This is the Vauxhall Cavalier Mark III / Opel Vectra “A” which Vauxhall hopes will hit Sierra sales hardest, the fleet-favourite 1.6L. But is it really up to the job? Price UK 1988 £8738 Top spee...
This is the Vauxhall Cavalier Mark III / Opel Vectra “A” which Vauxhall hopes will hit Sierra sales hardest, the fleet-favourite 1.6L. But is it really up to the job?
Price UK 1988 £8738
Top speed 109mph
0-60 12.1 secs
For Fine motorway cruiser, well-designed facia, versatility
Against Harsh engine, mediocre handling, heavy steering
It won’t be long before the Cavalier’s fresh, rounded form becomes a common sight on Britain's roads. The question uppermost in the corporate mind of Vauxhall — and arch rival Ford — must be just how common? The 2-litre Cavalier SRi proved itself more capable than the equivalent Sierra in our recent test but it is the fleet favourite, the 1.6L — tested here in hatchback guise — which Vauxhall hopes will hit the ageing Ford hardest.
At £8738, with either four or five-door body, it is judiciously priced within £20 of the Sierra 1.61.and Montego 1.6b. All three are undercut by the current star of the class, the British-built 405 (£8170 in GL trim), another expatriate, the 1988 Nissan Bluebird 1.6LS (£8698), and the 1988 Citroen BX 16RS (£8322). What neither the Montego nor the -105 can offer, though, is five door versatility.
Unlike most cars offered in booted and hatchback forms, the styling of the Cavalier makes the two appear very similar at first glance. In fact, the hatchback version is 3ins shorter overall, though its wheelbase is the same at a fraction over 102in. Out of the 1500 hours of wind tunnel testing has emerged an excellent drag factor of only 0.29 and smooth, Audi-esque lines. Front and rear screens are bonded Hush to the body while the deep side glazing is semi-flush.
It’s hard to judge where the styling influences lie; the car does not bear a strong resemblance to any other Vauxhall and is not as positively penned as the Audi 80. Links with the previous model have been cleanly severed.
Under the skin there is little new, but lots of revised and refined componentry. Curiously, the Family 11 engine that powered the previous 1.6 Cavalier is not one of these items; it has been supplanted by a less powerful derivative of the physically smaller (and lighter) Family 1 unit. The reason cited is an improvement in economy on the urban cycle and better torque delivery. Bore and stroke arc 79 and 81.5mm respectively, giving a capacity of 1598cc; the compression ratio is a high 10:1 and fuel is fed by a twin-choke carburettor Peak outputs are 82bhp at 5400rpm (8bhp down) and 94lb ft of torque at 2600rpm (2lb ft down).
Suspension is fundamentally the same with MacPherson struts and lower wishbones at the front and trailing arms linked by torsion beam axle at the rear. A cross-brace lends extra stiffness to the outriggers that mount the front wishbones, giving better lateral control, and also carries the rear engine mount.
The wishbones now have one vertical and one horizontal bush to induce self-steer characteristics, as on the Carlton and Senator, and have a nose down attitude to counter dive. Castor angle is increased by 50 per cent to increase the rack and pinion steering’s feel and a new anti-roll bar reduces roll by 30 per cent.
Handling is safe and predictable but uninspiring. Manual steering heavy and low geared. Grip good, roll pronounced.