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Vauxhall Insignia CDTI

Can the diesel version match the punchy performance of the petrol newcomer?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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The Insignia looks good, is brilliantly built and offers a refined and comfortable driving experience. It’s fun, too, if not quite as sharp as a Mondeo. Factor in a punchy and frugal diesel, and owners trading up from a Vectra have a real treat in store – providing they keep a careful eye on the price... Rival: Ford Mondeo TDCiThe Ford is slightly sportier to drive, but the Vauxhall is a better cruiser. Both are good looking, spacious and well built. We can’t wait to compare them to find the best family pick.

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Family saloons have taken a battering recently, attacked by off-roaders, crossovers and MPVs. But the class is bouncing back – and Vauxhall’s Insignia is one of the best yet. We tested the 2.0-litre turbo petrol model last week (Issue 1,032), and were impressed by its punchy performance and quality feel. But it’s thirsty. So how does the Insignia stack up in 2.0-litre CDTI diesel form?

You know instantly that the Insignia is light years ahead of the Vectra it replaces. It’s good looking, for starters – and there aren’t many family cars you can say that about. Despite being slightly longer than a Mondeo, the Insignia seems more compact, and has an athletic shape as a result. The lines are taut and sporty, with shades of Jaguar’s XF in the rakish roofline, and there’s plenty of the original GTC concept in the bold grille and pert tail.

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

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Inside, everything – from the dashboard and centre console to the careful backlighting and quality materials – makes the occupants feel good. There’s plenty of space, and although the sloping roofline robs some rear headroom, it’ll only affect those more than six feet tall. The boot is huge, too.

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A raft of gadgets includes a set-up that can read road signs (keeping the driver aware of speed limits), a lane departure warning set-up and adaptive headlights. We’ve raved about Vauxhall’s FlexRide suspension before – it automatically tweaks steering, damper and throttle response to match driving conditions. The biggest compliment you can pay is that it’s very subtle in its operation.

The steering isn’t quite as sharp as a Mondeo’s, but in every other respect the Vauxhall is as good as the Ford. Enter a tight corner at high speed and it simply grips and pulls itself round. The ride is brilliant, too, as the Insignia is always composed and easily absorbs bumps.

Due to minimal road and wind noise, the Vauxhall is about as good a motorway mile-muncher as you’ll find – better even than the Mondeo. The excellent 158bhp version of the 2.0 CDTI is the best choice for most UK motorists. With 320Nm of torque from 1,750rpm, overtaking isn’t a problem, yet it returns nearly 50mpg and has CO2 emissions of 154g/km.

Next year, a 178bhp, 1.6-litre turbo petrol and a 187bhp 2.0-litre twin-turbodiesel will arrive, as well as a super-frugal oil-burning ecoFLEX model. However, be warned that it’s easy to inflate the Insignia’s price. We drove the sat-nav-equipped SE, which costs £21,535 – but a lower-spec Exclusive with sat-nav would be £17,985 and still have climate control and alloys. For that money, you’re getting one of the best family cars you can buy.

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