An excellent alternative to a boring supermini for not much more money. And a car that, from the outside at least, looks a great deal more expensive than it really is.
Climbing inside the cabin brings you back down to earth; behind the wheel, it's pure Corsa. Nothing wrong with that of course; everything's well laid out and functional. Just a bit of a contrast, that's all; it's like admiring a Ferrari, climbing inside and waking up with a start, realising that you were dreaming in your Vectra in an M1 traffic jam.
Opt for the 1.4 and you get power steering, a stereo, central locking, electric front windows and tinted glass. If you can stretch to a 16v 1.6, there are gorgeous alloy wheels, a passenger airbag, a special alarm, an electric sunroof, heated and powered door mirrors, anti-lock brakes and front fog lamps. I'd buy a 1.4 and pay extra for the wheels (though you'll find that many cars will already have them fitted).
Watch for poor fitting leaky rear hatches (you'll be able to tell by the wind noise). Also check the low-slung bonnet for stone chips (many will have been resprayed). The yellow MTV Summertime special edition models also suffered from so-called 'yellow fever'; basically paint blotching. Other potential problem areas include tired dampers and brake discs plus rattly interiors.
More serious than all these maladies however, was the well-publicised tendency for the 16v engines to self-destruct at frighteningly low mileage due to timing belt tensioner failure. This can happen without warning, jamming the timing gear, causing the belt to break and leading to an unscheduled meeting of the valves and the pistons. At this point, it's new engine time; whether Vauxhall pick up the tab depends on the age and mileage of the car.
The only protection from this is to ensure at the outset that the tensioner assembly has been inspected. Ensure too that when you negotiate the warranty that this aspect is covered for as long a period as possible. This is just one more reason to insist on a full and accurate service history.
(based on a 1.4 approx) A clutch assembly is around £85. Front brakepads are around £16, a full exhaust about £400 and an alternator (exchange) around £90. A headlamp is about £65.
In terms of driving satisfaction, a Tigra can't hold a candle to a good Peugeot 205GTi. Which isn't to say that it can't be a hoot in the right conditions. Both engines offer equal helpings of fun on the road with handling and ride far superior to any Corsa. You can feel everything happening beneath you through the steering wheel and there's superb grip and poise in almost any situation.
Find a long, clear stretch of twisting road, add a dash of driving enthusiasm and you've the recipe for more enjoyment than anybody has a right to expect in a car of this price. You don't need anything more powerful under the bonnet - though Vauxhall contemplated putting a V6 there before the insurance companies stone-walled the idea (it's group 10 or 12 by the way).
Inside the cockpit (and you can call it a 'cockpit' with a clear conscience so aggressive are the swoopy looks), there's ample space for two people and their luggage and enough room behind for tolerant children or inebriated friends who want a lift home from the pub.
Who wants a boring supermini when you can have one of these? Find a good one and you've found a good buy.