It won the Top Gear Car of the Year award in 2003. With those credentials it must be something good!
The Vauxhall VX220, known in Europe as the Opel Speedster, is barely a Vauxhall when you consider its roots. The car is just a Lotus Elise with a different body, sharing the same platform and being built at the same factory in Norfolk. The only comprehensive differences between the two, apart from the styling, is the use of larger 2.2L GM Ecotec Z22SE Inline-4 and the 2.0L Z20LET turbo Inline-4 engines carried over from the Vauxhall Astra.
Regardless of its Lotus origins, the car is massively reliable thanks to its GM engines. Taking their blandness and humdrum performance out of the equation, anyone who’s ever owned a Vauxhall Astra will know these cars are unfalteringly reliable when it comes to their engines and mechanics; being able to happily chug along for upwards of 10 to 15 years without major breakdowns. The VX220 shares that same sturdiness but with some gung-ho performance due to its incredible grip, precise handling, nippy acceleration and generally cool image.
The car will draw the attention of nearly everyone you pass on the street, and some people may even know what you’re driving! Indeed while the VX220 was never meant to set the world ablaze, only providing Vauxhall briefly with a roadster to spice up the model list in the face of bland and boring family cars like the Vectra and the Zafira, the VX220 will draw the curiosity of even the most uninitiated car enthusiast. It’s aggressive looks, low body and nimble performance will make those who don’t know the true minds behind the car unable to believe it’s a Vauxhall.
The car presents incredible value for money over the comparable Lotus Elise and while both perform just as well as they’re basically the same car; the Vauxhall truly has an air of obscurity which makes it comparatively more sought after. Indeed a person may take one look at the Vauxhall badge and completely lose their appetite, but the savings for purchasing the VX220 over the Elise are enormous. Today, a used VX220 will cost you anywhere between £9,000 and £20,000 depending on its condition, while a used Elise, with the heavy burden of that Lotus badge on its nose, will still cost you upward of £15,000 to £25,000.
The VX220 sounds perfect doesn’t it? Then why is it so far down?
While you could use the VX220 to drive to work everyday, the car is very sparsely equipped, a problem endemic to both it and the Lotus. Compared to modern day equivalents, the car is very spartan with only the very basic creature comforts. Bear in mind also what few features the car does come with date back to 2002 so they’re not exactly at their best.
At the same time the car is only practical for someone who’s either single or wants to woo their significant other. If you’re a family orientated person then consider giving it a miss because without an extra set of seats in the back a family drive to the countryside will end before it’s even begun!
- Comfort – 3/10 – Typical sports car comfort, can be a bit hard going on rough roads
- Practicality – 2/10 – Only good for two and a little bit of baggage
- Reliability – 8/10 – Truly an unsung hero with that Astra engine up front, will happily run on and on forever and ever
- Speed – 10/10 – Lightweight acceleration and a nippy top speed make it a perfect alternative to the Lotus
- Handling – 8/10 – Sublime and sure-footed
- Looks – 8/10 – Aggressive styling may be uninviting for some, but otherwise a truly fantastic looking machine
- Equipment – 4/10 – More features than you would expect for a car of this type, but that’s not saying much
- Price – 5/10 – Plenty of cheap examples, but if you want the best look for cars around the £10,000 to £15,000 mark
- Value – 7/10 – I can only see the resale value of these machines going up as time goes on
- Total – 55/90 – Vauxhall’s unappreciated gem, but only a car built for two