As Vauxhall motors celebrates 110 years of car manufacturing, a new Insignia has been launched. Mike Humble tries out the thrifty ecoFLEX CDTi…
Ever since the launch of the Cavalier Mk2 back in the early `80s Vauxhall has ridden high in the fleet market. The Vectra also remained popular in the company smoker sector offering value and an awful lot of sheet metal for the money for the retail customer – big dealer groups always offered some seriously tempting deals. Sadly, the Vectra was never seen as an aspirational purchase despite the latter facelifted cars being very capable and feeling robust in structure – a value for money family load lugger or rep-mobile it always was to be.
The Insignia launched in 2008 impressed the International judges enough to win the coveted car of the year award but quickly suffered the Vectra syndrome – quickly forgotten. Once again the Insignia became viewed as a run of the mill fleet car despite looking almost prestige in the flesh and featuring a very credible level of standard equipment. Where the real money lies in the retail market and GM are keen to gain a bigger slice of the ‘cash customer’ and tempt people away from the blue oval badge with a refreshed Vauxhall range.
The range now boasts some class leading tricks up its sleeve, not only in price (entry models are under £16.500) but the test car has a new eco heart beating under the bonnet via a 2.0 CDTi plant that combined with the stop start facility and styling tweaks gives a Co2 figure of a staggering 98g/Km. The new model pricing structure on average costs £2K less than the outgoing model which is bound to increase showroom footfall and blow the froth off the fleet managers cappuccino. The new Insignia means business… but does it do business?
Despite the basic concept being five years old, it still looks fresh and unique from all angles.
The five door hatchback shell look large and accommodating in stature, the structured wheel trims giving way to a set of 16″ alloy wheels which are slightly too small and are spoilt by the podgy 60R profile tyres. Finished in Sovereign Silver (metallic paint is standard) the car looked nicely finished with consistent looking panel gaps and good quality brightwork. Despite the basic concept being five years old, the Vauxhall still looks fresh and unique from all angles. The minor restyling is not immediately obvious to the eye however.
The styling tweaks must have done something good as the car now proudly stands as the most aerodynamic car in its class which has played its part in the amazing emission figures. On the inside you are treated to a large comfy driving seat with a plethora of adjustments available both on the chair and the steering wheel – its very easy to find an ideal position. Its seat fabric feels very hard wearing but adequately soft to the touch and the door arm rest is well padded and perfectly shaped, the gear lever is just right in size and location too.
The curving well made fascia has revised controls which all feel of agreeable quality and the car featured the optional 8″ touchscreen ‘infotainment’ system that combines the audio / bluetooth and satnav which is fairly simple to use. The first reservation comes in the form of the revised instrument cluster that uses traditional dials for coolant and fuel. The speedometer on the other hand is a circular computer generated clock with a small red pointer that looks out of place compared to the chrome ringed dials of the outgoing car.
Before you fire up the ignition you have to stare into a rectangular black abyss – I’m sure that Vauxhall is merely trying the ‘hi-tec’ approach to give the Insignia a little bit of kudos in the sector but for me the wow factor is more urgh. The 2.0 140PS engine fires into life with little vibration but there is certainly a pronounced clatter on idle – not over intrusive but certainly noticeable if you have been formerly used to the latest Mondeo or Passat. Once running for a little while however, the idle soon quietens down to a thrum.
The short gearlever snicks into first quite nicely but another reservation comes straight to the fore – I found the clutch pedal higher off the floor than I would have liked. You have to noticeably lift your foot onto the pedal rather than tilt your ankle, this may have been an adjustment issue but it was certainly noticed. Thankfully, the clutch is light and short in action and the six speed gearbox feels well suited to the car – driving in urban areas finds the Insignia quite relaxed and easy going with oodles of low end torque on asking.
The car really does pull well through the gears, which is a good thing, because once you give it a boot full of power, it all goes rather pear shaped.
The car really does pull well through the gears at low revs, which is a good thing, because one you give it a boot full of power it all goes rather pear shaped. Once you pass the mid range band the engine noise becomes quite intrusive and harsh which really spoils the overall feel of the car. It sounds strained and metallic but at least the extra din is not accompanied with high frequency vibration. Despite the tweaks and revisions to the dynamics of the car its such a shame a little bit more couldn’t be done to sound insulation.
Despite the rowdy engine the Insignia ecoFLEX is a very able car in the bends and when touring. The steering is nicely weighted with plenty of communication through the rim, really strong brakes that are progressive in actuation and very commendable handling. The ride comfort is very good with near perfect damping and noise insulation at all speeds while the long legged 6th gear ensures a soothing motorway experience. Pedal and engine noise issues aside the Insignia’s driving experience off the boil is as good as its rivals – in some cases better.
In Design form, the Insignia offers most features anyone could ask for in a good sized family hatchback. You find a good audio system with DAB and the usual media connectivity features like bluetooth / USB, cruise control, trip computer, touch screen sat nav, a chunky leather trimmed steering wheel – only rear electric windows seem to be missing from the credible list of features. It all seems very easy to function or live with – everything you would expect of a Vauxhall in the modern world and nothing missing to really disappoint either.
Head, leg and elbow room is plentiful and the boot space can easily swallow everything including the proverbial kitchen sink, carpet sample books or refurbished photocopier machines. The well padded rear seat also finds no nasty surprises in the comfort or space department and a good yank and wiggle of every handle, knob or switch gives a feeling of well engineered design quality. Only the slightly sombre grey interior fabric and anthracite carpet detracts you from what quite clearly is a well thought out interior.
Some class leading credentials are firmly in its favour such as RFL and efficiency – its a tough one to ignore on paper and in practice.
So the Insignia has some class leading credential along with some disappointing niggles, but is it worth a punt with so many established and respected rivals? Well on price alone most certainly, it performs very strongly, offers superb fuel economy and is very well equipped before piling on the options – its under £19.900 on the road. Fleet and private drivers wont be saddened with the comfort and toys while the retail customer will bound to be able to chip off a little more money and make the sales exec sweat a little.
Its a car that will be bought on price rather than desire and Vauxhall have realised this by aggressively pricing the car accordingly – ecoFLEX gains free road tax too. Insignia is a fine looking machine with superb manners providing you drive the car using every ounce of the good bottom end punch and like to cruise. Some class leading credentials are firmly in its favour such as RFL and efficiency – its a tough one to ignore on paper and in practice.
How can we best sum up the new Insignia ecoFLEX CDTi? – affordable to acquire but not one to aspire.
OUR SCORE: 8/10
1956cc GM alliance CDTi
140PS / 350Nm torque @ 4000 / 1750rpm
All round independent coil suspension
Multi Channel ABS brakes with all round discs
Max Speed / 0 – 60: 127mph / 10.5 seconds
Fuel Consumption & Co2: 76.3mpg combined & 98g/Km
Annual V.E.D: Free of charge in first and second year
Insurance Grouping: 18E
The Highs: Torquey engine – Emissions & fuel economy – Well equipped – Brilliant value – Good Looking – Talented chassis – Accommodation and luggage space – Feels robust.
THE LOWS: Unrefined and noisy when rushed – Horrible looking digital speedo – Sombre interior colour scheme – Badge lacks kudos and image in this market sector.
Need more info? Vauxhall Motors