Time Well Spent: Vauxhall Insignia GSi Bi-Turbo D 4×4 – 7/10

Mike Humble

Despite the constant changes taking place within the corridors of Vauxhall and Opel, new model launches and revisions keep coming through thick and fast. There’s been good news too with PSA boasting that the Vauxhall / Opel division is back in the black in terms of profitability. Stability and prosperity at last? Let us hope so.

We spend a week with the sporting flagship of the current Insignia range – the GSi Grand Sport. Not only is it a new model but a return of the GSi badge – with others to follow in the not too distant future…

The Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport GSi 4×4 Bi-Turbo from £33,965

The Vauxhall Insignia in its three variants the Grand Sport, Country Tourer and Sports Tourer, represented the swan song and closing chapter for Vauxhall Motors Ltd under its incumbency of General Motors. Everything from now on as we all know will be developed jointly with new owners Groupe PSA. That said, the Insignia and latest generation Astra which were both developed and engineered under GM’s watch are set to continue for a few years yet. Both models have met with general praise and in the case of the Astra walked away with a coveted European Car of the Year award.

In a sea of SUV, Vauxhall have bravely continued to offer a traditional large family car in the hatch or estate formula. Say what you will about the SUV for me personally, I still like and indeed prefer a nice, roomy saloon, estate or hatchback. When I say roomy I mean just that in the case of the Insignia – its huge. The Sports Tourer is one hell of a size of car but thanks to up to date dynamics and effortless controls almost seems to shrink once out on the road. Having driven many of them over the past couple of years, I can state hand on heart that they are a fine range of cars without too many vices.

So here we have a sporting themed model – the GSi. It comes in two body shapes both with four wheel drive and certainly looks a bit more zesty to the eye – if a little restrained. The car under my command was a 210PS 2.0 diesel with an 8 speed gearbox and twin clutch torque vectoring all wheel drive system – sounds pretty good huh?…on paper at least anyway it does. Other stuff of note includes a beefed up braking system with Brembo calipers and discs, a race developed suspension which is lowered a fraction and lightweight sport seats clad in a sumptuous nappa type leather.

Supportive and grippy leather sports seats are standard atire inside the GSi. They feature weight saving frame engineering without losing any quality. Electrically adjustable for every which way you like and notably comfortable for these kind of chairs on a long drive.

First thing you note when you get inside is the firmer cushion of the drivers seat. I thought I would be in for a jostling bumpy week having only driven the car briefly previously. For sure the emphasis is on cocooning you into a chosen driving position but a long trek from Bedfordshire to Norfolk found me little to complain about in terms of comfort. A small chunky flat bottomed steering wheel rounds off what adds up to be a really good commanding driving position, and the ergonomics of the controls still impress – a very easy motor to acclimatise to in a hurry.

All the normal Insignia traits remain. Heaps of leg and elbow room, a useful well planned boot area, an abundance of cubby holes, nick nack storage trays and big door pockets too – only the pitifully small glove-box and tight rear headroom blot the pages in the chapter marked practicality. You have an active damper system at your disposal too although I found it varied from firm to firm through to… firm. Yes the ride comfort is more stiffer than the other models but it rarely becomes offensive or uncomfortable. In fact… show the car a long smooth road or motorway and its almost cruising excellence.

Flat bottomed sports wheel is chunky and good to hold though the steering is bereft of weight and feel at lower speeds. Good sized infotainment screen and impressive ergonomics too. Easy to fathom, easy to drive and mainly well built – though the column stalks lack solidity in use and feel cheap. Eight speed auto and four wheel drive works very well but there’s no manual option… as of yet.
Rear seat passengers get heated outer cushions and fresh air vents in the GSi. Leg and elbow room is good but headroom is tight for taller folk. Also, road and tyre noise in the back can sometimes be really annoying on rough or concrete surfaced roads although Vauxhall say they are working with engineers on a solution right now. On smoother roads or motorways the GSi is calm and quiet you’ll be pleased to know.
Only the roar from the back tyres on rough or concrete topped roads makes the driver or rear passengers wince. Its excessive and it does need to be investigated / improved – Vauxhall tell me they are on to it as I type. On the subject of driving, the only other complaint I have is the steering – at urban speeds its far to light an uncommunicative. Speed up and head into the countryside and it weights up nicely enough to be fair, but around town its like so many other E-PAS set ups – artificial and over light.  That beefed up braking system works superbly – no grab, no fade and super progressive – excellent!

Noise aside though it pulls like hell. From little over idle speed to a few revs short of the electronic governor the power delivery is instant, linear and strong – mid range to top end thrust is nothing short of marvellous

In general, refinement is very good but there is some noticeable engine vibration at very low revs and a fair bit of mechanical thrash at the other end of the tacho dial. The Bi-Turbo 210PS Eu6 diesel has a long pedigree is its core design is getting on somewhat so this may account for the slight blip in its NVH. Noise aside though it pulls like hell. From little over idle speed to a few revs short of the electronic governor the power delivery is instant, linear and strong – mid range to top end thrust is nothing short of marvellous. Snap decision overtaking becomes smile inducing… rather than heart stopping!

