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. With its sleek good looks, upmarket interior and class-leading refinement, the Insignia is a surprisingly desirable choice – although it hasn't got the all-round appeal of the Ford Mondeo or Skoda Superb. A mid-life refresh saw the introduction of eco-friendly stop-start technology and extra standard equipment, but it all comes at a high price – especially when compared to mainstream rivals, although a range of deals are available. There are three bodystyles to choose from – a five-door hatchback, four-door Saloon and practical Sports Tourer estate – as well as high-performance versions of each. As of November 2012, the VXR has been replaced by the VXR SuperSport, which is powered by a 2.8-litre V6 turbo with the same 321bhp as the old model's engine, but the top speed has increased by 15mph to 170mph. The range will be given another facelift this year, and we’ve already seen prototype versions of the hatchback and estate on test. The changes are expected to include a new chrome grille and revised headlights, as well as the introduction of a new 108bhp 1.7-litre CDTi with stop-start to attract business buyers.
Our choice: Insignia Exclusiv 2.0 CDTi 160PS ecoFLEX S/S
The Vauxhall Insignia is a huge improvement over the old Vectra, with sleek lines, a low-slung roof and neat details that make it a surprisingly stylish choice. Clever design means the four-door Saloon looks almost identical to the five-door hatchback, too. There’s a choice of nine specifications to choose from – ES, Exclsuiv, SRi, SRi VX-Line, SRi VX-Line Red, Tech Line, Elite, SE and VXR SuperSport. Entry-level ES cars come with 17-inch wheels, air-conditioning, an electrically-adjustable driver’s seat, cruise control and an electric parking brake. SRi models get 17-inch alloys, lowered sports suspension, sports pedals, sports seats, front fog lights and twin exhausts, while SRi VX-Line and SRi VX-Line Red get massive 19 and 20-inch alloys respectively. Tech Line comes with an in-built sat-nav, DAB radio and Bluetooth, while Elite adds 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, leather upholstery and heated front seats. The VXR SuperSport model gets new brake calipers, which now have blue Brembo lettering, as well as a few extra speed increments on the speedometer.
Although it’s still not hugely engaging to drive, the Insignia is a vast improvement over its clunky Vectra predecessor. The Ford Mondeo is more fun, but the Insignia does get 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. There’s a wide choice of engines, including a rather breathless 138bhp petrol in the entry-level model, to punchy and smooth turbocharged 138bhp 1.4-litre, 178bhp 1.6-litre and 217bhp 2.0-litre engines. The frugal 2.0-litre CDTi diesel is available with either 128bhp or 158bhp, but is still a bit gruff. A grippy 4x4 system is also available. It automatically distributes power between the front and rear axles to maximise traction and comes fitted with an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, but is only offered with the 158bhp 2.0-litre diesel or the 217bhp 2.0-litre turbo, a 2.8-litre turbo V6 with 260bhp or the VXR petrol options. 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 Insignia finished a very respectable 21st in the 2012 Driver Power ownership survey, while Vauxhall came 13th as a brand, too, just ahead of BMW and Audi. The Vectra replacement finished in the top-half in every category except for ease of driving, with owners offering particular praise for its confidence-inspiring brakes and good reliability and build quality. 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, while ES versions and above get active head restraints. 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 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. Thanks to the introduction of a fuel-saving stop-start system, the 158bhp 2.0 CDTi diesel emits only 115g/km and has a claimed average fuel consumption figure 66.0mpg. But even the highest-powered 2.0 CDTi model manages to return average mpg of 58.0 and emits 129g/km, which makes it free to tax for the first year of ownership. Best of the petrols is the 1.4-litre turbo, which emits 134g/km and is claimed to achieve almost 50mpg. Buyers wanting to minimise their running costs should steer clear of the 1.8VVT and 2.0T petrols, as they emit 179g/km of CO2 and return only 37.0mpg. As you’d expect, the VXR model is worse still, with official figures of 27.0mpg and a hefty 249g/km of CO2. 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 Passat and Superb fare much better here.