Vauxhall Insignia review
The Vauxhall Insignia hatchback offers plenty of style and refinement to rival the Ford Mondeo
The facelifted Vauxhall Insignia marks a new start for Vauxhall’s family car. When the Vauxhall Insignia was launched back in 2008, it instantly consigned the lacklustre Vectra to the history books.
The thorough update in 2013 has further improved Vauxhall’s fleet favourite, giving its already handsome looks a wider, lower appearance, while also making the cabin more up to date and upmarket. The refreshed Insignia really impresses with its choice of not one but two diesel engines that emit 99g/km of CO2, cutting running costs, particularly for company car and fleet buyers, which make up 85 per cent of Insignia customers.
Vauxhall has also given the chassis an update, refreshing the steering calibration for a more direct feel, and redesigning the rear suspension to improve ride comfort. The Insignia also appears more competitive than its rivals, as the Ford Mondeo and VW Passat are both rather long in the tooth.
However, Vauxhall has enhanced this by cutting an average of £1,500 off the list price of each Insignia, while reducing the number of new cars held in stock has helped boost residual values, albeit by just £750 over three years.
Our choice: Insignia SRi 2.0 CDTi 140PS Design Nav
Big fleet sales mean the Vauxhall Insignia is a common sight on our roads, but at least it’s stylish. It has distinctive curves, and the arching roofline tapers to a shallow rear screen and raised tail.
The facelift brings a few tweaks. Up front, there’s a larger grille and revised headlights that feature LEDs, while high-spec cars get a reprofiled chin spoiler with foglamps. The tail-lamps cut into the hatch and are joined by a thicker chrome bar across the tailgate.
Overall the Insignia feels fresher than likely rival, the Ford Mondeo, and from some angles has a four-door coupe look that’s reminiscent of a Volkswagen CC.
The interior tweaks are equally subtle. The steering wheel is the same as you’ll find across the Vauxhall range, and the curvy dashboard is largely unchanged. There are fewer buttons on the centre console, though, because all models now have a touchscreen to navigate through the major functions. If you go for a model equipped with sat-nav, you also get a touchpad that’s used to navigate through the menus, as well as write characters.
A stylish Insignia option is the £400 eight-inch TFT instrument cluster. This replaces the traditional dials with a large screen that can show a range of information, from speed and revs to economy and driving efficiency. It’s a clear, colourful display that adds a touch of class to the cabin, and it looks much more modern than the small dot-matrix set-up in the Mondeo.
Most Insignias will be used to pound up and down the motorway, and the new car can’t be faulted for its high-speed cruising ability. The suspension filters out all but the biggest bumps to deliver a smooth ride, while the engine is hushed and there’s not much wind noise, either.
Another impressive feature is the performance from the Insignia’s 138bhp diesel. This ecoFLEX model is geared towards efficiency – but you couldn’t tell, as the Vauxhall edged ahead of the less powerful Mondeo in all of our performance tests.
Yet while the Insignia has plenty of grip and decent turn-in, it can’t hold a candle to the Mondeo for driver enjoyment. There’s not much in the way of feedback through the wheel, and the pay-off for that comfortable ride is a softer feel in corners. It suffers more body roll, and the suspension is easily unsettled by mid-corner bumps.
You can also get the Insignia with Vauxhall’s new 1.6-litre petrol turbo engine, which is smooth and very quiet, although it can’t match the diesels in the economy battle.The VXR SuperSport replaced the standard Insignia VXR at the end of 2012. It gets the same 321bhp 2.8-litre V6 turbo engine as the old car but the top speed has increased by 15mph to 170mph, which makes it the fastest car on sale in the UK for under £30k. It takes 5.6 seconds to sprint from 0-62mph and gets a HiPerStrut front suspension system to improve grip.
The only other four-wheel drive model is the Country Tourer, which is a rival for the VW Passat Alltrack.
With so many Insignias being built, it’s inevitable that a few cars will have problems. Overall, it appears the big Vauxhall is reasonably reliable, but owners don’t seem to have much faith in the car as it finished 98th in our Driver Power 2013 satisfaction survey – down from sixth in 2011, and 42 places behind the Ford Mondeo, for example.
While the Insignia scored well for practicality, its results elsewhere were consistently poor, and it came bottom for ease of driving.
Vauxhall dealers have a better reputation than their Ford counterparts, and came 18th in our survey. However, owners feel standards have slipped since the previous Driver Power report, in which the company finished ninth. The first owner of the car does benefit from a unique warranty that lasts the lifetime of the car or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Safety kit is comprehensive in the Insignia, with six airbags, two Isofix mounts in the back and ESP as standard. Plus, Euro NCAP awarded the car a five-star crash test rating. There’s a raft of advanced safety kit on the options list, too. Upgrade to the £300 rear view camera, and you can add the £500 Park and Go Technology Pack, with blind spot and rear traffic alerts.
Choose the £230 Sight and Light pack (which adds automatic lights and wipers) and £500 Advanced Park Assist, and you can add the £750 Front Camera System. This brings lane departure warning, distance control and a forward collision alert. Tyre pressure monitors are £110. And while all this kit hikes the price, none of it is even available on its arch rival, the Mondeo.
Although the Insignia can’t match the vast Skoda Superb for outright space, it still offers more than enough room for most families’ needs. The hatchback has 530 litres of boot sapce (10 litres down on the the Mondeo), which expands to 1,470 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats lowered.
The boot has a narrow opening, although the floor area is a useful squarer shape than some of its rivals'. Fold the back seats, and there’s a step in the floor – but the Mondeo is the same, and you don’t have to flip the seatbases up to achieve this.
There’s plenty of storage courtesy scattered around the cabin, too, with a number of cubbies, a lidded compartment between the front seats and a large glovebox.
It will easily accommodate five adults, although the swooping roofline means that taller rear seat passengers will find their heads scraping the ceiling. Surprisingly, electric rear windows are a £170 option in our favourite model.
The ecoFLEX models make the most sense for company car buyers. Around 85 per cent of buyers will go for diesels, with the two new 2.0-litre units set to be most popular, thanks to their 99g/km of CO2 emissions.
There’s a more powerful diesel that offers a bit more punch, yet remains frugal. Petrol engines make up a small percentage of buyers. There’s an basic 1.4-litre turbo that’s quiet and smooth, but not the most powerful. Better is the new SIDI 1.6-litre engine that debuted in the Cascada. The VXR has a 321bhp 2.8-litre V6 turbo, which offers just about the most performance per pound of any new car that costs less than £30,000.
You shouldn’t need to spend much money on extras, though, as all versions come with plenty of kit. However, weak residuals mean it isn’t a great long-term investment – the VW Passat and Skoda Superb fare much better here.