Vauxhall VX220: PH Used Buying Guide

As the cost of a well preserved Lotus Elise Series 1 seems destined to climb ever higher, the comparative price of the Vauxhall VX220 continues to represent good value for money. The trade off remains the same: choose the Luton way and you get a lightweight two-dooe sports car that uses the same extruded aluminium chassis tub. But that's about where the similarities end.

While Vauxhall was happy to play up the Lotus connections for its new sports car when it was launched in 2000, the reality was somewhat different. Only 10% of parts were common between the two and the VX even had a 30mm longer wheelbase and 20mm wider rear track. Among other notable alterations, Vauxhall decided to fit its mid-engined car with anti-lock brakes and a driver's airbag in the belief its buyers would not be as keen on the pared-back minimalism that Elise owners revelled in. As it was, the VX was still very basic and you had to pay extra for leather seats.

More controversially, the VX came with 17-inch front wheels and Bridgestone tyres in a unique size. These didn't quite deliver the same feel and grip as the Elise, though the Vauxhall was still an impressive handling car. It also had softer suspension settings for a more comfortable ride to reflect the sort of buyer expected to choose the VX.

The biggest difference though lay in the engine compartment, where the 2.2-litre motor from the Astra SRi was mounted. With 147hp, it was enough to see the 875kg VX220 from 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds. Never the most exciting engine, it could be spiced up with an optional Sports exhaust that gave a better noise, but no more power.

A Lightning Yellow special edition followed in 2001, but it took until 2003 for the VX220 Turbo to pitch up with a 2.0-litre engine and 200hp. The more powerful motor was heavier, pushing the kerb weight to 930kg, but its extra torque and power dropped the 0-62mph time to 4.7 seconds.

A last hurrah arrived in 2004 with the VXR220 that tweaked the Turbo's output to 220hp and delivered 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds. Only 60 of this version were made and it's now the most sought after by enthusiasts with a Β£25,000-plus price to match. The 2.2-litre model can be had from Β£10,000 in decent nick, while Turbos tend to command a further Β£2000.

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Buyer's checklist

Bodywork and interior

Look for mismatched paint as plenty of VX's have been crashed and repaired. Satisfy yourself the front crash box structure is intact

Entire new front and rear clamshells are available from

All VX's suffer from some water leaks into the cabin. Also look for bubbles in the bodywork where water has swollen under the paint.

Look for cracks at the rear of the front clam meets the windscreen.

Underneath, inspect the floor for signs of damage if the proper jacking points have not been used.

Driver's seat outer bolster wears as it's right in the way as you get in and out. Also check the sill for scratches and scuffs that are all but unavoidable.

Optional leather seats are hard-wearing.

Make sure the boot release mechanism works.

Damaged headlights are pricey to replace at around Β£1000 per side.

Engine and transmission

2.2-litre engine's timing chain becomes rattly. If you hear this, it needs replacing immediately and best to factor this in at 60,000-mile or five-year intervals. The work should cost around Β£240 at an independent specialist.

The 2.-0-litre turbo has a timing belt that needs replacing every four years or 60,000 miles.

The dipstick in the 2.2 motor is not very reliable, so dip it to check the oil level several times to get an average reading. This engine uses a little oil, so check regularly.

The right-hand spark plug can leak oil if it's been overtightened, which causes a crack in the engine block. Also check for water leaks around the spark plugs from the vents in the engine cover.

Check under the front clamshell to make sure radiator hoses and clips are in good condition. An uprated radiator is common, especially on cars that have been used track.

Check the engine mounts are in good condition by checking for an excessive rocking from the engine.

Turbo engine is easy to tune and a remap and exhaust can take it up to 240bhp. For more power, a larger intercooler will be needed.

Supercharging is a common mod for the 2.2 engine.

Suspension and steering

Worn bushes are common now these cars are getting on. New poly bushes for the wishbones and anti-roll bars are cheap and easy to fit.

Alloy spring mounts can corrode.

Wheels, tyres and brakes

Brake servo hose is known to perish, so check this and budget for a replacement if it's not in perfect condition.

Rear hub bolts can weaken and snap. Reckon on replacing these if they've not been done recently.

17-inch front wheels are a cause of much debate as tyre choice is limited due to unusual size. Aftermarket options are available to give a broader selection of rubber.

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Vauxhall VX220/Turbo
2198cc inline 4-cyl/1998cc inline 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 5-speed man
Power (hp): 147/200@/5800/5500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 149/184@4000/1950rpm
MPG: 33.0
CO2: 205/202g/km
Price new: Β£22,809/Β£26,495
Price now: Β£10,000 upwards

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Comments (143) Join the discussion on the forum

  • redroadster 15 Nov 2018

    Better styling than Elise .

  • Roberty 15 Nov 2018

    I had one and would not recommend one at all!

    Having previously had an Elise I thought this would be a great alternative to upgrading to an S2. Having the same chassis but a better engine thought I t would be fun. Turned out to have all the issues of any Elise and more and without the same levels of fun to compensate.

    The lack of reliability, poor build quality, awful service and inflated parts costs from the main dealers together with its complete lack of practicality meant it had to go. The Elise is also entirely impractical but it’s such good fun to drive you can forgive it. In the VX the Poor build, reliability brought the lack of practicality into sharp focus taking the fun out of it.

    The 2.2 Vauxhall Engine is far more powerful than the S1 Elise's old Rover lump but lacks the character the K-series has and is no where near as good as the Toyota VVTLi unit in the newer Elise S2's.

    Mods can Sharpen the handling and add power but at far to high a cost for my liking. Osmosis of the GRP bodywork is a real serious issue and costs a fortune to solve properly. Many thought it was a kitcar.

    I wouldn't recommend one over an Elise, in fact I wouldn't recommend one at all possibly one of the worst cars I've owned.

    Edited by Roberty on Thursday 15th November 06:42

  • Ryan_T 15 Nov 2018

    redroadster said:
    Better styling than Elise .
    From the front, maybe..

  • Roberty 15 Nov 2018

    Ryan_T said:
    redroadster said:
    Better styling than Elise .
    From the front, maybe..
    Looks are entirely subjective.

    I’d say it’s Marmite

  • Cold 15 Nov 2018

    Struggling to understand the Luton observations made in the article. Unless it's a nod to where the badges were posted from on their way to Hethel.

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