Vauxhall reboots one of its worst ever cars as an affordable electric SUV

Vauxhall Frontera
(Image credit: Vauxhall)

The dawn of the electric vehicle age has been the perfect excuse for many of the world’s biggest manufacturers to reinvent themselves. Kia and Hyundai have used battery electric vehicles to push further upmarket, while Lotus has transformed from a low volume sports car maker to a seller of gargantuan luxury electric SUVs.

Now it's time for Vauxhall to rewrite a particularly rocky chapter from its history books, with the news that it is to revive the Frontera badge in an upcoming replacement for the aging Crossland SUV. And naturally, it will be offered with an electric powertrain.

The original Frontera of the early 1990s was the result of a partnership between owners General Motors and Japanese carmaker Isuzu, taking technology from the latter's MU (Mysterious Utility) off-road vehicle to create one of the earlier examples of a Sports Utility Vehicles.

The thinking was sound, but unfortunately the execution was not, with WhatCar? giving used examples a measly one star rating, saying that "even when the Frontera was launched, it felt outdated" and that "the Frontera's ride is choppy at all speeds, the gear change is awkward and its refinement leaves a lot to be desired". 

Suffice to say, it is now remembered as one of the worst cars Vauxhall has ever produced, and one of the most unreliable in recent memory.

Hopefully this dusting off of a 90s nameplate will prove a success and Vauxhall says the upcoming Frontera, which will be presented later this year, will "be a fun car with clever functional features". 

What's more, James Taylor, Managing Director, Vauxhall, says: "The name 'Frontera' is ideally suited to our exciting new SUV model. It will have a confident character and be positioned right in the core of the market."

A recipe for success?

Vauxhall Frontera

(Image credit: Vauxhall)

Early images of a heavily camouflaged model reveal that Vauxhall is clearly playing on the original Frontera's off-road strengths (there weren't many), opting for a raised right height, squared off edges and typical 4x4 design cues.

Although full details of the new Frontera are yet to be unveiled, it is expected that the battery electric version will share much of its basic underpinnings with other models in the Stellantis family, which includes the Jeep Avenger and Peugeot e-2008.

This means customers can expect an all-electric range of around 250-miles from the smaller battery packs employed in other small to mid-sized SUVs in this category.

A small petrol engine is also due to grace the line-up, while the latest infotainment system and digital offering is bound to make an appearance. That said, Vauxhall says it wants to continue its "long-standing tradition of bringing affordable mobility to a wide range of customers by being offered at an attractive price”.

The recipe sounds good, but fingers crossed it is more palatable to the buying public than the original Frontera, because two strikes will be plain embarrassing for the British marque. 

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Leon Poultney

Leon has been navigating a world where automotive and tech collide for almost 20 years, reporting on everything from in-car entertainment to robotised manufacturing plants. Currently, EVs are the focus of his attentions, but give it a few years and it will be electric vertical take-off and landing craft. Outside of work hours, he can be found tinkering with distinctly analogue motorcycles, because electric motors are no replacement for an old Honda inline four.