In 2006, my disability meant that I had my full manual
driving license revoked and I was forced to sell my beloved Vauxhall Vectra.
After I had undergone a full driving assessment I was issued a three year
licence that stipulated that I had to drive an automatic and use hand controls.
I applied for DLA and upon being awarded the higher rate of the mobility component;
I decided to join the Motability scheme.
Being a Vauxhall man through and through, I opted for the
Astra with the Design spec, boasting half-leather interior, a smart ‘Piano
Black’ dashboard trim MP3/CD/radio sound system with 7 speakers, automatic
lights and wipers and an automatically dipping rear view mirror (Vauxhall call
it the Sight and Light Pack). I also
opted to have Cruise Control installed.
This is all wrapped up in a Sapphire Black paint job.
Having decided on the car, I visited my local dealer
(Evans Halshaw in Wakefield) and spoke to the Motability specialist there. The order was placed quickly and smoothly and
included the necessary adaptations – a Cowal Mobility push/pull accelerator/brake
and Alfred Bekker steering wheel knob
and easy release handbrake, the cost of which was covered under the Motability
scheme. The advance payment for the car
was £199 which I considered to be fantastic considering the level of comfort
and mobility it offered.
My adaptations were installed by KC Mobility of Batley
who were friendly and helpful throughout and explained the controls to me. The installation is neat and reliable, with
the rods attached to the accelerator and brake pedals concealed behind the
Since taking delivery of the car in April 2007 I have
covered some 26,000+ miles, mostly without problems. In March 2008 the auto gearbox failed on my
way to work, but the Motability breakdown team soon picked the car up and had a
hire car delivered to me at the office.
I was particularly impressed that the hire car was the same model and
spec as mine, though I was glad to get my own car (fitted with a new gearbox) back
2 weeks later!
Since then the car has been faultless. The 1.8 petrol engine is quiet and smooth,
whether in city traffic or on the open road.
The power delivery in normal (or “economy”) mode is smooth and
progressive and you tend to only notice the gear changes because of the changing number on the
dashboard display. This also avoids the need to look down to check what has
Press the seemingly innocuous Sport button on the
dashboard though and the character of the car changes completely – the
suspension stiffens, the steering sharpens up and the throttle response becomes
noticeably quicker. Gear changes are held off until higher in the rev range
(almost in the red zone) and the car becomes a beast – in this mode the gear
changes are very noticeable, as is the engine noise.
The engine is the 1.8 16 valve with VVTi (Variable Valve
Timing and injection). This produces
around 140PS which is more than enough to propel this car at a decent rate of
speed. This is mated to a 4-speed fully
Getting in and out of the car can be tricky as the seating
position is quite low compared to some, but once inside the driver is faced
with a dashboard and controls that are logical and within easy reach. There is plenty of leg and head room and a
variety of adjustments can be made to the driving position. One downside to the hand controls is that
they make it impossible to adjust the reach on the steering wheel once they
have been installed so it is important to get this set correctly before
installation. The height adjustment on
the steering wheel is still useable.
The car has plenty of space for passengers, luggage and
mobility aids; it can happily transport my fiancée and I , three kids, my
wheelchair and walking stick and a weeks shopping. The boot can be closed from a wheelchair
position by grabbing the side just below the rear screen and a really neat and
useful feature of this trim level is the full open/close feature – you can open
or close all the windows from the remote key.
This can be useful if you need to grab onto something having placed the
wheelchair in the boot on your way to the drivers door. The car is easily
manoeuvrable with 2.5 turns lock to lock on the steering and great visibility
The entertainment system in the car (Vauxhall call it
“Infotainment”!) is a great piece of kit.
Though not up to audiophile standards it does boast an MP3 player which
plays CDs with MP3 files burnt on them, which means that depending on quality
you can get some 10 or possibly more albums on one CD. Track information is
displayed on the dashboard and the sound is good quality with plenty of power
behind it – important if you spend a lot of time in your car and like your
music. I listen to anything from
classical to R&B and whatever I have on it is played well.
The lighting, wipers and rear view mirror are all
automatic, although you can switch the lighting to manual mode if required. In the auto setting the lights can come on
when you go under a bridge and I have known them to cause confusion at some
junctions with bridges nearby as people can think you are flashing the lights
at them, but it is a useful feature. The
wipers are quick to respond and adapt to changing conditions. A neat feature of the wipers is that when they
are in use and you select reverse gear the rear wiper comes on – very thoughtful! The rear view mirror inside the car dims
automatically to prevent dazzling if it senses that someone behind has main
beam headlights on or badly adjusted headlights. The exterior mirrors are heated and
Long journeys in the car are comfortable and relaxing,
helped by the cruise control which is offered as an optional extra. This allows the driver to set a speed between
30 and 120MPH and the car will then maintain that speed unless the brake is
operated or the system switched off.
Whilst cruise control is switched on it is possible to adjust the speed
in either direction incrementally by pressing the up or down button. If the system has been turned off either
manually or by operating the brake then the preset speed can be regained at the
touch of a button if need be.
All in all I am very happy with the car and can easily
see myself sticking with Vauxhall when it comes time to change next year – I’m
already tempted by the Insignia.