The 2.0 Bi-Turbo D offers 210Ps and a whopping 480Nm of torque. Power delivery is relentless and nanosecond instant from barely more than 1000rpm. But its based on an old design that suffers from notable vibrations at low revs and noise at high revs not to mention emissions that other rivals roundly trounce. A bit juicy when pushed but thrifty when cruising.
Road grip is limpet like. Thanks to the clever shuffling of torque from its twin clutch trick rear differential, powering out of rush hour roundabout traffic or twisty country driving is safe, fun and without drama. Of course you can feel the right bloody state of our roads around town in its firmer ride, but lifeless steering aside its handling / ride is very good. I might put my head on the block here by saying the 4×4 Insignia might just have a level of grip during demanding circumstances better than any volume sector car – seriously… go have a play and come back and tell me what you think.

” its thirst when driven hard and Co2 output data is below standards compared to many rivals… yet when cruising long distance at high speeds I found the car to be returning well over 40mpg.  In its defence, high speed mile munching is what the Insignia GSi all about”

So far as driver enjoyment matters the traditional sprint from rest to a mile a minute comes up in a decent 7.3 seconds. Autobahn aficionados can expect a maximum speed of 145mph – both figures are in line and on the money for the company it rubs shoulders with. But its thirst when driven hard and Co2 output data is below standards compared to many rivals – RFL for example is £1240 and £140 for the first two years respectively. And yet when cruising long distance at high speeds I found the car to be returning well over 40mpg. In its defence, high speed mile munching is what the Insignia GSi all about.

Track and race tuned sports suspension really makes the car handle well without upsetting the ride too much. Bad boy beefed up Brembo front brakes are quite excellent. Fade and grab free with a progressive pedal feel. Overall the Insignia GSi oozes driver confidence – you can really hustle this about and put a big smile on your face without worrying your passengers.
Equipment levels are a mixed bag. Heaps of tech and driver safety toys are all there. Even the rear seats have heated cushions and the infotainment, even though its got a dated looking font, works amazingly quickly and efficiently. But for a car costing almost £34,000 before you start adding option packs I would expect to see a reversing camera and not just reversing sensors – rearward visibility is far from being brilliant. As a package its good fun, well balanced, drives well, grips like hell and looks handsome. My only main concerns are the price tag against some premium brands and a dated engine.



I do like the Insignia Grand Sport and Sports Tourer but I am struggling ever so slightly with this one.

The environmental stats are not that great and it drinks when you drive hard. Some VW Passat and Audi models are within grasp at £34,000 too. In fact for similar money you can jump into quite a few sports themed cars of this calibre. 

Where is the manual gearbox option??? At the moment there isn’t one and even though you can drive in paddle mode, some of older fans of big fast cars like a nice slice of three pedal action you know?

Hopefully the dealership restructuring programme of recent months will result in a slimmer but more professional bunch of showrooms UK wide. The knock on effect will be a smarter and sharper collection of sales professionals that are better placed to prospect business for what really is in effect a premium priced motor car.

Its race proven suspension, fine tuned by Nurburgring supremo Volker Stryczek nonetheless may be lost during some dealership sales demonstrations I fear. Also, their clever and still unique OnStar system goes off line in the UK at the end of next year – hopefully Vauxhall – Opel and PSA Groupe will be beavering away at a suitable replacement… perhaps?

But on the whole its positive, especially when you take into account the sheer grunt of its performance, the grip and poise of the drive line / suspension and its rather… in my opinion, handsome looks. Also… its a very pleasant car to drive.

My last word goes to Vauxhall however. Slip in an up-to-date PSA HDi diesel, add a manual gearbox option and be prepared to be aggressive / welcoming with your PCP deals or cash punters and the GSi Insignia will stack up against some decent rival metal.

Oh… and for God’s sake sort out that dead feeling over light steering!

MODEL TESTED: Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport GSi 2.0 Bi-Turbo D 4×4

PRICE: £33,965 excluding options

Driveline: Bi-Turbo Eu6 diesel 8 speed auto with twin clutch 4×4 rear differential

Power / Torque: 210PS / 480Nm

Performance: *0 – 60 in 7.3 seconds with 145mph max

Economy: *40.4mpg combined (37.2mpg on actual test)

Co2 Output: *186g/km

* Manufacturers or Govt Claimed Data


  • Impressive performance right across the speed range
  • Amazing grip when you ask of it
  • Strong confidence inspiring brakes
  • Good handling & ride compromise
  • Smart looks without being O.T.T and… feels well built
  • Gorgeous looking front seats support you well and hold you in place
  • Long distance cruising is a pleasure
  • Good touring MPG


  • Emission stats unimpressive
  • Needs a little bit more visual aggression to match its GSi branding 
  • Doesn’t look that sporting when viewed from 50 yards
  • Thirsty when hurried
  • Its excellent OnStar package goes off-line in the near future
  • Expensive price tag
  • Rear road noise can sometimes be a real chore
  • Steering needs to be much sharper and alive in feel at the rim
  • Rear headroom can pinch for above average height passengers

Want to know more about the Insignia GSi or other Vauxhall cars?









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