IAIN ROBERTSON 

Having praised Vauxhall’s superior efforts with its large Insignia model, Iain Robertson remains unequivocal in his praise for a car that is an amazing class leader but sadly the last-in-breed, since Vauxhall is now owned by the PSA Group.

Having created plenty of column-inches related to Vauxhall’s Insignia model (read back through the files and you will understand what I mean), I feel no shame at all in highlighting its latest variant. However, I am not going to follow the usual tack of stressing its standalone benefits, as I feel that comparison with other models in the range, let alone completely different model lines from Vauxhall, will have the effect of underscoring my views more succinctly.

Take the issue of price, prior to any dealer discounts being applied (and they are available). The latest Vauxhall Insignia pictured here in well-equipped Sports Tourer Elite-Nav trim has a retail value of £28,645. Factoring-in the Driver Assistance Pack (£650), Head-Up Display (£290), Brilliant paint (£605), wireless charger (£160) and Winter Pack (£400), its price tag rises to £30,750. Elsewhere on this website you will find a recent test story on the smaller Vauxhall Grandland X model in a similar trim, which has a base price £135 more expensive and £1,220 costlier with options, over the Insignia, which makes the Insignia look like conspicuously good value for money.

Take the issue of engine size. The Grandland X is powered by a 1.5-litre turbo-diesel unit kicking out 127bhp. This new version of the Insignia has a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine that develops 197bhp (70bhp more). Interestingly, they both produce 221lbs ft of torque but the petrol alternative places it over a wider rev-range, which makes it ultimately more usable. Of course, there is a fuel penalty on the petrol front, despite it being less costly per litre, and while the 1.5TD manages 67.3mpg, the 1.6T returns 42.2mpg, although careful driving should see that figure rise to the 50mpg area.

Take their respective places in the market. The Grandland X is aimed at SUV fans, even though the car is 2WD, with a tricky electronic differential and, therefore, a crossover class of vehicle. The Insignia is a large family-viable estate car. Their respective boot capacities are 514-litres and 490-litres and both can be extended considerably by lowering their split-folding rear seats to carrying capabilities that are less than a handful of litres apart, when not transporting five adults.

Take their performance statistics. The Grandland X manages an excellent top speed of 119mph, which the Insignia exceeds by a margin of 25mph, while the former covers the 0-60mph dash in a respectable 10.2s, it is beaten hands down by the latter’s very sporting 7.7s. The first year’s road tax in the 110g/km CO2 rated crossover is £165, while the 154g/km rating for the Insignia means a heftier demand of £515, although both are £140 annual tax-payers thereafter.

The Insignia, with its 20.0-inch alloys, looks every bit as design-centric as the 19.0-inchers of the crossover but it is also equipped with smarter LED lamps (Intellilux system) and every connectivity and driver aid carried by its stable-mate. However, when you reach into Insignia’s other rivals, such as the Skoda Superb, it offers a similar amount of both front and rear seat occupant space, something for which the Superb seemed incontestable, until the new Insignia arrived, allied to a range of front seat and steering column adjustability that is even greater.

Insignia’s build quality is excellent. There are no creaks, or rattles, the cabin is refined and the car provides a most comfortable drive experience. Volvo launched its important V60 estate car model recently and much praise has been heaped upon it. In an equivalent specification to the Insignia, it offers around 30-litres greater boot capacity but will cost upwards of £10,000 more, further underscoring the better value of the Vauxhall. Of course, there are minor trim details but the Volvo is supposed to be in a class above the Vauxhall.

The Insignia’s street presence is fantastic. It is low, wide and road-hugging stance imparts an impression of dynamic superiority that is hard to criticise. It makes a Mercedes-Benz E-Class estate car look bulky and ungainly, let alone sorely overpriced. The Jaguar XF estate car is not merely more expensive but also less practical and similar criticisms can be levelled at both BMW and Audi equivalents, which further demonstrate that Vauxhall has nailed it on the pricing front.

However, the most amazing aspect of the new 1.6-litre Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer is how much better is its on-road demeanour. The smaller capacity engine is lighter than its big-banger brethren, which means less weight on the car’s nose. This translates into lighter and more accurate steering responses that make the car even more enjoyable to fling around your favourite back-doubles, without incurring stability issues on main roads and motorways.

Had you been a company car-supplied employee informed that your next car would be a 1.6-litre Vauxhall, the chances are that you would have felt terribly short-changed. The truth is, the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol Insignia loses nothing to its larger engined rivals, or even the much-lauded 257bhp petrol, or 207bhp bi-turbo-diesel, in-house alternatives. It gains from better weight distribution and more agile handling, which means that it will not flounder, when chasing around a favoured cross-country route, and will be equally as quick.

Once again, I find myself promoting a car, of which, prior to its launch, I may have held some negative preconceptions, only to discover that they were unfounded by having experienced its now positively obvious qualities. The Vauxhall Insignia is a splendid, well-equipped and hugely impressive machine. It offers almost unbeatable value in a fairly stable market segment for large estate cars. While I would not put this smaller-engined Vauxhall under a comparative microscope, under normal circumstances, I believe that it is extraordinary enough to warrant it and brilliant enough to tolerate it.

The bottom line with the Vauxhall Insignia is that it offers the superior build quality that you might expect of a premium grade equivalent but at a considerable cash (or even finance) saving. It is a seriously good looking car, most especially in estate car specification, but it is also eminently practical and has Skoda Superb-rivalling passenger space within its roomy and comfortable cabin. Do yourself a favour and try an Insignia. You will not regret it.

Conclusion:    The days of the Insignia are numbered under PSA Group ownership of Vauxhall, albeit not for a few more years. However, if you want that unmistakable Vauxhall ‘thing’, then it resides proudly in the current Insignia model, which is a veritable bargain by comparison, smaller engine, or not.