PH Service History: Once driven, forever smitten?


Earlier this week, you'll have read about m'colleague Mr Bird's abortive attempt to set three lap records in a Vauxhall Insignia GSI (and if you haven't yet, then really you should - it's a great story, though sadly for all the wrong reasons).

Of course, the resurrection of the GSI badge has some of us here at PH HQ in a flutter. Well, those of us old enough to remember the first round of GSIs, that is - and while I'll admit there's a strong dollop of nostalgia helping along our fond recollections, older GSIs are still pretty cool, aren't they?

Take the Insignia's direct antecedent, for example - the Cavalier. Based on the Mk3, which was a reasonably handy thing in itself, the GSI added Vauxhall's famous C20XE, or 'red top' engine and optional four-wheel drive to become a genuinely involving sub-Cosworth performance saloon, with the looks to match. Finding one these days isn't easy, though we've a couple in the classifieds, but it's still quite possible to get hold of a tidy example for a few grand - which, given the current price madness, sounds reasonable.


The GSI badge soldiered on through the hot hatch doldrums of the 1990s plastered to the nose of the handsome but wayward Mk3 Astra and Corsa for a time before withering away, but in 2001 it was back - affixed to, of all things, a Zafira.

With hindsight, you have to admire Vauxhall's (well, Opel's) chutzpah, misguided or otherwise, in shoving its new 2.0-litre turbo engine under the snout of a people carrier. But while you may snort with derision, in the Zafira GSI, you get a car that can carry seven in reasonable comfort, yet also hit 62mph in seven and a half or so. And it even does a passable impression of a hot hatch, with big globs of power that make it rather hilarious to drive. Just mind the torque steer.

The best part is that you can pick one up these days for peanuts - this rare standard example with reasonable miles and a full history is close to top dollar, and looks like it should give years of unconventionally entertaining family motoring.


Of course, the Zafira spawned the Astra GSI Turbo, which ran roughly the same running gear and offered tidier handling at the expense of a few seats; prices for these run at about the same level as they do for the Zafira, though you'll need patience to find a standard example that hasn't been modded, thrashed or crashed - or a combination of the three.

Sadly, though, that was it for the GSIs until now, as Vauxhall replaced the brand with the VXR badge we've come to know and love. Will we still feel such nostalgia for these models in ten years' time? Will Vauxhall one day reincarnate VXR in the same way? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, I'm off to lobby Luton for the next revival of one its past glories: the Senator 24v, if you please, folks. I'll take three. And I'll leave you with this throwback to the good old days.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (10) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Jual Mass Flywheel 25 Feb 2018

    My 7 seater Gran Tourer M Sport does 0-60 in 7.9 and I'll wager drives better than a gsi Zaffy with much better running costs. It's still white good though. And much more to buy in the first place of course, but the point is the performance is nothing special.

  • DSLiverpool 25 Feb 2018

    Ok who wrote this? The only proper GSi was the first batch of Vectras with touring car tuned suspension, recaros and serious third party wheels - slight power increase to 196 BHP from the 2.5 V6
    MSD modified the cars in house after taking SRis as the base car.
    Cost me £19,500 in 1998 and I loved that car - mine was a saloon in met gold.

  • Ahbefive 25 Feb 2018

    Jual Mass Flywheel said:
    My 7 seater Gran Tourer M Sport does 0-60 in 7.9 and I'll wager drives better than a gsi Zaffy with much better running costs..
    But as you pointed out probably costs 5-10times more. Bit of a pointless comparison.

    I have cars much faster also not comparable, and.......

  • Jual Mass Flywheel 25 Feb 2018

    Ahbefive said:
    But as you pointed out probably costs 5-10times more. Bit of a pointless comparison.

    I have cars much faster also not comparable, and.......
    The point I was making was that the GSI badging means the sweet sum of feck all when a diesel can match the performance and drive better (engine note aside). There are much cheaper cars out there than mine that can do that. I've been in a GSI Zafira and given the running costs I really couldn't understand why you would bother. As stated above the real GSI's come in different forms.

  • hothatchery7 25 Feb 2018

    Jual Mass Flywheel said:
    Ahbefive said:
    But as you pointed out probably costs 5-10times more. Bit of a pointless comparison.

    I have cars much faster also not comparable, and.......
    The point I was making was that the GSI badging means the sweet sum of feck all when a diesel can match the performance and drive better (engine note aside). There are much cheaper cars out there than mine that can do that. I've been in a GSI Zafira and given the running costs I really couldn't understand why you would bother. As stated above the real GSI's come in different forms.
    I respect your opinion but it reeks of anti Vauxhall false points. Your 'new modern turbo diesel' is comparable to an old fairly basic petrol turbo? never thought id see the day! If you compared things like that, your old 'proper' gsi's wouldnt stand a chance performance wise? Ive never heard anybody say aw thats a nice escort rs or cossie but my 16 plate with many NM's of torque is comparable in performance so they are all pointless? and in my opinion a nova and corsa gsi are decent cars. In the real world they can out handle many cars while keeping a massive grin on yer face! But im just a yobo so what do i know

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