PH Buying Guide: Vauxhall VX220

Necessity was to prove the mother of invention for the Vauxhall VX220. Vauxhall fancied a sports car to glitz up its range and Lotus desperately needed funds to replace its Elise Series 1 that could no longer meet impending crash protection regulations as the new millennium approached. A deal was struck and in 2000 the VX220 arrived on the market costing £22,809.

VX220 started out with a N-A 2.2-litre engine
VX220 started out with a N-A 2.2-litre engine
For the money, many thought they were simply being offered an Elise with Vauxhall badges (or Opel badges for the same car sold as the Speedster in Europe with left-hand drive). This could not have been further from the case as the VX shared only 10% of its components with the Elise, most notably the extruded aluminium chassis tub, bonded together to create a very torsionally stiff base. Even then, the VX differed from the Elise with a wheelbase that's 30mm longer and rear track 20mm wider than the Lotus.

Vauxhall also opted for 17-inch alloy wheels all round to give the VX a bit more presence, while Lotus stuck with 16-inch front wheels as it reckoned they improved handling balance. Either way, the VX impressed with its dynamic ability, helped by purpose-designed Bridgestone tyres. Other key changes were the Vauxhall's anti-lock brakes as standard and a driver's airbag, which the Elise did without.

VXR220 was an impressive last hurrah
VXR220 was an impressive last hurrah
The VX also distanced itself from the Elise with its engines. There was no way Vauxhall would condone a car in its line-up with a Rover K-Series engine, so the 147hp 2.2-litre aluminium motor from the Astra SRi was drafted in, helping the 870kg VX from 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds and on to 135mph.

Vauxhall then added the VX220 Turbo in 2003 with another engine from the Astra range. This iron-blocked motor gave 200hp but upped the overall weight of the car to 930kg. Still, the VX Turbo fires off 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds and hits 151mph, which earned it a supercar-humbling reputation.

Lotus turned out a total of 5,267 VX220s and 1,940 Turbos by the time production ended in 2005, but that didn't stop Vauxhall adding one last VX hurrah in 2004 with the VXR220. This lightened, more powerful model used the Turbo as a base but with a modified ECU to increase power to 220hp. Along with optional Ohlins suspension and Lotus-aping 16-inch front wheels plus Yokohama tyres, it was the ultimate VX220 and could cover 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds. Only 65 VXR220s were made, so it's a rarity today and you'll likely pay around £20,000 for a well cared for example. Much more affordable is the original normally aspirated VX that starts from around £6,000, while a Turbo will cost from the £9,000 mark.

Owner's view:
"If you can live with the downsides then you're guaranteed miles of smiles and lots of admiring looks."
Nige Franklin

Buying guide contents:
Rolling chassis
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Comments (67) Join the discussion on the forum

  • billzeebub 09 Dec 2012

    I love these, the only Vauxhall (aside from the Lotus Carlton) that I could envisage myself owning. A great tool for scooting through the Alps

  • herbie147 09 Dec 2012

    I owned a VX220 turbo for a year. It was tuned to stage 2 and felt seriously fast!
    Hardly any on the road and turned heads everytime I took it out.

    Things to look out for....

    Radiators: OE rads with plastics end caps burst. Better with a full alloy rad, costs around £600 to replace as front clam needs to come off.

    Engine mounts: Made of cheese and they knock and sound like a coffee grinder on hard accelleration. Expect around £400 to change these.

    Electrical gremlins, engine managment lights, leaking roof/windows, cat D's & C's are all common.

  • Pulse 09 Oct 2012

    I have ALWAYS loved the VX220. A few times I have been close to buying one, though have never viewed one.

    I am now considering picking one up as a second car, perhaps early next year. I'd love a Turbo.

  • JPPSpecial 12 Sep 2012

    Really enjoyed my VX220 NA. Paid just 8k for it, ran it for 2 years and 20k miles then sold it for just under 8k. All in I suffered less than £500 in depreciation. I also have to say nothing ever went wrong other than some condensation getting into the front headlamp. Cheap to run and insure too. I was also fortunate enough to own a 200bhp pretty hard focused westfield at the same time and I jumped in the VX more times than the westy because it was softer, it wasn't half as good on a track but down a b road, pushing on at 8 tenths commitment levels whilst catching some sun and listening to some tunes. Awesome.

    Can anyone argue for a better performance bargain than that?

    I upgraded to a Lotus Europa S which I have to admit apart from the badge and the aesthetics (my opinion only guys) I feel the VX was the better all round car. I miss my VX220 frown

  • GTRene 08 Sep 2012

    nice video biggrin

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