IAIN ROBERTSON 

Needing the load-carrying benefits of a high-end estate car, there is a tremendous choice available, reports Iain Robertson, although, if you are not careful, you could be paying an awful lot more than you anticipated, when a Vauxhall can do the job.

There is a lot in a name. If potential buyers are even moderately knowledgeable about cars, when they think about Vauxhall, they do not automatically think that it is special enough, which means that they could be bypassing a car that is more than just worthy.

It is said in some quarters that you only receive what you pay for. However, in the UK, the consumer is gulled consistently by attributes that appeal to a stilted view of prestige and high quality, all because we are a nation that places a high value on ‘snobbishness’, when something more rudimentary not only suffices but also exceeds most expectations, without parting with a king’s ransom. This is never more obvious than in the badge-conscious car market.

It is for that solitary reason that the Teutonic Threesome (Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz) outsell their rivals (Ford and Vauxhall) from the mainstream brands. It is as if some God-given rights are bestowed upon the German manufacturers (Hark! Is that a chorus of angels I hear on high? Nope! It is your funds being sluiced.). Yet, leafing through the ADAC files, an organisation that is the German equivalent of the AA and DVSA combined, believe me, you would not buy any of the aforementioned trio, were you to see how many product recalls and breakdowns occurred on them. The situation verges on dire in Germany.

The British consumer, meanwhile, harbours a view that paying for a prestige badge conveys an apposite mix of indefatigable reliability, allied to a stoically unrelenting build quality, using only the highest standard of materials. However, apart from the badge, many cars in the estate car category are just cars designed for purpose, so why would you spend a fortune and lose even more at trade-in time? Can it all be for the value attached to a badge? While I do not wish to burst any bubbles, perhaps instilling a sense of reality, in these cash-strapped times, might prove to be a more sensible route, even if you can , on the face of it, afford the purchase, or lease prices.

For Vauxhall, the company relies on its German partner, Opel, for the commensurate blend of high-end materials, exceptional assembly standards and entrancing affordability that results in the very handsome Insignia model. Its nomenclature, which would simply never fit across the electrically-raised/lowered hatchback rear door, is a comprehensive legend: Insignia GSi Nav Sports Tourer 2.0 210PS BiTurboD 4×4 Auto BlueInjection…a mouthful, for sure.

Of course, GSi trim is unique to Vauxhall and relates in part to a lower-case ‘injection’, with a luxuriously sporty ‘Grand Sport’ that sums-up its place at the head of Vauxhall’s price pecking order (although, there is a costlier Country variant possessing hiked-up suspension, which is a direct rival to the likes of the Audi A6 allroad, or Volvo V90 Cross Country). When you consider the extensive range of standard features on the car, a bottom line of £35,465, when contrasted with price-tags on those rival products that are anything from 20% to 50% greater, you would have to be devoid of at least three main senses (hearing, speech and sight) to ignore it. This is the entry-level point for most SUVs, before you introduce the dealer discounts that might apply. The GSi wagon is a genuine bargain, especially when you factor in the £700 dealer delivery charges, £1,240 first year’s road tax (£140 annually thereafter) and the new vehicle registration fee of £55 that are all-included in Vauxhall’s on-the-road list price! Trust me; the deals are there to be made.

The next part of its model name refers to the 2.0-litre, twin-turbocharged diesel, four-cylinder engine packed beneath its bonnet. The 210ps (206bhp) relates to its power output, which is no less than prodigious for an EU6-rated diesel. It is of small enough capacity to enable acceptable fuel returns but large enough to provide muscle for extended motorway cruising, or towing the family caravan, without feeling that the car’s guts are being spread across the roadway.

However, I feel that I need to dispel some diesel myths. No. You will NOT be banned from driving your diesel GSi through city centres. No. Its second-hand value will NOT be affected at trade-in time. No. It is NOT a ‘dirty’ engine and its CO2 emissions (187g/km) are still less than those of the equivalent petrol engine (256bhp, 199g/km). At least a third of all cars in the UK are diesel-powered (over 12m). For high-milers, business-users and owners who desire larger cars, diesel remains the most viable (even at the extra cost per litre) fuel choice.

The brand new unit in the Insignia delivers a monumental 354lbs ft of torque from as little as 1,500rpm, across a fairly wide rev-range. No owner will ever feel wanting for urge and the 206bhp enables a top speed of 144mph, with the 0-60mph dash being covered in an impressive 7.1s. Mid-range grunt is serious. Returning an Official Combined 39.8mpg, its 62-lires fuel tank enables a brim-to-brim range potential of over 540-miles. These are exceptionally impressive figures.

Mated to an 8-speed fully automatic gearbox, complete with steering wheel-mounted paddle-shifters, the progress of the GSi is your choice of stately, or hot-hatch chasing. Its effortless power can be accessed anywhere and the car’s handling (FlexRide enables Tour, Sports, or even Competition modes to be dialled-in), road-holding and eyeball-popping grip are to be experienced to be comprehended. It possesses a commendable level of four-wheel-drive chassis dynamics that is at legendary standards, aided by a comprehensive raft of electronic driver aids that warrant its overall safety.

Naturally, the standard equipment list is outstanding. A cracking BOSE stereo system and easy connectivity to all mobile devices, dual-zone climate control, heated sports seats fore and aft, distance cruise, head-up instrument display, flexible boot storage (560-litres of space, before the rear seats are folded completely flat to almost treble the available space) and innumerable convenience details meet even the most exacting of demands. The Intellilux matrix headlamps provide smart, glare-free illumination, while the sports chassis provides assured high-speed motoring potential. Auto-on wipers and lamps and both keyless entry and a pushbutton starter provide ease of motoring.

The amount of cabin space is exquisite and four, two-metres tall occupants (with a small one inserted between them in the back row) can be accommodated readily, with oodles of head, shoulder, hip and legroom available for truly comfortable transportation. I make zero apology for hero-worshipping the Vauxhall Insignia GSi and its bling-coefficient is not just tastefully applied but helps the car to stand out from its competitors. Above all, its driving position is one of the most supportive, comfortable and spacious of any car sold presently, which makes it a definite winner for me.

Overall, having driven every similar size estate car that is sold in the UK today, I can inform you that the one that rewards my driving style and sense of humour best is the big Vauxhall. Few cars of this size provide such faithfulness of feedback to the driver’s seat-base and fingertips. For such a large car to shrink around the driver in the way of the Insignia GSi is remarkable. Crisp steering, positive brakes, supple suspension and a workable gearbox add to the fun elements and turn a workhorse into a real joy.

Conclusion:    Vauxhall has created an ultimate motorcar with its GSi Sports Tourer. It is roomy. It is quick. It is frugal. Above all, it is cost-effective and impeccably well-built. Forget the ‘premium’ alternatives, save yourself a few quid! The GSi has it all.