It’s not often you can accuse a car of being too good. When Vauxhall finally decided to create a small sports car, it approached the project with a gusto belying the timidity of the brand image. The VX220 took all its cues from the Lotus Elise, already established as a highly successful racer, and improved on them. Take it as a compliment to Lotus.
On its first appearance, the VX220 made do with a 145 bhp 2.2 litre Vauxhall engine, chosen because it produced more torque at lower speeds than any Elise power unit. It was consistent with Vauxhall’s crafty intention to create a car that any driver worth his salt could justify to the family, without sacrificing the high performance that makes driving really exciting.
The VX220 was marginally less raw than sitting on a drum of rocket fuel and lighting a match — but it was still a Lotus Elise in exceptionally fine clothes (the two cars shared 141 parts). But Vauxhall learned very quickly.
The VX220 got a turbocharged 2 litre engine. Now it boasted 200 bhp (against the fastest Elise 111’s 156 bhp), accelerated like a Ferrari and, with its low weight, could dance and dart on the road with the finesse of a kingfisher. Everything fell into place.
The VX220 was more refined than the Lotus (with which it now shared many fewer parts), quieter but still capable of a satisfying crescendo. It retained its impressive torque, but stayed smooth as it gripped the road with balletic response. It reliable, and brilliant fun to drive.
The only trouble was that not many people believed that Vauxhall could produce such a fabulous, driver -friendly, extreme sports car — and certainly not at the price. The Vauxhall VX220 should be much more famous.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
2000 (until 2005)
1,998 cc Straight Four Turbo
Top speed of 151 mph (243 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 4.7 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Exerting the kind of marketing of which only a major manufacturer is capable, Vauxhall (along with the three year warranty and ‘zero percent finance’ offers you might get with a Corsa or Astra) initially offered VX220 buyers a free day of driver training under ex-Formula One supervision. Buy Fun, Get Fun Free.