Vauxhall Insignia review
The Vauxhall Insignia hatchback offers plenty of style and refinement to rival the Ford Mondeo
When the Vauxhall Insignia was launched back in 2008, it instantly consigned the lacklustre Vectra to the history books. A 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 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 ecoFLEX S/S
The Vauxhall Insignia has always been a surprisingly stylish choice. The mid-life update has only enhanced this, by adding more modern-looking headlights and a wider grille to make it look lower and better proportioned. At the rear, the hatchback looks quite neat, although the new tail-lights with a big chrome bar through them look like they were borrowed from its sister car in the US and China, the Buick Regal. Inside, the old button-fest design of the dashboard has been replaced with fewer buttons and a central touchscreen. But while the design is better, the screen has dated graphics and works quite slowly. The optional eight-inch dials give an extra modern touch, however.
Although the Ford Mondeo remains more fun, and both are comprehensively outclassed by the Mazda 6, the Insignia does have a poised chassis, direct steering and tonnes of grip. Vauxhall’s FlexRide adaptive damping system is standard on SRi models and works by tweaking the suspension, steering and throttle for sharper responses. It’s worth it if you plan to opt for 20-inch alloys too, as it helps smooth out the ride. The revised rear suspension helps non-FlexRide models ride better than before, however. There’s a wide choice of engines, with most expected to opt for either the 118bhp or 138bhp 2.0-litre diesels that return excellent claimed fuel economy figures and emit 99g/km of CO2. 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 new Country Tourer, which is a rival for the VW Passat Alltrack.
The Insignia finished a disappointing 98th in the 2013 Driver Power ownership survey, a considerable loss compared to the previous year's position of 21st. As a brand, Vauxhall came 13th - ahead of BMW and Audi. Reliability should be OK, as its technology has been refined from previous generations. There’s a huge network of dealers for routine maintenance, although service costs are a little high compared to rivals. However, 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. It has a five-star Euro NCAP rating, with 94 per cent for adult occupant protection and 71 per cent in the safety assist category. All models come with from six airbags and electronic stability control fitted as standard. The options list includes a tyre pressure monitoring system and adaptive Xenon headlamps that respond to steering inputs for better night-time vision in corners.
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 a 530-litre boot (two litres more than the Mondeo), which expands to 1,470 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats lowered. Although the saloon model only sacrifices 30 litres of space, the narrow opening and high loading lip mean it’s not nearly as practical. Plus if you do need more space, the Sports Tourer estate offers 540 to a maximum of 1,530 litres. 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.
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.