Long-term test review: Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer

Final report: big Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer estate loads up to help our man move out as it leaves our fleet

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

The Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer has left our fleet and we’re already missing its spacious interior, enormous load-swallowing capacity, comfortable ride and punchy diesel.

Mileage: 9,998Economy: 44.2mpg

Just as I say goodbye to my London flat, it’s also time to hand back the keys to the Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer we’ve been running. On the one hand I’m happy about moving on to somewhere new, but on the other I will truly miss having the Vauxhall around.

It might not be the most exciting car to look at, but it perfectly complimented my working life taking photographs for Auto Express – and as it recently proved, it was the ideal car for moving home as well, swallowing loads of my packing boxes and reducing the number of trips I needed to make, thanks to its huge 1,665-litre total boot capacity.

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Just about everything the Insignia Sports Tourer does seems perfectly geared towards me and my job. For a start, that massive luggage bay means carting around my extensive camera equipment and car-cleaning gear is easy; there’s no need to carefully fit everything inside because it provides more than enough space for it all.

Then there’s the ride comfort. It’s excellent, which means I can arrive at any shoot location feeling relaxed and ready to work. Then when we start taking photographs using the Vauxhall as a tracking car (with me in the boot), it’s easy to keep my camera steady and make sure the shots are pin-sharp.

But once the day is over and I fancy a swift drive home on some back roads, the Vauxhall steps up; it’s still good fun, with a willing engine, well-weighted controls and decent body control. Fuel economy has improved over my time running the car as well, with the final figure coming in at 44.2mpg for the entire time the car was on our fleet.

I had hoped to get a little closer to Vauxhall’s official claimed economy of 49.6mpg, so this is a little disappointing in some ways, especially as I spend a lot of my time driving on the motorway.

But high-speed cruising is another area where the Insignia excels, with the comfy ride and punchy 168bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine ensuring long trips are no hassle. I don’t even mind getting stuck in jams, thanks to the automatic gearbox. Still, if it was my money, I probably wouldn’t choose this transmission; it adds to the list price and takes away from the driving experience a bit.

It’s a bit slow to respond and doesn’t shift particularly quickly; it’s quite old-school and, although it will suit some drivers well, I enjoy driving manual cars a lot more. The automatic Insignia is smooth enough, though.

I also have to admit that while the OnStar system is a neat feature, I’ve never actually used the concierge phone service – and the built-in WiFi was no faster than my phone’s 4G connection, so I felt no need to use that, either. PSA-run Vauxhall is shutting this GM-owned service down at the end of 2020, and while it’s a good idea in theory, in reality it’s a bit of a gimmick and doesn’t add that much to the ownership experience.

One bit of tech I really do love is Apple CarPlay, which is standard along with Android Auto. It means making and receiving calls is a lot easier, although it can be annoying to have to use on-screen buttons to accept a call because there’s no dedicated button on the steering wheel.

Another irritation with the system in our car was the fact that I needed to unplug and then reattach my phone if I stopped briefly – for example at a filling station. I couldn’t just hop in and set off, because the mobile wouldn’t automatically reconnect, and of course it’s against the law to touch the phone while driving, so I’d sometimes forget and have to stop again just to connect it.

This is a minor niggle with the car, although it persisted throughout my time behind the wheel. It’s telling that this was one of my main criticisms, though, because it shows just how good the rest of the Insignia package is.

I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next, and getting into another brand new car for the coming months. But like my old flat, I’ve come to love the Vauxhall much more than I had anticipated at the start.

Update: Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer

Our spacious Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer scrubs up pretty well, especially after a wash at AutoGlym HQ

Mileage: 4,930Economy: 43.0mpg

Our Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer has been pampered, after getting the car equivalent of a relaxing spa treatment recently.

As part of our Spring Car Care Special in Issue 1,517, we took the estate to AutoGlym’s HQ in Letchworth Garden City, Herts, where the firm carried out a deep clean and applied a development version of its latest wash wax – and the results are promising so far. Our Vauxhall is looking better than ever, and all that’s needed to keep the bodywork clean is a quick hose down.

That’s been really useful, because it reduces the annoying impact of the muddy, salty roads we’re still having to endure at this time of year.

But the Insignia is a great car whatever the weather has thrown at it. It provides plenty of grip and rides smoothly over even the harshest surfaces. On top of that, the tyres’ deep sidewalls mean the car dips into potholes smoothly, even at low speeds.

I am having some trouble with the Sports Tourer’s infotainment system, though. The Apple CarPlay feature is a great addition, and one I prefer to use most of the time, but occasionally the car refuses to believe that my mobile is connected.

Similarly, if I leave the phone plugged in when I stop, and then restart the car after a few minutes (for example, at a petrol station), the system won’t work unless I unplug and plug it back in. It’s not too much of a hassle, but still annoying.

Then there’s the sat-nav. I’ve actually taken to using Vauxhall’s more effective built-in set-up, as Apple Maps is poor and often can’t find addresses that I’ve entered.

Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer: first report

First report: the spacious and versatile Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer estate is proving an ideal workhorse for our photographer

Mileage: 4,051Economy: 43.0mpg 

At this time of year, I find that gloves are extremely useful when I’m working outdoors taking the pictures you see in Auto Express.

It’s not just about the clothes you put on your hands, though. I also need a car that fits like a glove; something that ticks every box for practicality, space, fuel efficiency, comfort, ride quality and tech. Luckily for me, our new Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer is already looking like it will suit my needs very well.

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I have run many cars on our fleet over the years and each has been great in its own way. But every once in a while I’ve had one that just works that little bit better than those that have come before it. I’ve not been using it for long, but our Insignia has already proved itself to be one of them. The Vauxhall not only gets me to each photoshoot, but it also helps me to do the job once I arrive.

Being a large estate, I expected plenty of room, but have still been impressed with the generous 560-litre load space, especially because with the seats down there’s a fantastic 1,665 litres available. I can carry all my photo gear without having to worry about how it all fits in and once we reach our location, the big Vauxhall then carries me, while I shoot from one of the rear doors or the boot.

I reckon lying in the boot is a great barometer of how good a model’s ride really is, and I’m impressed so far. The suspension is soft and subtly glides along, even over fairly bumpy surfaces, so I stay comfortable even when we’re working on a rutted road.

Load space and passenger legroom are also plentiful, easily allowing me to carry five adults, even with all my gear in the back; and the added weight doesn’t adversely affect ride comfort, either.

Our car has the higher-powered 168bhp version of the 2.0-litre diesel engine with 400Nm of torque, so it feels punchy. The auto gearbox shifts smoothly and doesn’t kick down unnecessarily, allowing me to use the engine torque to speed up when needed. Also, the driving position is comfortable.

On a long journey I can also relax a bit thanks to the cruise control. Lots of manufacturers are now promoting adaptive cruise control, but I prefer the standard system on the Vauxhall.

One bit of tech I really do love is Apple CarPlay, because it means receiving and making calls is effortless. Annoyingly, I have to unplug and then reconnect my phone into the car for it to initiate the system if I leave it plugged in and the car is turned off. Yet it’s a minor niggle in a system that is excellent otherwise.

I normally use my phone to navigate, but tried the standard sat-nav on the car and was impressed by how simple it is to operate. But using the phone via Bluetooth is tricky, because there’s no button on the steering wheel to accept a call, and the touchscreen doesn’t always respond to inputs, which is frustrating. 

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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