The Vauxhall Tigra had a few good years in the 1990s. Unconventional but stylish, and nimble if not especially sporty, it brought some colour and vivacity to a small coupe segment that occasionally forgot that the point of such a car was to be seen.
It rode this high from launch in 1994 until 1997, when Ford launched the Puma and somewhat ruined things for any vehicle that you might have considered competition. It was stylish like the Tigra, but arguably more so, and as for dynamics, it blew the Vauxhall and more or less anything else out of the water. Magazines quickly ditched twin tests with the Tigra and started comparing it with 106 GTis and later, the BMW-era Mini instead.
All of which led to the Tigra being somewhat forgotten. You may not remember, for instance, that it soldiered on until 2001, and that it was eventually replaced in 2004 with a very different car, with a now-fashionable folding metal roof à la Mercedes SLK and Peugeot 206 CC.
The Tigra’s early advertisements though were a treat, and of the rare breed that rather than enticing you into buying a car, instead made fun of those for whom the car might be a little too funky, a little too fashionable.
“Do you iron creases into your jeans?” it read. “Do you plump up the cushions on your sofa? You won’t like the new Tigra at all.”
The implication being, of course, that if you’re the kind of individual who sews nametags into their clothing or puts a rug on the parcel shelf, then something spry, brightly-coloured and youthful like the Tigra might raise your heartrate a little too much. As if to reinforce this image, the photograph on the opposing page depicts a parka-wearing, sensible-shoed character with a deeply unfashionable haircut sneering at the rather pretty blue Vauxhall with its neat five-spoke alloys.
Vauxhall fans will identify it as being the 1.6-litre model, which made a modest 104bhp (another way in which the Puma would eclipse it, when it arrived with a 123bhp 1.7), while a 1.4 was also offered, making 88bhp and wearing a set of wheel trims as standard. An entry price of £11,565 in 1994 (around £22,300 in 2023) represented good value; a touch more than a Peugeot 106 XSi at £10,995, and a smidge less than a Honda Civic LSi coupe (£11,995).
The Tigra had just come from a strong four-star review in Autocar too, where testers declared it “worth it for the styling alone” even if the chassis wasn’t quite there, and the cabin still a bit too Corsa-like despite some snazzy new fabric and a different view out of that unusual rear window with its reverse-rake B-pillars.
Today, Tigras are rare, but on that rare occasion you see one, they stand out a mile on the road – not least because at under four metres long, only 1.6m wide and only a touch over 1.3m tall, they look absolutely tiny. A Volkswagen Up is shorter, but also wider and around half a foot taller. If you find one for sale, just make sure you’re not the kind of person who likes boiled egg sandwiches.
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