Used car buying guide: Vauxhall Tigra

Those are the engines but the folding roof is why people bought the Tigra – and what a roof. To operate it, you undo a couple of latches, press a button and watch as the motors take over. It should be stowed within 20 seconds. To ensure it folds away neatly, the rear window and pillar drop almost vertically, allowing the roof panel itself to stow unobtrusively above, so preserving boot space. 

On that point, with the roof folded away, there’s 250 litres of luggage space, while in the closed position, there’s no less than 440 litres. In addition, there’s a shelf behind the front seats (there are no rear seats) that will happily accept 70 litres of luggage or something the size of a sports bag. 

Allowing for the fact that the roof seals may now be tired, the cabin should be relatively quiet and certainly watertight with the roof up. Over time, body shimmer may have loosened some of the cabin’s fixtures and fittings but otherwise it’s a well-built car that should still feel reasonably tight. 

The rear Targa-style section of the roof could be specified in either matt metallic Star Silver or in matt Moonland, both of which give the little car a pleasingly sporty and technical appearance. Alternatively, it could be ordered in the car’s body colour, which makes quite an impact. On that point, we found a very pretty 2009-reg 1.4 with 45,000 miles finished all over in yellow, a rare shade, for £2500. 

Today, trim levels are rather academic but Exclusiv (leather, aircon and alloy-effect touches to the interior) is a good one to shoot for. Sport versions get 16in alloy wheels and a silver Targa-style section. 

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In no way is the Tigra a driver’s car, but as a cheap and attractive hatchback with a difference, it makes a lot of sense.

An expert’s view 

Tim Harrison, founder, Fix My Vauxhall: “I’m an auto electrician and have been working on Vauxhalls since the 1980s. The Tigra’s roof is generally reliable. I can’t think of many issues apart from failure of the pump modulator. Otherwise, being a Corsa under that trick body, the Tigra is a reliable and easy-to-drive car that’s also surprisingly well equipped. I mean, leather, climate control and a Targa-style panel that could be painted in a contrasting colour are pretty impressive on a car costing such little money, even when new. Don’t ignore the diesel. It’s a Fiat engine and pretty tough, as well as economical.” 

Buyer beware… 

■ Engine: The 1.4 suffers timing chain tensioner problems. It’s a common fault and heard as an annoying rattle at tickover that just gets louder over time. Fresh oil every year or 12,000 miles is key to its extended life but they still wear out in the end. Best thing is to have the chain and water pump replaced at purchase. Avoid 1.4 engines with numbers beginning 19F, which may have sub-standard camshafts. The 1.8 uses a belt that should be changed at 40,000 miles. Both engines can suffer uneven running caused by a faulty oxygen sensor and alternator issues at around 70,000 miles. 


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