14 October 2004

Vauxhall is fighting back against arch-rival Ford as the roofs come off in the battle between the Astra and Focus.

A concept version of Ford’s folding hard-top was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show last month in the shape of the Vignale, and these scoop shots taken from inside Vauxhall are the first proof that the company is preparing its own version, due to arrive around March 2006, six months before the Focus drop-top. Our insiders point to a number of non-standard elements on this car, though, including the alloy wheels, smoked rear lamps and flared wheelarches.

The pictures show a complex three-piece roof that has been developed by Car Top Systems, the German company also responsible for the folding roof on the Mercedes SLK and SL, and the Peugeot 307CC. The three-part layout allows a more stylised sloping roofline, rather than the long flat top section and sharper rear drop of the two-piece systems, and insiders say we can expect a class-leading 18sec roof-drop time, compared with 22sec for the Renault Megane CC. Expect the engine options to come from the top end of the current Astra range, which should mean 125bhp 1.8- and 170bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrols, as well as the 150bhp 1.9-litre diesel, although this may not be available at launch. The 240bhp 2.0-litre turbo, to be fitted to the three-door Astra VXR, is also a possibility.

Our Verdict

Caterham Seven

The Caterham Seven is a stripped-down sportscar offering one of the most pure driving experiences available. It is a true classic and available in nine iterations

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