Nearly twenty years on from its first appearance, the Vauxhall Signum is still hard to figure. The model was based on the Vectra wagon (hardly an auspicious beginning) which endowed it with a longer wheelbase. But rather than differentiating it with a rakish new body, its maker plonked what looked like a giant hatchback shell on top and then insisted that it had created a new market segment. ‘Signum Class’ it said, embodied elegance, driving refinement and exceptional interior flexibility.
Somewhat typically for Vauxhall (or Opel, at any rate) in reality it had only seriously attempted to address one of its stated objectives. Thanks to its FlexSpace seating system, the Signum did achieve a measure of limb-accommodating adaptability inside. This was achieved by doing away with the standard bench and putting the two outermost rear seats on runners, allowing occupants 130mm of lengthwise adjustment. You could even recline through 30 degrees. And use the diddy centre seat as an armrest and cupholder.
Needless to say, this was intended as a ploy to lure space-obsessed bigwigs into ‘Signum Class’ and sail triumphantly into profit. Unfortunately, Vauxhall - as it was wont to do - misjudged the target audience’s appetite for a) weird-looking cars and b) anything badged Vauxhall. Contemporaneous reports labelled the car ‘unloved’ almost from the get-go, and tended to track the immediate and inevitable tumble prices took the moment any variant became secondhand. Or even before they did.
As a result, any decent surviving example pitching up in the bright lights of 2022 must surely be regarded with the kind of sentimental glee you might expect to feel when happening upon a DVD copy of Battlefield Earth in your local petrol station. Back in January, Autocar boldly suggested that it was one of the best all-rounders you could imagine. We’d row that statement back a bit - possibly all the way to the shore - but if cavernous and usefully versatile cabins are your thing, it would be hard to argue that you’re not getting a lot for your money.
Of course, the other nice thing about Vauxhall’s marker-pen-sniffing era is that it was inclined to stick oversized engines in pretty much anything that happened to be coming down the production line. Consequently, after a spit-and-polish facelift in 2005, you could have a Signum with much the same 2.8-litre turbocharged V6 that Saab used to great effect in the 9-3 Aero. Which is what we have here, twinned with a six-speed manual gearbox and the mildly whizzy Design trim.
Accordingly, and somewhat improbably, Vauxhall’s ‘unloved’ old bus - in a particularly unloveable colour, it must be said - isn’t a million miles away from the holy trinity: cheap, fast and large. Granted, there are riders on all three (it isn’t quite as cheap or as fast or even as large as a truly first-rate barge would be) and certainly it’ll never stop being slightly odd. But if you can forgive that little lot, you might finally be ready to climb aboard Vauxhall’s half-forgotten class experiment.
SPECIFICATION | Vauxhall Signum V6
Engine: 2,792cc V6, turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 230@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 243@1,900-4,500rpm
Year registered: 2005
Recorded mileage: 70,000
Price new: £23,050
Yours for: £4,190
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