Is the Insignia the UKs hardest grafting British badge car? In a sector where the trad large volume saloon is declining, the Insignia seems to hold its own. Far from being a pulse racing exciting vehicle, we found it to be quietly confident in almost every way…
Downsizing is the buzz word at the moment. Be it property, staffing levels in business or something as trivial as a Mars bar… everything is getting smaller… but no cheaper. It seems that the old faithful family saloon car is a dying breed. Not that long ago your typical Mondeo customer was an equal split between fleet and retail but to be fair that applies with most vehicles in this class. Hatchbacks and SUV’s are the big money spinners nowadays, but I personally still prefer a nice barge of a saloon to most other shapes.
Having spent a few days and a good few miles with Vauxhalls Insignia, my own taste still swings towards a properly sized family car. The body size tends to be more accommodating, the refinement tends to be better and the thought of owning a pretend off roader type SUV doesn’t thrill me in the slightest. Owing to aggressive pricing at dealer level, Vauxhall still manages to retail a healthy number of Insignias to private motorists. But after spending time with an Insignia, its good to discover that the car scores well in ability rather than just a cost lead purchase Vauxhall.
The Tech Line 1.6 CDTi features the same plant currently utilised in the new Astra – namely the “whisper-diesel” engine rated at 136Ps. The moniker referring to silence and refinement may not be 100% correct but for 90% of the time its a fairly smooth and free spirited engine. Its six speed gearbox seems to be well matched to the engine and ratios are aligned to suit the weightier nature of this installation. A solid and healthy 320Nm of torque means the Insignia whips along surprisingly well for a big car / small engine combo, but beware… the torque drops off like a stone under 1500rpm.
The (personally speaking) smart and sleek body shape has impressive attention to shut line gaps and general fit and finish items. I couldn’t find any blemishes on the shiny rock metallic paintwork application either. These facelifted models have certainly improved in terms of overall quality, especially on the inside. The doors close with a confidence boosting “whump” noise and the door pulls feel really strong and fit for purpose. Facia buttons have been cleared up around the centre console making the Insignia a whole lot better than of old in terms of ergonomics.
Some may find the electronic display speedometer a little low rent at first, especially when you take into account it sits between traditional analogue dials. On a plus note, it’s easy to read and easy on the eye when driving at night. You’ll find no issues with the driving position thankfully, the big comfy seat adjusts in all sorts of directions and gives the driver a near perfect interaction with the wheels and pedals. Though it is a shame the passenger seats lacks the same level of adjustment as the drivers side. Only rake and recline is on offer and some passengers noted that they felt a bit low to the ground.
Front room and comfort is excellent and its not too bad in the rear though above average height occupants might find the sloping roofline getting a tad too intimate with their crowns. Boot space totals a decent 1470 litres of capacity and its fairly deep and wide but this is all kind of spoilt by a strange lumpy floor and seat backs that don’t fold fully flat making long or awkward loads difficult to slide in single handed – a trait that Vauxhall have duplicated on the new Astra.
Where it matters most – out on the road, the Insignia makes the most of its power and so long as you don’t let the engine try to slog at really low revs it actually performs rather well. Refinement is pretty good overall – especially when motorway cruising but the power unit does make itself known when all of its revs are called for. Mid range power for that quick back lane overtake of a Sunday driver is more than adequate for the job. Steering precision is drastically improved too with quick turn in, the right amount of feel and a pleasingly supple ride quality. Handling and ride isn’t quite on a par with the new Mondeo, but that said nor is it failing in any area either – some suspension noise is noticeable though.
Thanks to the comfortable drivers seat, the credible ride quality and decent overall refinement you get the impression that Insignia is the kind of car that any driver could point and steer until it runs out of fuel. Add into the mix the optional OnStar system (£395) that offers a whole new meaning to ease of ownership and occupant safety, the Insignia becomes a serious contender. The Insignia may not be as dynamic as some rivals and is often unfairly viewed as just another faceless rep-mobile. I’ll tell you just this to conclude – it’s actually a very competent and enjoyable car… one I bonded with rather quickly.
AUTOBRITANNIA.NET RATING: 7/10
MODEL TESTED: Vauxhall Insignia Tech Line 1.6CDTi ecoFLEX
Price: £22,424 excluding options
Driveline: 1.6 turbo diesel with 6 speed FWD manual transmission
Power: 136Ps with 320Nm of torque
Performance: *0-60 in 10.9 seconds (max 130mph)
Economy: *74.3mpg combined (61.4 mpg on test)
Emissions: 99G/Km Co2
* = Manufacturers or Govt claimed data
EQUIPMENT HIGHLIGHTS: 17″ alloys – Navi intellilink infotainment – Auto wipers and lights – DAB radio & Bluetooth – Electric 4 way lumbar control on drivers seat – Climate control – Cruise control – All round power windows.
WHATS HOT: Great driver comfort – Refined when cruising – Well equipped – Good value for money – Safe and predictable handling – Improved interior build quality – Optional OnStar system is a must – Economical – Punchy mid range performance – Effortless to drive – Good brakes and communicative steering – Special offers at dealerships can make for a cracking deal to retail customers.
WHATS NOT: Bland image – Clumsy boot floor design – No rear centre armrest – Rear headroom can be tight for taller passengers – Deep road ruts at slower speeds makes for a noisy suspension.
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