First Drive: Vauxhall Insignia GSi

The GSi brand is back with a bang. The first of two that are new for 2018 are the Grand Sport and Sports Tourer variants of the Vauxhall Insignia…

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The all new Insignia GSi. From a distance there is little to separate from other models. Up close and personal however… there most certainly is.
For some drivers, there is nothing more satisfying than a roomy car with plenty in reserve under the right foot. In my world, a large saloon or estate car is King – and always will be, it’s just my own personal choice. Making a change to this sterile world of hybrids, electric and dare I say… clockwork micro-city cars, its bloody marvellous to get behind the wheel of a real car powered by the Devils cocktails of petrol or diesel.

Vauxhall have certainly been busy despite the changes in their (and Opel’s) ownership. Last year they launched more new vehicles than ever before and the GM swansong that is the Insignia is by far the most impressive car they have built in a number of years. From a five door large hatch to an estate in Sports or Country Tourer with two or four wheel drive options, it’s one hell of a line up of models and choices.

Personally speaking I like the Insignia especially in Sports Tourer guise. Running one as a long term test car for Parkers, I was surprised at how a chunk of metal and plastic can get under the skin. Its certainly been put through its paces with it being loaded to the hilt, covered numerous long journeys, ploughed its way through snow and grinded its way through London’s gruelling traffic. A car for all occasions in fact.

This new model most certainly has an accent on performance, though viewed from twenty paces, to some, it looks like am Insignia on bad ass alloys. Thankfully its a good bit more than that owing to some features that change a fine if slightly unexciting car into something much more entertaining. Dual colour 20″ rims, larger spoilers and wing backed sports seats are just a few GSi signature touches.

 

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Inspired by the head of a King Cobra – The lightweight sports seats. Don’t let the appearance fool you, they are very snug and comfortable.
Despite the standard models being lighter than before, the GSi has benefited from a further diet. Attention to seat design has saved 4kgs in the cockpit and an additional weight has been lost elsewhere in the structural design. You can choose between hatch or estate with a 210PS Bi-Turbo D or 260PS turbo petrol – both feature four wheel drive and an eight speed electronic auto gearbox with GSi specific mapping.

Suspension features the “Flex-Ride” system with adjustable ride settings and the overall stance has been lowered by 10mm. Braking has been dramatically beefed up thanks to Brembo calipers and discs – the latter measuring an impressive 345mm in diameter. However, out on the road I felt the brakes felt slightly more spongy than my own standard Insignia and that they required a little bit more shove to anchor up.

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20″ Michelin tyres and Brembo brakes give a clue to the improved performance and handling of the GSi models. Cornering and tyre grip is laugh out loud good. GSi chassis development was overseen by German racing legend Volker Strycek in conjunction with Vauxhall Opel engineers.

“For sure you can feel the difference on a rutted country lane but overall the comfort is very good indeed. Those figure hugging seats are impressive too – and I have a more than ample figure to hug”

Yet out on the road the stiffened ride and big wheels haven’t harmed the normally good comfort levels. For sure you can feel the difference on a rutted country lane but overall the comfort is very good indeed. Those figure hugging seats are impressive too – and I have a more than ample figure to hug. Motorway and A road driving are where the GSi does really well, its equally as smooth and pleasing to drive as the rest of the range.

Tyre noise in the rear is not so good, I’ve noticed and moaned about this with my own 2.0 170 Tech Line model. The bigger and lower profile tyres of the GSi really do hum and rumble on rougher surfaces, but smooth tarmac makes it settle down to a more acceptable level. Turn off the straights and head into the back roads and the GSi corners and adapts to differing cambers with zero fuss – once again you are smiling.

“The quicker you go the better the chassis becomes and when the upper limits of grip are reached, it occurs gradually with plenty of warning”

Tyre grip is incredible and thanks to the flat cornering more weight is kept on the wheels and not lost during body roll. The quicker you go the better the chassis becomes and when the upper limits of grip are reached, it occurs gradually with plenty of warning. But as with other Insignia models the steering lacks real bite and feel at the rim. This is a real shame as I found the chassis and handling very very entertaining otherwise.

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Sports Tourer version offers credible space and practicality with dashing good looks. Rear legroom is especially good and the cargo bay is flatter than Norfolk. Visible exhausts and matt effect bright-work are effective styling details on this Lava red model.
The 210PS Bi-Turbo has real low down punch and the power delivery is linear right up to the electronic governor cut-off. Drive it in manual paddle sport mode and the car just zings along with a pleasing growl of induction roar. Select auto and the car almost seems lazy when pulling away low speeds. I use the word “seems” purely as the refinement level has you sometimes forgetting this is a sporting model – this is not a slow car.

Equally so the Insignia GSi is not an unruly or difficult car to drive either. I do have one concern though. At around a £33,000 opening gambit price tag some might say the GSi offers little more over the SRi VX-Line with a larger wheel option. There again though the handling and ride balance is superb, the front seats look amazing and its very well equipped. Also… similar rivals from VW or Audi come much much more expensive.

Vauxhall Insignia GSi Grand Sport and Sports Tourer:

  • From £32,995 OTR
  • 2.0 petrol or diesel – 210 or 260PS both with 4wd and 8sp auto transmission
  • 187 – 199G/Km Co2
  • Hatch (Grand Sport) or Estate (Sports Tourer)

Initial likes:

  • Very good performance
  • Handling and ride compromise quite remarkable
  • Sports Tourer is especially good looking and practical
  • Refined and smooth when cruising
  • 210PS diesel has brilliant power delivery and torque

Dislikes:

  • Tyre noise can be alarmingly high in the rear
  • No manual gearbox option
  • Steering still lacks an edge in terms of feel and communication
  • Some key rivals have better Co2 and economy figures

For more information CLICK HERE

 

 

 

 

3 comments

  1. I must admit those front seats looks rather sporting. Are they hoping to sell that many of them in the face of German sporting shooters???

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