History of Vauxhall Family Cars

01st Nov 2018

History of Vauxhall Family Cars

As far as British car brands go, Vauxhall is one of the most recognisable, and has been around since 1903. The number of Vauxhall cars on the roads becomes increasingly popular even today, with our favourite Vauxhall family cars including the Astra, Mokka X, Grandland X and the award-winning Insiginia.

Last year Vauxhall launched brand-new Insignia models, the Grand Sport, GSi, Country Tourer and Sports Tourer – a definite front-runner for the British brand. Evans Halshaw take a look at the Griffin's family-car journey from 1975 to the Present-day and its continuous marketplace for fantastic family cars.

In celebration of Vauxhall history, the company hosted and showcased a range of old Vauxhall cars at the Lancaster Classic Motor Show in the NEC back in November 2017. As Vauxhall celebrated their heritage, the Insignia Grand Sport received the Scottish Car Award for 'Family Car of the Year 2017' as well as a five-star Euro NCAP rating, confirming ongoing success as one of the top British car brands.

It’s no surprise either that the Vauxhall Insignia was named ‘Family Car of the Year’ and ‘Best Used Family Car of the Year’ at the more recent Auto Express Awards 2018, thanks to its combined practicality, affordability and first-class technology on board – not to mention its sophisticated looks with a premium feel. 

Cavalier Mk I

1975 - 1981

It was way back in 1975 when the 'droop-snout' of the Cavalier first appeared on the horizon. Based largely upon the Opel Ascona, the first British-built model rolled off the production line in Luton, in 1977.

The Cavalier offered an affordable family saloon to larger families. But was pitched as an ideal fleet vehicle due to company cars being taxed at a lower rate. This saw a huge increase in the number of cars sold, with Cavalier quickly becoming the second most popular car in Britain.

The modern front-wheel-drive layout of the Cavalier lent it to expansion into a coupe, hatchback and estate version. The Mark I was available in the following trims: L, LS, GL, GLS.

Building upon their expansion and success, Vauxhall launched the Mk II in 1981. With more pleasing lines than its predecessor, the Cavalier gained popularity amongst Sales Execs enjoying the booming economy. Popular with company accountants for its improved fuel economy, sales continued to soar with sales topping 100,000 in 1982.

Vauxhall Cavalier MK1

Cavalier Mk II

1981 - 1988

The new model was made available as 5-door hatchback making it an attractive family car due its versatile practicality. This release came with the choice of 1.3 or 1.6 L engines adapted from the smaller Astra. What captured the imagination of consumers was the release of a 1.8 L engine with electronic fuel-injection. The booming economy made it possible for consumers to buy a higher spec, practical family car.

A new 2.0L engine option became available on CD, SRi and GLS trim and to reflect buying habits, the 1.8 fuel-injection option was extended to include the lowest L trim range. The Cavalier was further improved when it was given an eye-catching sports trim and powerful 2.0-Litre engine. The Vauxhall Cavalier Sri130 produced 130bhp, a real enthusiast's car, the SRi could easily exceed 120 mph. The success of this classic Vauxhall is borne out in its continuing popularity and value almost thirty years later, as a collector's item.

The Gen. 2 Cavalier was made available in multiple trim levels as well as Special Edition models: including the Commander and Calibra.

Cavalier MK2 SRI

Cavalier Mk III

1988 - 1995

Cavalier's final incarnation came in 1988 with the release of the Mark III. Fully embracing their droop-snout name, Vauxhall took the angles out of their awkward second child and rounded the edges. The new sweeping lines and long bonnet made for a very elegant saloon and hatchback.

The Cavalier Mk III was so popular that in 1990 it was the second-most sold car in the UK with sales of over 110,000.

The makeover release of Autumn 1992 accommodated changes in highway safety regulations, with the inclusion of airbags and anti-lock brakes. The body design was improved with a toughened safety cage, side impact beams and front seatbelt pretensioners.

The Mk III's facelift also included a new-look grille. The griffin badge was placed at the centre, with the grille flaring at the sides in a subtle 'V'. Headlights, rear lights and bumper mouldings created a more streamlined look.

In 1996 General Motors finally phased out the old Cavalier name, having used Opel's chassis for the Cavalier for its final version.

Vauxhall Cavalier MK3

Vectra B

1995 - 2002

The Vauxhall Vectra became available in Britain in August 1995, meaning that there was a year's overlap before the phasing out of the old Vauxhall Cavalier Mk III. The Vectra B was unveiled at Frankfurt Motor Show in 1995.

The Vectra B was the last new model to be produced at the Luton factory, production switching to Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Initially continuing solely as a producer of commercial vehicles, all production at the Luton plant ceased in March 2004.

The Vectra B was visually very similar to the Cavalier MK III, being effectively a Mk IV. However, later models were chunkier in design.

The Vectra B received a makeover in February 1999, with the primary difference being single-piece headlight units, instead of the separate indicator units. The design of the headlamps was continually adapted, having more accentuated corners with each new model. This release also featured body-coloured bumpers, a trend reflected across many manufacturers cars over this period.

