MT Business Travel: On the road

Vauxhall is not known for glamorous wheels, but the Tigra 1.4 is an attractive convertible.

by Richard Bremner
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Mildew. Mould. Water pooling on your carpets. These were just a few of the problems lying in wait for the one-time owners of 1960s sports cars, as their MG's ageing soft-top withered under the elements. Modern sports car hoods are far more durable, but eventually they'll need replacing, and only the very expensive are good enough to produce anything less than a roaring din at 80mph as the airstream drums at the canvas.

So what you need is a car with a folding metal roof, such as a sports Mercedes. If that sounds expensive, then it is, but other manufacturers now offer cars with similar metal folding roofs, and many are much cheaper.

For a while, Peugeot has offered just that in the 206 CC, a slightly odd-looking version of its hatchback, whose dinky roof usually - for they are not always reliable - tumbles out of sight at the touch of a button to create a neat and suddenly rather attractive roadster.

The Peugeot has now been joined by the similarly configured Vauxhall Tigra. Vauxhall is not known for peddling glamorous wheels, but this new Tigra is an attractive coupe-cum-roadster costing £13,750 as an entry-level 1.4, less than Peugeot charges for its least expensive 206 CC, albeit with a bigger engine.

But you don't need raw blasts of acceleration to savour cars like these - they're more about enjoying the balmy breeze. In the Vauxhall, it takes just 20 seconds to feel it. Release a couple of latches, press a button, and the roof cantilevers away beneath the rear deck, which rears skywards for a few moments before the lid disappears beneath it. You can't do this on the move, but the transformation is rapid, easily effected and satisfying to watch, especially from the outside.

As in the Peugeot, the Tigra's roof invades the luggage bay when stowed, but the difference is that its boot is much bigger in the first place - large enough for a fortnight's worth of cases for two, in fact - leaving residual space that will hold the spoils of a light credit card assault on the King's Road. There's also a surprisingly big shelf behind the front seats, Vauxhall sensibly choosing to make the Tigra a strict two-seater. While the Peugeot provides four, it's in name only because the rear seats are more suitable for species not given to lurking in the back of cars.

Seating apart, this Vauxhall is very practical and entirely viable as an everyday car, even with the winter at its most miserable. Roof down, you may find the overhanging windscreen invasive if you're tall, but otherwise this is a roomy cockpit. The Tigra's dashboard comes from the cheaper Corsa and is a bit cheaply finished for a car costing upwards of £14,000, but overall the cockpit is pleasant and impressively draught-free when roofless.

The Tigra is not a car that encourages keen drivers to attack corners like a downhill skier, but it rounds them confidently enough to make country road forays a pleasure, even if the athleticism of a sports car is largely absent.

For that reason, and the fact that it sounds smoother and uses less fuel, the Tigra 1.4 is a shrewder buy than the 1.8 - you're better off spending the money on options such as air conditioning (£500) and the Sport pack's more stylish wheels, lowered suspension, upgraded cabin and CD player (£750). Thus kitted, you will have a two-seater that is entirely practical and comfortable all year round, as capable on long trips as it is for a foray to the shops.

As a substitute for a hatchback runabout, the Tigra isn't cheap, but it's vastly more appealing and as practical as you could hope a roofless two-seater to be - and how often do more than two of you actually occupy your car? Desirable Vauxhalls may be as rare as hens' teeth, but this neat little Tigra is one of them.

SPECIFICATION

Price £13,750
Max power 89 bhp
Max torque 92 lb ft
Max speed 112 mph
0-62mph 12.0 sec
Fuel consumption 46.3 mpg
Emissions 146 g/km

RIVALS

Mini One Convertible £13,325

The Mini has a (well-made) fabric roof and four seats, but only a tiny boot. Fun and very fashionable.

Peugeot 206 CC 1.6S £14,920

Cute but pricy. Four seats, but the rear accommodation is ridiculous and boot is limited. The electric roof can be troublesome.

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