Signum benefits from improved Vectra chassis and nose, but don’t expect a sales revolution.

Time for a refresh for Vauxhall’s curious hatchback/estate that wants us to think it’s a mass-market limousine.
The Signum gets the same chassis and front-end mods as the Vectra on which it’s based. The most obvious changes are the more prominent Vauxhall ‘V’ in the front grille, larger diamond-shaped light units and a deeper, more sculpted bumper. But more welcome changes are under the skin: like the Vectra, the Signum chassis has been tweaked to suit UK roads better. Without replacing any major components –suspension bushes aside – Vauxhall has transformed the car’s dynamics.
As with the Vectra, the floating sensation of the old car has been replaced by a tauter feel. But laden with the hefty 3.0 V6 diesel motor, our test Signum handled markedly less well than the lighter 1.9 CDTi Vectra. Turn in to bends quickly and there’s a moment’s delay as the additional weight settles on the springs. The Vectra also rides more smoothly – the Signum’s stiffer springs impare its ability to mask Tarmac scars.
Still, the big-capacity diesel pulls the Signum along swiftly enough. Available since launch, Vauxhall has tuned the engine to meet Euro 4 regulations, and in doing so has liberated an extra 7bhp and smoothed the power delivery. Unlike smaller diesels it has a less-pronounced turbo kick, pulling eagerly from low revs with a particularly linear throttle response.
Also new for ’06 are minor tweaks to the cabin, which subtly enhance its ambience.
While the improvements to the Signum make sense in isolation, they do little to address the car’s real problem: its narrow appeal.
Jamie Corstorphine

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