Vauxhall Vectra B

Vectra C

2002 - 2008

The Vectra C was unveiled at the 2002 Geneva Motor Show. Initially only available as a saloon, the hatchback was launched the following year along with the estate, featuring an elongated wheelbase.

Sharing this same 2,830mm chassis, an executive hatchback was produced under the nameplate, Opel/Vauxhall Signum. This model was a descendant of the earlier Vauxhall Carlton. The front end remained similar in design to the Vectra upon which it was based. However, the rear end was completely re-styled for the Signum.

Increasing restrictions placed upon the auto industry by the EU saw the introduction of Carbon Emissions rules. Whilst this meant that mainstream cars needed to produce less CO2 g/km, there was still a market for super-tuned performance cars.

These were constantly being modified for the British Touring Car Championships. This dauntless pursuit of more horsepower ultimately resulted in the creation of VXR. Produced by the Opel Performance Centre, the VXR range was an optimised option, characterised by new sporty trim, low spoiler and highly-tuned High Feature engine.

The adaptation and flexibility of this model helped it command a large market share for much of the '90s and into the new millennium. Production of the Vectra C and Signum ended in July 2008.

Vauxhall Vectra C

Insignia First Generation

2008 - 2017

The launch of the Insignia took place at the British International Motor Show in London on 23 July 2008 with much fanfare. Insignia was very much a new chapter for Vauxhall and their family car. With the phasing out of their larger executive hatchbacks, Insignia was created in such a way to occupy the void left by both the Vectra and the Carlton/Signum.

In 2009, a new range of ecoFLEX diesel engine was unveiled. Offering the same amount of power, but less CO2 g/km and fuel consumption it was a popular choice with domestic consumers and fleets alike.

The Insignia's chassis was long but was more its proportions were more in keeping with the Cavalier than the Vectra and therefore more aesthetically pleasing. A sleeker look to the rear was achieved by the use of diamond-shaped rear lights and chrome detailing to break up the shape of the tailgate.

Insignia was the first model to be simultaneously launched by Opel and Vauxhall. Dispensing with the characteristic 'V' grille, the Vauxhall Insignia returned to horizontal bars, this time in chrome. The side windows were also framed in chrome giving a premium look to this new model.
Insignia offers 30mm more leg room than the Vectra. The saloon and hatchback variants are same length and width with the estate version being slightly longer.

Vauxhall Insignia Facelift

Insignia Second Generation

2017 - present
2017 saw the launch of a new generation Insignia including the introduction of the Insignia Grand Sport - a sportier version the GSi. The practical Insignia Country Tourer is now offered alongside a sportier option too - the Insignia Sports Tourer, combining sporty looks with optimum Insignia practicality.

Following three consecutive awards achieved for being the 'Family Car of the Year' in 2017 and 2018, the Vauxhall Insignia sets the bar for the ultimate family car from one of our top British car brands.

Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport
2017 - present

After a long wait, the Insignia was re-launched as the Grand Sport at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2017. Removing the chrome bars from the grille marks a return to the 'V' design. However, this time the effect is subtle, with the two arms of the 'V' outstretched like wings held aloft.

The Insignia Grand Sport is Vauxhall's Flagship car, come-of-age. With new chiselled features, Grand Sport is imposing and impressive.

Boasting a drag co-efficient of 0.26 (equivalent to the Calibra) the Grand Sport has evidently been shredding in the gym and this newest version of Insignia is leaner and meaner than ever before.

Engines within the all-new Grand Sport Insignia are mostly carried over from the previous Insignia and are tried and tested. With three petrol and three diesel units there are plenty of options available.

Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport

Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport GSi

2017 - present 
For the higher spec enthusiast, the GSi badge makes a welcome return in the form of the new Insignia Grand Sport GSi. Offering 8-speed automatic transmission and full leather seats this is a true executive hatch. Due to the 260bhp, Brembo brakes have also been installed as standard.

GSi is much more than just a badge, shedding a further 160kg over the standard Grand Sport and out-punches the previous generation VXR for sheer power and thrust.
Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport GSi

Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer

The new Insignia Sports Tourer is the latest estate version of the Insignia. Taking the new-look shape from the recently released Grand Sport, the Sports Tourer is a sporty, practical family car. By increasing the distance between the front and rear wheels, Vauxhall have created an expansive cabin, extra legroom makes for a comfortable ride for all.

All models come with a stack of standard technology: 17-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, keyless entry and ignition, seven-inch touchscreen multimedia system, Bluetooth phone connectivity plus Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and Vauxhall OnStar assistance.

For fetching the offspring from University, seats drop to create a massive 1,665-litre boot. With rear seats upright boot capacity is still a very generous 560-litres.
Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer

Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer

2017 - present

This popular rugged estate car is the first in a new line of next generation Insignia cars. Boasting all of the current technology it was relaunched in Summer 2017.
Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer

Building upon 40 years of Vauxhall history building successive popular family cars, Vauxhall have taken their experience and used it to create the most comfortable family car they have ever made.

As one of the largest Vauxhall dealers in the UK, Evans Halshaw have all three models of the Insignia at our dealerships available for you to test drive.