As the whole Vauxhall Opel ownership scenario carries on with PSA, its still very much business as usual. I recently slipped behind the wheel of the all new Sports Tourer version of the Insignia… and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Vauxhall Motors, I do feel for them sometimes. If its not been exaggerated press coverage about obsolete models, its been something else. And more recently we have the decision by GM to offload the European arm of Vauxhall Opel causing more negative press despite some really good news coming from the company. Vauxhall have really pulled the stops out over the last few years, most of the range are right up there in top sales charts. This has been no doubt aided by the “halo effect” of the rather excellent Astra which ran away with last years Car of the Year award – and deservedly so.
Despite the current negotiations for the PSA take over, business has to carry on and the company is moving at breakneck speed to introduce new models. The Insignia Grand Sport has been a recent example of Vauxhall moving away from worthy also ran cars into vehicles with real built in talent and class. We all saw this firstly with Astra in 2015 and presently with the Grand Sport, but it now has another string to its bow in the shape of the all new Sport Tourer… and there’s more to come in the not too distant future. But the new Insignia also waves hello and says goodbye as its possibly the last pure GM / Opel platform design.
“With a range of three engine sizes in six states of tune, there should be a model to match any potential customers budget / right foot. Oddly enough though, there is still no hybrid model available”
As with the Grand Sport, the Sport Tourer is a larger car in length and width to the old model. The hatchback look rather pleasing in the metal but this estate version looks even better I think. With a range of three engine sizes in six states of tune, there should be a model to match any potential customers budget / right foot. Oddly enough though, there is still no hybrid model available. The usual choices of manual and automatic as well as a clever GKN designed twin clutch four wheel drive package rounds off the driveline specifications.
More room inside, a classier interior, sleek lines outside and impressive road manners really mark this car as a huge leap forward for Vauxhall. The outgoing Insignia was a decent car but now its a clever, interesting, bang up to the minute dare I say it desirable car. There’s a genuine premium feel to the overall look and presentation and I think the dealer network are really going to have to prospect their existing customers hard to get the message across. Little things like the imitation stitching on the dash roll top really looks like the real thing. The devils in the detail and there’s plenty of detail to study.
The updated infotainment unit has taken some of the switchgear away from the facia which results in a simple yet pleasing dashboard. The rotary dials for the climate controls feel well made and other buttons and twiddly bits have a good damped feel when in action. The indicator stalks that are carried over from Astra work beautifully with a subconscious sensation of quality when in use – no clicking or snapping sound as you find in some rivals. Even the electric window buttons have a solid tactile feel at your fingertips. In fact all the “first contact” items you normally never think about have an engineered “go the distance” craftsmanship about them.
“…passenger space has been improved, especially in the rear where the old model notably suffered while around the back its practicality has been transformed. Gone is that clumsy ridge and bump in the cargo bay that rather spoilt the estate nature of the outgoing car”
From a driving position point of view its very good. Its seats, especially in the higher trim models, are snug, supportive and comfortable. You’ll struggle not to find an ideal position at the wheel and passenger space has been improved, especially in the rear where the old model notably suffered while around the back its practicality has been transformed. Gone is that clumsy ridge and bump in the cargo bay that rather spoilt the estate nature of outgoing car. Some models now feature an electronic one shot down rear seat fold function and there’s even a 40:20:40 split option. The luggage capacity has increased further too, reaching 1,665 litres when the rear seats are folded down – 135 litres more than the previous model.
Out on the road all models have agreeable punch and torque, especially the 2.0 CDTi 170 engine. I drove the 1.5 petrol 165Ps, the 1.6 CDTi 110 and 2.0 CDTi 170 and found them all to be good installations. Only the petrol model had a boomy nature when really hurried along but the 1.6 whisper diesel is exactly that – smooth and silent for most of the time. My overall model of choice has to be the 2.0 170 diesel – impressively pokey at all engine speeds, not to vocal and yet still frugal on the fuel… a really great driveline. Its gear change is slick and precise and the clutch pedal is well weighted for stop start traffic. Also notable is the room around the pedal box area with its large and comfy foot rest.
Handling and ride is as you would expect and I noted that the Tourer seems to ride that little bit better than the hatch model, especially on the larger wheels. It bowls down the motorway effortlessly and hugs corners on the back roads too with a very pleasing ride comfort. Generally, refinement is okay but some may find a little bit of road noise in the back – this is more so again with the larger wheel options. The steering is a little bit over assisted at low speeds but overall feel improves as the speed rises. Hammer along an A road into a long bend and the weighting loads up nicely at the rim giving the driver a nice confident feel overall, only the slightly fierce nature of the brakes would take a little getting used to.
“…the new car weighs up to 200kg less than the outgoing model. And yet it doesn’t feel flimsy and skittish on the road but solid and surefooted. Build quality appears to be impressive – only the finishing to the door pocket edges feel cheaply done. Its notably better inside in terms of finish and feel to a Mondeo and not that far behind a Passat”
So its longer, wider, roomier and more practical. Not only that but it looks solid, secure and classy into the bargain too. Efficiency is improved upon thanks to its cutting edge technology in build engineering using the same new design of sheet metal as pioneered in Astra. The new Sports Tourer has managed to shed around 60kg of weight from its body shell alone. In total, the new car weighs up to 200kg less than the outgoing model. And yet it doesn’t feel flimsy and skittish on the road but solid and surefooted. Build quality appears to be impressive – only the finishing to the door pocket edges feel cheaply done. Its notably better inside in terms of finish and feel to a Mondeo and not that far behind a Passat.
Clever kit including the breathtakingly effective LED matrix headlights, OnStar and a tailgate that opens simply by wiggling your foot under the rear bumper add up to a brilliant package of technology, practicality and dare I say it desirability. This is a whole new breed of Vauxhall that turns a brand of worthy but also-ran cars into a range of talent that can stand toe to toe with the best of the rest. I hope the brand has a long term future regardless of parent ownership and the Sports Tourer deserves to do well, though it does have some stiff competition to do battle with and some lack of badge kudos to overcome.
- 36 LED Matrix LED headlamp feature
- 40:20:40 split rear seat fold option
- Totally flat cargo deck with up to 1665 litres of space
- 110 – 260PS engines – 3 petrol and 3 diesel of 1.5 / 1.6 & 2.0
- All new twin clutch 4wd and eight speed automatic options
- More passenger and cargo space
- All new in depth reading head up display option
- Gesture control of tailgate opening feature
- Vauxhall OnStar features on infotainment display for ease of use
- Larger, roomier and more efficient than ever
- New build techniques results in a kerb weight reduction of up to 200Kg
- Co2 output from as a low as 114G/Km
- Pricing starts at £18,685 OTR
- Smart and classy styling
- LED headlamp system really does make a difference
- Well equipped and full of tech
- Excellent driving positions and ergonomics
- 1.6-136Ps & 2.0-170Ps diesels are just superb
- Decent ride comfort
- Agreeable build quality
- Utterly practical without being bland
- Flawless motorway cruising ability
- Its gone from also-ran to up amongst the best in one fell swoop
- Road noise in the back could be less – notable more so on larger rims
- Can the badge match the rivals for kudos and desirability?
- 1.5 turbo petrol gets boomy at higher revs
- 1.6 110Ps diesel runs out of puff rather quickly at higher revs
- Over assisted and slightly lifeless steering at urban speeds
- Removable load cover and netting is clumsy to use