Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 CDTI Elite

Has newcomer got what it takes to claim the class honours?

Ith its rakish looks, it isn’t just the revamped badge that separates the Insignia from the rest of the Vauxhall model range. Company bosses claim that the newcomer takes the firm’s design to the next level.

The coupé-like lines are smoothly sculpted, while the LED running lights, chrome window surrounds and 19-inch alloys give the Elite model an air of quality. But in our view, the shape is inoffensive rather than groundbreaking, and lacks the presence of the Mondeo or Honda.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Vauxhall Insignia

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As with the Ford, it pushes the size boundaries for this segment – it’s 52mm longer than the Mondeo, but the wheelbase is 113mm shorter. And while rear legroom is good, the sloping roofline eats into head space. In both hatch and saloon trim, the boot is smaller than the Ford’s, although it’s far more practical than the Accord’s.

Where the Vauxhall really sets new class standards is with the quality of its cabin. The materials used throughout are first-rate, and the standard of fit and finish is hard to fault. With its curving lines, the interior design mimics the exterior – the wood-effect trim of this range-topping Elite model flows in one sweeping line through the door tops and around the base of the windscreen.

Our sat-nav-equipped test car had a simple-to-use controller located behind the gearlever and a high-mounted screen. The large audio and climate buttons are well placed, while the multifunction steering wheel and switchgear have an upmarket feel. In fact, there’s an executive ambience throughout the cabin.

It’s comfortable, too. The seats are supportive and widely adjustable, making it easy to find the perfect driving position. However, the tapered door mirrors leave you with annoying blind spots, and the electric parking brake won’t be to all tastes.

But these minor gripes can’t distract from just how relaxing the Insignia is to drive. Vauxhall has spent a lot of time ensuring its flagship serves up class-leading levels of refinement – and it shows! Low wind noise and a supple ride help keep occupants isolated from the outside world.

Motorway imperfections are ironed out with ease, and it rides better than the Accord on country roads. It hasn’t got the finely tuned agility and sharp turn-in of the Mondeo, but the Insignia’s steering is fluid and accurate, while body control is good. Push hard into a corner, and it won’t engage you like the Ford, yet it’s reassuringly composed and very stable at speed.

The Vauxhall’s 2.0-litre CDTI engine is clattery and intrusive on start-up. But it’s smooth on the move, and has the same torque output as the bigger-capacity Honda. It can’t match the Japanese car for in-gear thrust, though, and lags a long way behind the more powerful Mondeo.

Nevertheless, the Insignia is a strong contender. It’s beautifully built, impressively refined, dynamically grown-up, generously equipped and good value for money.

Details

Price: £23,535Model tested: Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 CDTI EliteWHY: Vauxhall’s latest family car has its sights set on the compact executive class above.

Economy

The new Insignia has genuine showroom appeal. With competitive prices and comprehensive standard kit – including sat-nav on our test car – the Vauxhall represents a stern value test for the Mondeo. It also put in a strong performance at the pumps, returning an impressive 41.3mpg. However, CO2 emissions of 154g/km place the car in the same band D road tax bracket as the bigger-engined, thirstier Ford. Routine maintenance also costs more than for the blue oval model, although servicing is still cheaper than for the Accord.

Environment

With CO2 emissions of 154g/km, the Insignia is cleaner than the Mondeo, if not the Accord. It also trails the Japanese model at the pumps, returning 41.3mpg in our hands.

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