Vauxhall Insignia ST 2.0 CDTi

Can Vauxhall's former class champ challenge again, or will its age count against it in this test?

When it arrived in 2009, the Insignia Sports Tourer marked a step up from its Vectra predecessor. Sleeker and better looking, the new model’s tidy design was a world away from the boxy old workhorse.

Even so, the Insignia is arguably the only car in this test that looks better as a hatchback. Its rounded rear end ensures a distinctive appearance, but it doesn’t flow as well as the Ford Mondeo or Peugeot 508 SW.

All models from Exclusiv trim upwards get chrome roof rails and window surrounds, which add to the high-end look. Our SRi also benefited from 19-inch alloy wheels, side skirts and lip spoiler, which all come as part of the optional VX-Line kit.

Inside, the overriding sensation is one of quality. Proving that it isn’t only VW Group products that excel when it comes to integrity, the Insignia feels as solidly put together as the Passat, and it’s hard to fault the choice of materials.

The dash layout is modern but it isn’t perfect, and a few niggles, such as the button-heavy centre console, take the edge off an otherwise impressive cabin. The driving position isn’t perfect, either, as the gearlever is set too far back for our taste. At least the SRi’s sports seats offer support.

Passengers don’t have much to complain about, as rear legroom is generous. However, there’s no full-length glass roof like you get in the 508, and the interior is much darker than in the airy French estate.

When it comes to the boot, the Vauxhall is a mixed bag. As it’s the longest car on test, the Insignia has the advantage when it comes to maximum load length, but its sloping roofline, combined with rear seat bases that don’t tumble, mean the maximum volume of 1,530 litres is the smallest here – 335 litres behind the cavernous Skoda.

Our test car featured practical touches such as a £360 powered tailgate and £105 Flex organiser pack, which includes handy side rails and assorted hooks, but the latter should really come as standard. Under the bonnet, the 158bhp 2.0-litre CDTi diesel has a power advantage over the Peugeot, Skoda and VW. It also partly explains the Vauxhall’s price premium (see Costs, below), but the performance gains hardly justify the extra expense.

It sprinted from 0-60mph in 9.7 seconds – only four-tenths faster than its less powerful rivals. And while its extra 30Nm of torque was more obvious during our in-gear tests, none of its rivals is found wanting against the clock.

The trade-off for that extra mid-range pace is relatively high CO2 emissions of 149g/km, but the CDTi engine is refined and smooth. Dynamically, the Vauxhall lacks the fun factor of the Mondeo, and SRi trim compromises ride comfort, thanks to its larger wheels and lower suspension. The steering is also a little artificial, but light controls make it easy to drive, and the handling is predictable.

Details

Chart position: 5WHY: Time has moved on since the Insignia ruled as our estate champ. Can it still hold its own against newer rivals?

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