RE: Vauxhall VX220: PH Used Buying Guide

RE: Vauxhall VX220: PH Used Buying Guide

Thursday 15th November

Vauxhall VX220: PH Used Buying Guide

Luton's Elise has typically proven quite good value over the years - and 2018 is no different



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 £25,000-plus price to match. The 2.2-litre model can be had from £10,000 in decent nick, while Turbos tend to command a further £2000.


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 Lotushardtops.com.

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 £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 £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.


Vauxhall VX220/Turbo
Engine:
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: £22,809/£26,495
Price now: £10,000 upwards

Author
Discussion

redroadster

Original Poster:

791 posts

168 months

Thursday 15th November
quotequote all
Better styling than Elise .

Roberty

1,140 posts

108 months

Thursday 15th November
quotequote all
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

78 posts

41 months

Thursday 15th November
quotequote all
redroadster said:
Better styling than Elise .
From the front, maybe..


Roberty

1,140 posts

108 months

Thursday 15th November
quotequote all
Ryan_T said:
redroadster said:
Better styling than Elise .
From the front, maybe..
Looks are entirely subjective.

I’d say it’s Marmite

Cold

5,666 posts

26 months

Thursday 15th November
quotequote all
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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cookie1600

1,028 posts

97 months

Thursday 15th November
quotequote all
Cold said:
Struggling to understand the Luton observations made in the article.
It's the PH 'Gaydon' effect

C7 JFW

952 posts

155 months

Thursday 15th November
quotequote all
redroadster said:
Better styling than Elise .
Was not one of its features.

Cold

5,666 posts

26 months

Thursday 15th November
quotequote all
cookie1600 said:
Cold said:
Struggling to understand the Luton observations made in the article.
It's the PH 'Gaydon' effect
Quite possibly. But at least the Gaydon cars are made in Gaydon - apart from the ones made in Wales. These Luton cars have been nowhere near Luton - apart from the ones driven there.

Miserablegit

317 posts

45 months

Thursday 15th November
quotequote all
I’ve always liked these. I think they suffered because the Elise was so good and badge snobbery was/ is rife. Wasn’t there a suggestion they were to be badged Opel? Holden or Saab badging might have done more for sales? Launch date was around the date of Saab acquisition I think.


kambites

55,378 posts

157 months

Thursday 15th November
quotequote all
Fitting PU bushes properly is not particularly cheap or easy because the sockets in the wishbones are rarely round, so need reaming. If they're fitted without properly rounding off the sockets they'll jam which ruins the handling. They're a bit rubbish for road use even if fitted properly because they need regular lubrication and ruin the ride.

Far better off replacing like with like. The OEM rubber bushes are fine.

NotNormal

2,091 posts

150 months

Thursday 15th November
quotequote all
PH Article said:
The right-hand spark plug can leak oil if it's been overtightened, which causes a crack in the engine block
How does overtightening the spark plug, which screws into the cylinder head, crack the block exactly?

kambites

55,378 posts

157 months

Thursday 15th November
quotequote all
NotNormal said:
PH Article said:
The right-hand spark plug can leak oil if it's been overtightened, which causes a crack in the engine block
How does overtightening the spark plug, which screws into the cylinder head, crack the block exactly?
Yeah they've got that a bit muddled up in general. What they should have said is that if you overtighten the spark plug it can crack the head which can cause an oil (or coolant) leak.

Cold

5,666 posts

26 months

Thursday 15th November
quotequote all
At least we've made it this far without any mention of Griff Rhys Jones in his underpants.

skidskid

136 posts

77 months

Thursday 15th November
quotequote all
I have a supercharged VX220 and its great. Its a different option to the Elise as they do the same job in different ways, you really need to drive each one and see which you like best. There are some parts which are hard to get but they still cost the same as Elise parts which are easier to get and with the owners club there are always people who can help find parts. Its only really lights which are an issue but someone on the owners club is starting to produce them so the issue should soon be solved.

My VX cost half as much as the equivalent Elise, leaving lots left from the budget for mods and track days. NA's can be supercharged, turbos can be tuned simply so making more power is much more cost effective. Chassis wise, all the same parts can be swapped as on an Elise.

In summary, great value and offers a different driving experience (engine wise) to the Elise with the same handling.




