Used Vauxhall Insignia (Mk1, 2008-2017) review - What’s it like to drive?

The Insignia is at its best as a comfortable, refined long-distance companion, but hasn’t the sharpness of more modern rivals

The Vauxhall Insignia is incredibly comfortable and will happily eat up long journeys with ease. Tweaks made to the suspension in 2013 filter out the biggest bumps to deliver a comfortable ride, while wind noise is minimal and the engines are generally quiet – although petrol cars are definitely more refined than diesels. As a long-distance cruiser, this Vauxhall can’t be faulted.

Engines

The Insignia offers a varied array of engines, so there should be something to suit all needs and budgets. The range kicks off with an entry-level 1.8-litre petrol unit. It offers enough power at 138bhp, but it's naturally aspirated and feels a little breathless in such a big car. Economy isn't great, either.

Surprisingly, the small-capacity 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine has the same 138bhp power output, but it offers more torque, flexibility and performance. It’s smooth and quiet, although it still lacks oomph. If you want that, Vauxhall’s 246bhp 2.0T SIDI petrol engine is much more potent.

However, easily the strongest performer in the Insignia range is the VXR SuperSport model, with its mighty 320bhp 2.8-litre V6. This 168mph super saloon is one of the fastest cars on sale in the UK in its price bracket, taking just 5.6 seconds to sprint from 0-62mph.

As of summer 2015, there was big news for the Insignia on the diesel engine front. Vauxhall’s new 1.6-litre ‘Whisper Diesel’ engine replaced lower-powered versions of the 2.0 CDTi diesel. This 134bhp 1.6-litre unit is impressively responsive and smooth, while remaining remarkably refined. In ecoFLEX form, the engine delivers a top speed of 130mph and 0-62mph in 10.9 seconds. It's easily the pick of the bunch as it offers ample performance with CO2 emissions that dip below 100g/km. However, it doesn't quite live up to its 'Whisper' billing, because it clatters a little when cold and gets gruff when extended. That said, you don't need to wring the Vauxhall's neck because it delivers a healthy 320Nm of torque at just 2,000rpm, and at a cruise the engine is remarkably refined.

The 167bhp 2.0 CDTi diesel offers excellent acceleration and flexibility. The fastest diesel of all – the 192bhp 2.0 CDTi Bi-Turbo – was dropped from the range in 2015. Unfortunately there’s no hybrid Insignia, whereas other brands are increasingly offering this option.

On the road

While the car offers buckets of grip and decent turn-in, it doesn’t come close to the Mazda 6 for driver thrills. There’s not much in the way of feedback through the steering wheel, and the pay-off for that comfortable ride is a rather soft feel through corners.

The Insignia suffers more body roll than the class leaders, and the suspension can easily be unsettled by mid-corner bumps. That said, SRi and ecoFLEX models get lowered and stiffened suspension, which does a better job of controlling body movements. The trade off for this increased cornering composure is a rather stiff ride, which causes the Insignia to crash into potholes and jolt over expansion joints.

The VXR model is the most dynamic to drive, thanks to its electronically controlled four-wheel drive transmission and special HiPerStrut front suspension system. This system helps eliminate torque steer and improve steering response. As a result the VXR feels remarkably agile for such a large car, while the all-wheel drive delivers strong traction out of the corners. Better still, this high-performance flagship gets adaptive damping as standard. In its Comfort mode this system delivers a remarkably supple ride, while selecting 'VXR' tenses the suspension and serves up strong body control.

Most Popular

“Mid-sized electric cars are way beyond the financial reach of most mums and dads”
Opinion - electric car prices
Opinion

“Mid-sized electric cars are way beyond the financial reach of most mums and dads”

Mike Rutherford thinks the industry needs to face the fact that a lot of people can’t afford a brand new factory-fresh car
16 May 2022
Best electric cars to buy 2022
Best electric cars
Electric cars

Best electric cars to buy 2022

There are more electric cars than ever to choose from, so we've picked some of the best you can buy in the UK now
28 Apr 2022
Tipo 184: on the road in the Mazda MX-5 based kit car
Tipo 184 kit car front
Features

Tipo 184: on the road in the Mazda MX-5 based kit car

Inspired by classic Grand Prix racing cars, Darren Collins has created a model that faithfully recreates the originals, but with a twist - it’s actual…
11 May 2022