The Vectra was introduced in 1988 as a replacement to the Opel Ascona and itself was replaced in 2008 by the Opel Insignia, that will retain the Chevrolet Vectra name for the Latin American market.
The first Vectra, known as the Vectra A, was introduced in 1988 as a saloon and hatchback, replacing the Opel Ascona C. A coupé based on the Vectra, called the Calibra, was also sold. Both cars were designed by then-Opel design chief Wayne Cherry. Vauxhall, GM's British subsidiary which shared most of its models with Opel, did not call this model "Vectra" but rather marketed it as the Cavalier.
Engines ranged initially from a 75PS (55kW) 1.4L to a 130PS (96kW) 2.0L Family II. With the introduction of Euro I emissions regulations, the base model was replaced by a 1.6L with the same output, while the top of the line was given to a 16-valve version of the 2.0L engine, which powered the GT (GSI) version, and had 150PS (110kW). Four-wheel drive versions were added to the lineup in 1990, and in 1993, the car received a limited edition turbocharged version, with 204PS (150kW). The 1.4-litre engine was not available in all markets, and even then, it was only available in basic trims (Base/L in United Kingdom, LS/GL in Europe). A 2.5L V6 engine appeared towards the later stages of the Vectra's life, developing 170 PS (125kW), turning the car into a relaxed motorway cruiser rather than give it sporty pretensions.
There were a choice of two diesel engines; one was an Isuzu 1.7L Circle-L unit, in both naturally-aspirated and turbocharged form (1686cc), this one capable of achieving 82PS (60kW), and a GM designed 1.7 "low blow" turbo-diesel (1699cc), and naturally-aspirated diesel unit, delivering up to 68PS (67hp/50kW). Both units have a reputation for longevity, especially Isuzu developed units, which were also regarded as some of the most refined diesels available at the time.
The front suspension was fully independent, with MacPherson struts, pressed steel lower control arms, and an anti-roll bar. The front suspension, together with the major mechanicals (engine and transmission) is remotely mounted on a front subframe. On front wheel drive models, the rear suspension is semi-independent, consisting of a torsion beam axle linked to trailing arms, with double conical coil springs and direct acting telescopic hydraulic shock absorbers, with certain models also having an anti-roll bar. On the four wheel drive GSi, the rear suspension is a subframe-mounted fully independent design, with semi-trailing arms, double conical coil springs, direct acting gas-assisted telescopic shock absorbers, and an anti-roll bar.