Tri_Doc

477 posts

70 months

Thursday 15th November
quotequote all
I've driven one of these during a lesson, back when MSV had them on fleet at their circuits. I don't know how leggy and thrashed the machine I was driving was, but it was a really horrible experience. Loose controls, poor feedback, awkward gearshift. One of the worst machines i've driven on track.

kambites

55,378 posts

157 months

Thursday 15th November
quotequote all
Tri_Doc said:
I've driven one of these during a lesson, back when MSV had them on fleet at their circuits. I don't know how leggy and thrashed the machine I was driving was, but it was a really horrible experience. Loose controls, poor feedback, awkward gearshift. One of the worst machines i've driven on track.
Sounds like it was knackered - you don't have to know the geometry out by much to completely ruin the handling (of a VX220 or an Elise). Steering racks wear out and have to be treated as consumables too although they tend to last rather longer than the suspension components.

DanTVR

261 posts

120 months

Thursday 15th November
quotequote all
Don't know if the article is correct, the wheels base is 30mm longer but I'm sure that rear track is 20mm narrower. Also the front track is 7mm narrower than the elise due to the fitting of S1 wishbones instead of S2. Vauxhall wanted this to make the car less prone to snap over steer. Something which plagued the S1.

10% of common parts does a bit of a disservice to what the car represents imo. The fundamentals are the same, the alluminum tub/windscreen/heater/brake cylinders/calipers/pedal box/steering rack/suspension/hubs/dampers are all interchangeable. That fact the this is so similar to the elise make it an absolute bargain, I find elise more compliant when changing direction but certainly not more involving for it. All of the parts you would replace over time such as dampers could be replaced with elise or exige items for the same cost.

I have one and I think it's great, also the small line at the end about fitting a supercharger to the 2.2 VX is a relatively easy modification which adds about 90hp and was a GM upgrade available in the states. There isn't much engine tuning available (or reliable enough) to fit to the K series or Toyota engine to take it up to the power you can get from the turbo or a supercharged NA. Hence why everyone likes to fit the Honda engine which weighs the same as the Z22se fitted in a VX. Costs of this are upwards of 8k, so I guess it depends what you want from a sport car.

Also for balance on the reliability, I have had my VX for around 4 years, it has been one of the most reliable cars I have owned. Never broken down or left me stranded, bearing in mind it's an old car, all I have replaced is the alternator, a belt tensioner, (cheap as they are common on astra's etc) and engine mounts due to wear. Then normal service parts plus hub carrier bolts/toe links which are also common failure points on the elise. A friend who has an elise has had to replace a lot more than that and the lotus tax on parts only makes it more painful.

Personally I favour handling over power but a blend of the two is what makes a great sports car. In a VX I can have mid-engined 2 seater which handles incredibly is less than 900kgs and has 250bhp with supercharger fitted, all for less then 10k.

keith2.2

589 posts

131 months

Thursday 15th November
quotequote all
Got a 2.2 tucked away with about 15k on the clock having done no more than 2k miles in the last 5 years - most of the miles being to go and get its 'stage 2' breathing and remap and reglar servicing at Thorney Motorsport in MK.

Really fun little car but I preferred my S2000 (until the engine went pop)

Edited by keith2.2 on Friday 16th November 05:34

coldel

1,818 posts

82 months

Thursday 15th November
quotequote all
Some quite poor details in the article PH whats going on? As others pointed out, whats with the Luton reference?

I had one and would get another when the time is right. I had a red NA and had more than enough power for fun to be had. The bubbling on the paintwork isn't because of water ingress its due to the manufacture process of some of the body parts which retained water. So even repainting them wont help because the bubbling will come back. When I sold mine back in 2014 though some owners were looking at reproducing body parts so wouldnt know if that actually came to fruition.

But its a brilliant car for the money, whilst Elise prices continue to rise these do tend to follow so get one now before they get to silly money!

skidskid

136 posts

77 months

Thursday 15th November
quotequote all
coldel said:
When I sold mine back in 2014 though some owners were looking at reproducing body parts so wouldnt know if that actually came to fruition.
Jon Seal Sports Cars makes new bodywork so its not an issue getting hold of panels anymore.