BUSINESS

RAY MASSEY: Vauxhall’s grand design… I get behind the wheel of the first car I ever owned


With the New Year looming and feeling a little sentimental, I got behind the wheel of a historic model of the first car I ever owned — a hand-me-down Vauxhall Viva.

The Viva is part of Vauxhall’s splendid Luton-based heritage fleet which includes Velox models and Bedford vans. The memories came flooding back. And a few surprises. 

I knew instinctively on my Viva where all the bits were – ignition, choke (completely unknown to modern young drivers), and a much smaller than remembered gear-stick. 

Modern Vauxhalls – including the new Grandland X – pave the way for a future of more SUVs and electric vehicles 

Modern Vauxhalls – including the new Grandland X – pave the way for a future of more SUVs and electric vehicles 

Out on the road I actually had to DRIVE this car. Top speed 80mph, 0 to 60mph in a pedestrian 19 seconds with a gas-guzzling 33 miles to the gallon. 

It hammered home how far car technology and performance has moved on and just how easy today’s cars are to handle. 

But I’ve also been trying out some of Vauxhall’s latest vehicles as the company moves towards more sports utility models as well as electric and hybrid power. 

The timing is important as Vauxhall is now part of the French giant PSA Peugeot-Citroen group, which bought it and its sibling German brand Opel from U.S. owners General Motors for £2billion last year.

The group is reshaping the Vauxhall brand to fit within its mix of Peugeot, Citroen and DS cars by emphasising it as a ‘British’ product.

Snapshot of history: Ray Massey as a teenager with his family’s first Vauxhall Viva in the 1970s in the Lake District

Snapshot of history: Ray Massey as a teenager with his family’s first Vauxhall Viva in the 1970s in the Lake District

Snapshot of history: Ray Massey as a teenager with his family’s first Vauxhall Viva in the 1970s in the Lake District

And today... Ray got behind the wheel of a historic model of the first car he ever owned

And today... Ray got behind the wheel of a historic model of the first car he ever owned

And today… Ray got behind the wheel of a historic model of the first car he ever owned

Indeed, the firm began making cars in 1903, originally in Vauxhall, South London, before moving to Luton in 1905. 

Luton still builds the Vivaro van, while the Ellesmere Port factory in Cheshire makes the Astra.

Many of us have fond memories of Vauxhalls. The old car I drove this month was a wonderfully preserved Pinewood Green 1159cc Vauxhall Viva HB SL, which cost £672 in 1966. It is part of Vauxhall’s heritage fleet.

Bringing matters up to date, I also tested Vauxhall’s flagship SUV, the Grandland X Elite Nav, with a 1.5-litre turbo-diesel and start-stop technology.

New range: A plug-in electric hybrid version of the Grandland X is in the pipeline for 2020

New range: A plug-in electric hybrid version of the Grandland X is in the pipeline for 2020

New range: A plug-in electric hybrid version of the Grandland X is in the pipeline for 2020

New: Vauxhall is revamping it's entire range to include an electrified variant of every model

New: Vauxhall is revamping it's entire range to include an electrified variant of every model

New: Vauxhall is revamping it’s entire range to include an electrified variant of every model

Change: There will be 8 new or refreshed models by 2020, starting in 2019 with the new Corsa

Change: There will be 8 new or refreshed models by 2020, starting in 2019 with the new Corsa

Change: There will be 8 new or refreshed models by 2020, starting in 2019 with the new Corsa

Priced at £29,430, its 130 horsepower engine, linked to a six-speed manual gearbox, propels it from rest to 60mph in 10.2 seconds up to a top speed of 118mph, with average fuel consumption of 67.3 mpg — twice that of my Viva. 

A plug-in electric hybrid version is in the pipeline for 2020.

And big change is in the air. Vauxhall is revamping its entire range to include an electrified variant of every model in its line-up by 2024. 

My automotive predictions for 2019?

Thinking positively, there will be more electric and self-driving technology. On the downside, there will be concerns about job cuts, and fallout from Brexit . . . Happy New Year.

There will be eight new or refreshed models by 2020, starting in 2019 with the new Corsa and the successor to the Vivaro van — both of which will feature electric versions. 

A successor to the Mokka X SUV will be launched in 2020.

However, Vauxhall will axe its Adam and city cars at the end of next year along with the reintroduced Viva. The Zafira, blighted by a series of fire safety issues, is also facing the axe.

One reason for the cull and swift revamp is that new owners Peugeot has to pay a licence fee for every car it sells based on a General Motors platform – giving it an incentive to switch quickly to shared Peugeot-group technology. 

Let’s just hope the new French owners continue to build Vauxhall vehicles with their griffin badge in Britain; cars at Ellesmere Port and vans in Luton.

Movie star explores new Audi car 

Hollywood star Robert Downey Jr took the wraps off Audi’s flagship all-electric e-tron GT concept car at the recent Los Angeles Auto Show.

A rival for Tesla’s Model S and developed with Porsche, it is set to go into production in late 2020 priced about £100,000.

Reveal: Audi's e-tron GT’s electric four-wheel drive Grand Tourer will offer a range of 248 miles

Reveal: Audi's e-tron GT’s electric four-wheel drive Grand Tourer will offer a range of 248 miles

Reveal: Audi’s e-tron GT’s electric four-wheel drive Grand Tourer will offer a range of 248 miles

Designers have used leather alternatives, including floor mats made from recycled fishing nets

Designers have used leather alternatives, including floor mats made from recycled fishing nets

Designers have used leather alternatives, including floor mats made from recycled fishing nets

The e-tron GT’s electric four-wheel drive Grand Tourer will offer a range of 248 miles.

Its two electric motors developing 582bhp will propel it from rest to 62mph in 3.5 seconds, up to a top speed of 149 mph.

Inside, designers have used alternatives to leather, including floor mats made from recycled fishing nets. 

Flat Battery Wednesday set to hit England and Wales 

January 2 is known as Flat Battery Wednesday due to the large number of car breakdowns

January 2 is known as Flat Battery Wednesday due to the large number of car breakdowns

January 2 is known as Flat Battery Wednesday due to the large number of car breakdowns

After the festive celebrations, you may not be the only one who’s lacking spark and energy.

Motoring groups say the trek back to work on January 2 (in England and Wales — lucky Scots get an extra bank holiday) is set to be one of the biggest for breakdowns with Halfords dubbing it ‘Flat Battery Wednesday’. 

That’s because so many cars stand idle over the festive period.

On January 2 alone, when 42 per cent of drivers will take to the road, the AA expects to attend more than 13,000 breakdowns — 29 per cent more than normal.

AA patrol of the year, George Flinton, said: ‘The first working day back in January is one of the busiest of the year for the AA, with flat batteries the main culprit.’

He advises to trickle charge your battery or give it a boost by driving your car for at least 30 minutes before Wednesday.

SAVE MONEY ON MOTORING

 

 



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