo/Camry. The four-door sedan and five-door hatch could be had in base GL or upmarket CD versions.
Holden chose two engines from the vast range of Opel options. The base engine was a 2.0-litre double overhead camshaft fuel-injected four-cylinder unit that produced 100kW at 5600 revs and 188Nm at 3200 revs. The other was a 2.5-litre double overhead camshaft fuel-injected V6 boasting 125kW at 5800 revs.
The four-cylinder wasn't quick, but was smooth and refined, perhaps more important to the market for this type of car. The standard five-speed manual gearbox restricted its straight-line zip to 9.7 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint, but it was a decent highway performer.
A four-speed auto was optional, which made the Vectra a little more comfortable around town. Disc brakes were at each corner with anti-skid standard.
The well equipped GL had cloth trim, driver's seat-height adjustment, height adjustable seat-belt anchorages, childproof door locks, 60/40 split-fold rear seat, AM/FM sound, adjustable steering column, full instrumentation, alarm, anti-skid brakes, traction control and a driver's airbag.
When you stepped up to the CD you also got standard airconditioning, power windows, cruise control, trip computer, and alloy wheels.
IN THE SHOP
THE Vectra is reliable and robust, but rough running and stalling are known problems. Usual causes are the crank sensor on the engine, which can be erratic in its timing output or the IAC, which fails, allowing the idle speed to drop too low. The engine then stalls. The JR Vectra has reached the mileage when a major service is needed, including a new timing belt.
WITH a well-balanced chassis, anti-skid brakes and traction control standard, airbag for the driver and height-adjustable seat belts, the Vectra safety package is commendable.
Clint Ebessens' parents gave him the 1998 Vectra they had bought new. He says it's quiet and comfortable and he loves electric features such as the radio, which increases in volume as speed increases. Episodes of power loss were fixed with updated software and the idle speed control failed, which would cause the engine to stall.
Craig McErvale bought a Vectra new and says it had good points, but they were heavily outweighed by bad ones. After the first year the engine developed a ping and the only way to get rid of it was to use premium unleaded.
Six months later the engine "dropped' a lifter and it made a horrible noise until the oil pressure built up. The red paint oxidised within two years. Eventually Holden repainted the car.
THE BOTTOM LINE
11/20 SAFE and solid mid-sized car that handles well, but is plagued by some niggling quality problems.
NEAT European styling that doesn't date
NICELY appointed, airy interior
ECONOMICAL, four-cylinder engine
TALL gearing better suited to highway than town