• VAUXHALL APV - SINTRA
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GENERAL MOTORS GMT200 U BODY PLATFORM

Every so often Vauxhall build, or in this case import, a car that just seems to flop from day one. The Viceroy was a good example, the Signum, the Monterey and even the current Antara could be included but the biggest and most costly of all was the Vauxhall Sintra. It was a short sighted knee jerk reaction to the successful Renault Espace, Ford Galaxy, VW Sharon, SEAT Alhambra and marked Vauxhall’s first foray into the MPV market.

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THE 1997 CHEVROLET VENTURE

THE 1997 PONTIAC MONTANA

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THE 1997 OLDSMOBILE SILHOUETTE

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THE 1997 BUICK GL8 WHICH WAS ONLY SOLD IN CHINA

It was also another attempt by GM to try and create a world car to cater for varying tastes and market demands, unfortunately it ended up satisfying none of them. The Sintra was wholly designed in America and based on the short-wheelbase version of the second generation U platform, also internally known as T200 or GMX110. It shared the same wheelbase, front and rear track and overall exterior dimensions as the other short-wheelbase U-body minivans - Chevrolet Venture, Pontiac Montana & TransSport, Oldsmobile Silhouette and the previous generation Buick GL8. All variations were made at the GM plant in Doraville, Georgia.

In the US only one powertrain was available; the GM LA1 3400 V6 engine mated to the 4 speed 4T65-E automatic transmission. This combination would have been totally unsuitable for European tastes so for the Sintra two Vauxhall engines and a manual gearbox had to be expensively imported from Europe for US assembly.

Another fundamental problem was that GM Europe had heavily influenced the design parameters of the second generation U-body development – this was because Vauxhall wanted to keep the main dimensions similar to its prospective competitors but by US standards the platform was far narrower than the native competition from Ford and Chrysler. This narrow influence even continued through to the third and final generation U-body minivans, even though none of them were ever sold in Europe but, as a result, the US models were not very successful in their home market. GM expected to sell 300,000 with 50,000 going to Europe, it failed to meet either target.

The Sintra was launched in Europe late in 1996 as a 1997 model to an underwhelming reception. It is not widely known but a great deal of changes were made for the European models compared to their US counterparts, these included; firmer spring and damper rates, quicker geared steering, negative camber front suspension geometry giving greater steering response and feel, ABS 4 wheel disc brakes were also standard. In addition the interior was altered to suite European tastes and using familiar Vauxhall switchgear. It was handicapped by being launched with just two engine options, both petrol, a 2.2litre (X22XE) and a 3.0litre V6 (X30XE), no diesel would be available until the 2.2TD (X22DTH) in the last year of production. Trim levels were also restricted to a CD in 5 or 7 seat version and a 7 seat CDX. The Sintra name was apparently chosen by computer from a list of short easy to pronounce words and was not named after the historic Portuguese town which is actually quite nice.

Sales started slowly and then got worse! Many reviewers and customers found that the price was far too high and the materials, fit and finish were well below the usual Vauxhall quality standard, and more importantly below what its main competitors offered. Vauxhall tried to counter this by changing the seat upholstery for the 1998 model year and offering a diesel option for the 1999 model year but it was too little, too late. The car also proved unreliable in service with electrical problems being particularly poor, in addition it came last in the JD Power customer satisfaction survey for 1998/1999.

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THE FINAL NAIL IN THE COFFIN OF THE VAUXHALL SINTRA WAS THE EURO NCAP RESULTS WHICH SHOWED UP SERIOUS SHORTCOMINGS IN THE HEAD ON IMPACT, IT FARED BETTER IN SIDE IMPACT TESTS BUT THE OVERALL SCORE OF 2.5 STARS WAS LOWER THAN JUST ABOUT ANY OTHER CAR ON SALE AT THE TIME

The final nail in the coffin came in 1998 when the EuroNCAP frontal impact crash test results revealed significant deficiencies - the cabin structure proved unstable and the steering wheel & airbag broke off, which might have caused fatal neck injury to the driver. Despite relatively good performance in side impact test, the Sintra only managed to score 2.5 stars. After this it was game over and the Sintra was last sold in 1999. It also cost Vauxhall a fortune in warranty claims and became almost unsalable on the second hand market.

