I realise the sentiment is unusual, right up there alongside fancying Simon Schama, feeling pity for Fred Goodwin, supporting West Bromwich Albion, or preferring Morrissey's solo material to The Smiths, but I've long had a soft spot for the Vauxhall Vectra. It was the first car I drove by myself and, as such, despite being widely mocked as motoring's answer to magnolia emulsion, the model has always held thrilling connotations of freedom and the threat of being swept away to your death by an overtaking juggernaut.
Which is why I approached the Vauxhall Insignia with trepidation. I was concerned that driving the car, labelled 'Vectra' through part of its development, would be like meeting a teenage sweetheart, or listening to Scritti Politti's Oh Patti (Don't Feel Sorry for Loverboy) - the gap between the sweet memory and the grisly, dated reality being almost too painful to bear.
But I needn't have worried. For while I have changed, become a little more sophisticated, so too has the Vectra/Insignia, as epitomised in (a) the new corporate badge on the front of the car, which rather than showing the whole griffin, now focuses on the creature's head; (b) the actually quite funky exterior; and (c) the actually quite funky interior.
Let's face it, sitting inside the plasticky Vectra was, at best, like sitting inside a child's lunchbox and, at worst, like hanging around the waiting room of a provincial STD clinic. But from the instant you grab the Insignia's door-pull, you know you're dealing with a different beast. To sit inside the stylised cabin, with its wing-shaped dash and lack of vertical surfaces, is a pleasure. And, as you'd expect from the European Car of the Year and the model named Executive Car of the Year by TopGear.com, it's fun to drive too. Not as sharp and responsive as a Mondeo, BMW or a Merc, but fun even so.
Indeed, I had only two problems with my test model, the first being its colour. It was white. Like a police car. Or like a Ford Escort from the '80s. Or, perhaps more worryingly, like a van. Just wrong. There was also a weird delay on the CD player. You'd flick the track, but it would only change after a second or two, by which time you'd inevitably have flicked again, resulting in the player jumping two tracks at once, robbing you of listening to that glorious extended version of Oh Patti (Don't Feel Sorry for Loverboy) you were looking for.
I'LL TAKE ONE ...
THANKS BUT NO THANKS ...
Poor rearward visibility.
Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 Sri Nav £20,985
Engine: 2.0i 16v turbo
Combined power: 217 bhp at 5,300 rpm
Torque: 258 lb ft at 2,000 rpm
Fuel: 31.7 mpg (combined cycle)
CO2: 209 g/km
0-62 mph: 7.2 secs
Top speed: 150 mph