You only need to look at the Vauxhall Opel Monza concept, revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show 2013, to glimpse at what Vauxhall has in store over the next decade. Its plug-in electric powertrain, futuristic interior and bold looks are all set to trickle down to production models over the next few years – and Auto Express has driven it.
In the metal, the Opel-badged Monza coupe is a striking design, and the team behind the project told us the face would appear on the next generation of Vauxhalls (see panel, opposite). The grille is a development of the current design language, while the large intakes and narrow headlights give more purpose than many current cars. The huge gullwing doors – they extend from front to rear – are concept car fantasy, but the ease with which you can get into the Monza’s hi-tech cabin reveals there is something in the idea.
Once inside, you’re presented with dials that merge into the dash as part of a wraparound LED projection screen. It’s customisable by the driver so it can display sat-nav, infotainment or a screensaver-style pattern.
The Vauxhall Monza feels like a car from the distant future, but Ivo van Hukten, chief designer of interior components, told us: “It’s feasible right now – you can see it works – but it will take time to get it to production.” Under the bonnet is essentially a development of the powertrain from the Ampera. It’s a plug-in hybrid, with the wheels driven by electric power, but with a petrol engine as a range-extender. Where the Ampera uses a 1.4-litre four-cylinder, the Monza has a three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbo. It’s set to appear in the Adam in autumn next year, which should help justify that car's price, but it’s also a strong bet for the next Ampera.
In the Monza, it’s fuelled by natural gas to lower CO2 emissions even further, but with the batteries fully charged, we never used it. Instead, we cruised silently around quiet residential streets, enjoying the instant torque and excellent refinement. The drivetrain and handling are rough around the edges – as you’d expect from a concept – but the figures beat the current Ampera’s 235mpg. This hi-tech powertrain helps with the Monza’s sleek looks, too, with head of concept cars Frank Leopold revealing: “Smaller batteries leave more room in the back, while a smaller petrol engine allows a lower bonnet and therefore roof.”
When we quizzed Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann about a roadgoing version, he said: “A new Manta, inspired by the Monza, may come in a few years.”
There’s a lot of pressure on Vauxhall-Opel to turn its fortunes around, but with exciting cars like the Monza and the innovative tech it previews, you wouldn’t bet against the brands’ future success.