18 September 1998

BIG AND BULKY BUT

IT STILL SLIPS THROUGH THE AIR

BEWARE the zeal of the convert. A few years ago, when new people carriers were appearing as fast as pimples on an adolescents chin, I wondered exactly what the point of them was. To get wedged under car park entrances, maybe, or perhaps just to barrel around the roads like so many over-fat weaners.

But Im warming to them. You can stuff them with unwanted elderly relatives, pile them up with unruly children and still have room for the Postman Pat flasks, blow-up killer whales and discarded packets of Worcester sauce flavour crisps. And when youve run out of room lengthwise and widthwise, you can always build upwards.

I warmed to the Vauxhall Sintra too, despite its obviously computer-generated name. It has good amounts of headroom (as do all MPVs) and a pretty good amount of boot space (which some dont). Youll need to put all seven seats fully forward to gain maximum luggage space, and things will get cramped if you carry seven adults and seven sets of luggage. But then who, other than scout masters or leaders of small religious sects, would want to do such a thing?

Despite its bulk, the Sintra pushes itself along motorways quietly and with power in reserve. But then with a 3 litre V6 marshalling 201hp, it should. Those opting for the 141hp 2.2 litre version will probably find their progress more stately than spectacular. Look out too for a diesel version with the same 2.2tdi found on new Saabs, but again dont expect hair-raising performance.

Accommodation betrays the US origin of the Sintra. So there is air-con, cruise control and cup-holders aplenty. Radio and temperature information is conveyed via a huge display in the top of the dash, so all world knows if youve got Melody Radio on. Curiously, though, the overall effect of the dash is one of understatement. Not spartan, since everything you could reasonably ask for is here, just a bit nondescript.

Verdict: Roominess and high-speed tranquillity are big plus points. Slightly nondescript interior and substantial price tag knock it down a point or two.

SINTRADATA

Model: Vauxhall Sintra CDX

Engine: 3 litre 201hp V6 petrol

Top speed: 125mph

0-60mph: 10.9 seconds

Manufacturers fuel consumption: 24mpg

Price: £25,020