Byline: Stewart Smith
IT MUST be increasingly tricky being a car designer nowadays with so many different customer sectors to please.
In days gone by we were offered small cars, medium-sized cars, big cars and estates. Some of these had two doors, some four.
Then came the hatchbacks, which for some reason are called three-door or five-door vehicles, even though I've never seen anyone trying to clamber into the back seats through the third or fifth ``door.''
Now we have micro cars, city cars, minis, superminis, hatchbacks, executives, mini and full-size MPVs, estates, tourers, saloons, SUVs and giant off-roaders.
So when a car company says it has come up with something different, it's hard to believe.
That's what Vauxhall is claiming to be offering with its new executive model the Signum. And in a way it has managed to produce something slightly out of the ordinary.
Signum is a niche car, designed to fit in between the big-selling Vectra and the Omega luxury saloon.
It's based on an extended Vectra chassis and all the additional space has been given to passenger comfort in the back.
It has exceptional legroom and the unique feature of moveable rear seats. Buyers can choose to slide the two main bucket seats forwards or backwards by five inches depending on whether you need more legroom or more boot space.
Signum is really a four-seater, but it does have a small ``occasional'' middle rear seat, which doesn't look the most comfortable in the world.
But if you don't need the additional seat it can be replaced with what Vauxhall calls a ``multi-functional Travel Assistant.''
This is, in fact, a rather ugly contraption which offers two folding tables, an electrically operated cool box, litter bin, cupholders, a 12-volt power outlet and a holder for a portable DVD player.
I found it to be a handy armrest when being chauffeured to the launch press conference. It is an optional extra costing pounds 250 which I doubt will prove a hit with owners. …