Ironically, Vauxhall launched the Zafira in 1998 offering the clever Flex7 seating capacity but in a car one size down from the Sintra and was a runaway success. Vauxhall-Opel vacated the large MPV sector of the market and the Sintra was never directly replaced, not until the launch of the Zafira Tourer in 2011 which occupies the same sector of the market.

PRESS RELEASES:

VAUXHALL SINTRA PRESS RELEASE 23.08.96

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PRESS PICTURES:

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A VAUXHALL ISSUED PRESS PICTURE OF THE SINTRA CDX

ANOTHER PRESS ISSUE PHOTOGRAPH OF THE SINTRA CD

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1999 WAS THE LAST YEAR THE SINTRA WAS IMPORTED, IN FACT IT WAS OFFICIALLY KILLED OFF IN APRIL BUT THERE WERE STILL UNSOLD MODELS NEARLY A YEAR LATER

SPECIFICATIONS:

 

 

Production:                August 1996 to July 1999

 

Production Plant:      GM Doraville, Georgia, USA

                            

UK Sales:                    4,000 (approx)

                            

Models:                       Sintra 2.2i CD 5 seat

                                    Sintra 2.2i CD 7 seat

                                    Sintra 2.2DTi CD 7 seat (1999 model year only)

                                    Sintra 3.0i V6 CDX 7 seat

                                                

Engines:                     X22XE  2198cc 4cylinder 16v ECOTEC

                                    141bhp@ 5400rpm  149.0ft-lbs @ 2600rpm  Comp ratio: 10.5:1 

 

                                    X22DTH  2171cc 4cylinder 16v Diesel

                                    115bhp @ 4300rpm  192.0ft-lbs @ 1900rpm

                                

                                    X30XE 2962cc V6 DOHC ECOTEC (also known as L81 in GM)

                                    201bhp @ 6000rpm  191.8ft-lbs @ 3600rpm  Comp ratio: 10.8:1

 

Transmission:            5 speed floor change = Standard on 2.2i & 2.2DTi

                                    4 speed Automatic     = Standard on 3.0i V6

 

Brakes:                       Front = 278mm diameter ventilated discs

                                    Rear  = 278mm diameter solid discs

 

Tyres:                          205/65 R15 Low profile low rolling resistance

 

Wheels:                      CD    = 6 spoke 6J X 15 alloy

                                    CDX = 5 spoke 6J X 15 alloy 

                 

Dimensions:               Length       = 183.9ins
                                     Width:        = 72.0ins (85.7ins inc mirrors)
                                    Height:       = 69.2ins

                                    Wheelbase = 112.0ins

 

Curb / Gross Weight: CD 2.2i         = 3681.7lbs / 5169.8lbs

                                     CD 2.2DTi    = 3893.4lbs / 5357.2lbs

                                     CDX 3.0i V6 = 3758.9lbs / 5357.2lbs

 

Turning circle:            37.4ft kerb to kerb

 

Fuel tank capacity:    2.2i & 2.2DTi 15.4 gallons

                                     3.0i V6 16.7 gallons 

 

Performance:              2.2i       117mph    - 0 to 62mph = 12.8secs

                                     2.2DTi  108.7mph - 0 to 62mph = 14.5secs

                                     3.0i V6  125mph    - 0 to 60mph = 10.9secs                      

 

Paint codes:

1998 MY

Solid:                          Polar White    = 16U

                                    Canyon Red   = 09U

 

2 Coat Metallic:          Silver              = 17U

                                    Dark Teal        = 35U

                                    Newport Blue = 28U

                                    Dark Lichen    = 47U

BROCHURES:

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 VAUXHALL SINTRA PREVIEW BROCHURE V10456 10.96

VAUXHALL SINTRA BROCHURE V10475 02.97

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