The Insignia forms part of a Vauxhall family car history that stretches back over a century. The very first Vauxhall model, from 1903, could be had with four seats, so Vauxhall (although initially best known for its sporting models) has a family car history just about as long as anyone else.
It is the first front-drive Vauxhall Cavalier of 1988, though, which is of more recent relevance - because that’s the last time Vauxhall’s large family car was perceived as being better than Ford’s equivalent. Only a few individual Cavalier/Vectra variants have managed to better the Mondeo since.
And so we have the Vauxhall Insignia. It’s raison d'etre to finally unseat Ford’s Mondeo as top family hatch and rep favourite.
Vauxhall says greater focus than ever before has been paid to the way the Insignia drives, the design, undertaken in GM’s European Design Centre, is more rakish and that the technology is bang up to date. The Insignia was the first product to appear on GM’s new Epsilon II platform, an architecture that will form the basis of a raft of GM models sold in Europe, America and China.
If nothing else, the Insignia offers versatility, with a line-up that includes three body styles (saloon, hatchback and estate), two diesel and two petrol engines, front and all-wheel drive and a choice of passive or active dampers.
The recipient of our road test treatment was a front-wheel-drive, 158bhp 2.0-litre diesel hatch in SE trim. That's the mid-power offering of the three turbodiesels available, the lower-powered making 128bhp. The diesel flagship is the BiTurbo CDTI, dishing up 192bhp and 295lb ft. Other engines are petrol-fuelled, and in terms of capacity, go from one extreme to the other: a 138bhp, 1.4-litre and a V6 with twice the capacity and almost twice the power (nearly 2.5 times the power in VXR trim). Both are turbocharged and are intriguing propositions.
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