Vauxhall, by stark contrast has been pilloried for turning out dynamically and visually dull machinery. The Corsa, Astra and Vectra have all taken a critical beating. On the continent it's a different story. Ford doesn't have a decisive market lead over GM's brands - particularly in the German market.
Behind the big noise Ford is making, GM is quietly building on the success of the Zafira seven-seat MPV. Its innovative interior flexibility will also be seen on the clever Meriva baby MPV and the Signum - a hatchbacked Vectra spin-off based on a long wheelbase version of the Epsilon platform. The LWB chassis will also equip the 2004 Vectra estate with a truly colossal loadbay while the Meriva makes a mockery of the Fiesta-based Fusion and the Mondeo family will have nothing to match the Signum.
GM has other market niches in its sights. The new Tigra - to be launched at the 2003 Frankfurt show - has a folding roof coupe similar to the Peugeot 206CC. It will also get firmer suspension and more direct steering. But challenging Ford's Focus is a much more important task for Opel as the current Astra trails in important areas: it's smaller inside, odd looking and has GM's clunky manual box.
But the Astra's chassis was a near match for the agile Focus, despite what you may have read. Which is a good job, as the new Astra (GM3300) appears next autumn based on the existing platform. Kicking off with the five-door, the Astra gets an edgy, slick new shell and an all-new interior. An even sportier three-door Astra appears in mid-2004.
Later the same year there'll be a long wheelbase version of the platform, which will underpin the Astra estate and late-2005 Zafira Mk2. There'll also be a folding-roof Astra CC launched in the spring of 2005. A big range and much-improved styling could finally be enough to meet the Focus and Golf Mk5 head-on.