Vauxhall have recently introduced two leisure based cars into the market – the Insignia Country Tourer and Grandland X… more of the latter soon – Two very different cars sitting on two very different platforms. The Insignia marks a closing chapter in Vauxhalls’ history with it being the last car to be developed and engineered from the resources of General Motors. The Grandland X however is the second car to share a PSA platform… for those who have been asleep for the last few months and weren’t aware, PSA are now the owners of the British Vauxhall and European Opel brands.
The Insignia Country Tourer is the most recent and final offering of this range of hatchbacks and estates. Both models now being very much established, the Country Tourer offers the similar sort of rustic “on roader” appeal found in models like the Passat Alltrack or Audi A4 Allroad. Power options are based on the Eu6 2.0 diesel engine with 170Ps at launch and soon to be followed by a Bi-Turbo 210Ps version. Transmissions are 6sp manual or 8sp dual clutch automatic with an all wheel drive version offered with manual transmission.
I drove the four wheel drive manual version on a long and varied test route than wound its way through the Berkshire and Oxfordshire countryside. As found with the Insignia Sports Tourer I found it to be relaxing, spacious and very smooth to drive. Be it on B roads or motorway the car is astoundingly smooth as it devours distance. The beefed up rear platform and suspension over the standard hatchback version adds a subconscious feeling of stability and control to the driver. The steering is typically E-PAS light at low speeds but that added to a swift gearchange (albeit slightly notchy in action) and just right brakes adds up to a car that’s effortless to drive.
Effortless yes but dull?… not really. Ask more of the 170Ps driveline and its demeanour and poise remains smooth and calm. Body control and rigidity feels taught and stiff despite the fact that the car has an impressively low kerb weight for a 4×4 estate. It doesn’t feel light and flimsy neither, more like well planted and strong. Overall build quality is pretty good too with plenty of soft touch plastics and a nice faux stitching effect to the roll top of the dash that actually does look real. Only the odd feeling gear lever and slightly cheap feeling column stalks were anything to make me tut about.
The ergonomically designed drivers seat seems to be up to the job of giving long lasting support and comfort. Initially feeling a touch firm at first its lumbar adjustments worked perfect for me and despite the leather upholstery its bolsters are deep enough to keep you perpendicular under fast cornering. Performance wise the 2.0 170 CDTi engine offers more than enough get up and go. Keen to pull hard from little over 1100rpm it only gets boomy at the upper limits or when you accelerate in a higher gear at lower than normal speeds.
The raised suspension (by 25mm) has little effect on handling and certainly not with the ride comfort. There is certainly less road noise in the rear than what you will find in the Sports Tourer. Urban ride comfort is ever so slightly softer than the norm for this kind of car and once up to faster speeds the ride comfort becomes quite outstanding. The same applies to its roadholding, its safe and secure with only a slight reduction in its sharpness upon initial turn in. It doesn’t profess to be a sports car but nevertheless wont disappoint a keen driver on a fast A road or country lane.
Its GKN sourced four wheel drive system (shared with JLR & Ford) provides a near seamless transition between tarmac and loose or wet surfaces. I found the 4×4 version I drove to be surefooted on wet soft grass and very grippy on loose shail. Rather than utilising a normal hypoid differential, its rear axle features a pair of ECU operated multi-plate clutches. The main advantages of this are quicker reactions to changes in terrain, more torque sent to the side with most available grip and less friction or drag on the transmission when cruising with better fuel efficiency being a tangible benefit to the the driver.
The cladding on the arches and skid pan treatment to the rear bumper give the car a feeling of durability and purpose. Overall the car feels up to the job of a lifestyle that’s maybe a little more demanding than your usual suburbia and its certain maybe that Vauxhall are not going to sell these in massive numbers. Its also brimming with technology items thanks to OnStar and that clever torque vectoring rear axle to name just a few. Ok so it may not have the kudos of the aforementioned Passat or Audi Allroad but coming in at more than £7K and £9K less respectively, all of a sudden badge prestige becomes slightly less important perhaps?
Prices start from £25,635 on the road and its in the showrooms from November.
- Extremely good value against direct rivals
- Super smooth to drive with oodles of grip
- A really good ride comfort
- Bristles with technology and safety related features
- Strong performance
- Interior space
- Brand kudos
- Cheap feeling column stalks
- No petrol or hybrid options as of yet
- Cumbersome load cover is a bit weighty and fiddly
- Gear lever feels odd and edgy to the touch