From £16,384
Insignia estate isn’t as big as a Vectra, but it’s a lot more attractive

Our Verdict

Vauxhall Insignia
Vauxhall's traditional family saloon is regular UK class sales champion

The Vauxhall Insignia is only small details away from rivalling the class best

What is it?

It’s the new estate version of Vauxhall’s Car-of-the-Year-winning Insignia family hatchback, and it’s called the Sports Tourer.

Unlike the Vectra Estate, known and loved by off-duty white van men and airport taxi drivers alike, this car has the same wheelbase as the Insignia saloon and hatch. That means it’s significantly less accommodating overall than the car that went before it; its 1530-litre maximum carrying capacity compares rather sheepishly with the old Vectra wagon’s whopping 1850-litre payload.

But the good news is that, largely because it wasn’t designed to carry so much, the Insignia Sports Tourer doesn’t look anything like as upright, square or utilitarian as the Vectra Estate. Judge for yourself, but in our book the Insignia Sports Tourer is among the more svelte-, classy- and handsome-looking new load-luggers out there, and should have visual appeal for a much broader customer base than its antecedent.

And it’s not all bad news for the compulsive house-mover either. Thanks to some intelligent packaging, there’s actually more boot space in the Insignia estate "seats up" than there was in this car’s predecessor. With an underfloor compartment as standard, Vauxhall’s FlexOrganiser boot divider on the options list, and lashing points in all four corners, it’s also easy to make effective use of the available space.

What’s it like?

As a static object, more desirable than a Vectra by a factor of at least five. It’s got a much more stylish and expensive-looking cabin too, so it feels much more upmarket to sit in, and as you twiddle with indicator stalks and prod menu buttons, there’s an aura of quality and robustness you can appreciate that simply hasn’t ever been present in any other Vauxhall.

Luton is adding a new petrol engine to the Insignia range at the same time as launching the Tourer body style, a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol with 178bhp and 170lb ft of torque. Rather confusingly, it slots into the model range between the normally-aspirated 1.8 petrol and the 2.0-litre turbo. It’s got the performance of a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre petrol engine, but much lower CO2 emissions and fuel consumption, says Vauxhall. And though almost 70 per cent of Insignia estates will be 2.0-litre diesels, the 1.6 was the engine that was fitted to our test car.

This whistling four-pot will be familiar to anyone who’s driven a Corsa VXR or an Astra SRi. It’s rarely afflicted by turbo lag and much more tractable than an atmospheric 2.0-litre would be, hauling the big Insignia to 60mph in a commendable 8.7sec. Truth be told, it doesn’t feel as fast as that out on the road, but it’s got very useful torque from just over 2000rpm, which swells to 196lb ft on temporary overboost.

The forced-induction motor sound and feels well insulated in the nose of the Insignia. Our test car also rode bumps quietly on its standard-fit 17in alloys.

Less impressive is the Insignia’s primary ride though; it just doesn’t deal with larger B-road bumps and dips as fluently as a Mondeo, neither does it steer with the same precision or feel as the Ford. A little torquesteer even makes its presence felt at times, under full throttle. Body control is good though, even in cars with Vauxhall’s ‘Comfort’ chassis settings, and wind and road noise are both reasonably well suppressed.

Should I buy one?

On first inspection the Insignia Sports Tourer seems to occupy a very similar position in its class as its hatchback sibling. It’s sufficiently desirable, stylish and well-built to rule the roost, and the accessibility and usability of its load bay is impressive.

Unfortunately for Vauxhall, the absence of that final degree of dynamic polish robs it of the kind of handling and refinement it would need to command ultimate respect.

Is the 1.6 turbo the pick of the range? Probably not. You’d have to be very sure that you didn’t want a diesel-engined Insignia wagon to opt for this one. A 158bhp 2.0-litre diesel would be more economical, cheaper-to-tax, damn near as refined, just as quick, and only about £1000 more expensive to buy.

In fact, we’ve a sneaky suspicion that the forthcoming 188bhp 2.0-litre BiTurbo diesel will be the Insignia Tourer to opt for, which joins the range in late 2009. Coincidentally, it’ll also be the only Insignia diesel offered with Vauxhall’s active four-wheel drive. And along with this car’s good looks and attractive driving environment, two turbos and four driven wheels will both be things even a class-leading Mondeo can’t match.

Join the debate

Comments
21

19 March 2009

When I tested the Insignia hatch a couple of months back I was completely underwhelmed with the amount of rear compartment space and the claustrophobic rear window line. The new glass area should at least sort one of the problems out, but Vauxhall are right to name Tourer rather than estate.

I wonder what size wheels the car Autocar tested were on. I found the optional (but good looking) 19" wheels made the ride much worse than the smaller, standard wheel option.

You can see why sales of this sort of car have dropped over recent years though. With so many MPV's and crossovers on the market which offer much more practicality, stepping in to the Insignia Tourer, you feel like your missing something. The wrap around tail gate opening is a good idea though.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

19 March 2009

Are those mutant spare lights underneath the tailgate the oddest styling feature on any current car?

19 March 2009

[quote scrap]Are those mutant spare lights underneath the tailgate the oddest styling feature on any current car?[/quote]

A legal requirement. Something to do with rear lights being visible at all times (even when tail gate is open). I guess Vauxhall / Opel have made them as cheap as possible because they are so rarely on display.

Thanks for the reply Matt.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

19 March 2009

Also seen on the Audi Q7 and Q5.

nh

19 March 2009

That wrap around tailgate does not seem like a good idea to me.

First, I think it looks weird. But that's a matter of taste.

More important is that a Q7 is higher and that as a result the sides of it's open tailgate are higher. On this Vectra-thing, the sides of the tailgate seem to be particularly low and therefore rather dangerous for the heads of all people except children. On the autobild website one can see pictures of the Vectra and A4 next to each other with open tailgates. It's easy to see that when loading the Vectra, one'd better not move towards the sides, as he/she will almost certainly bump his/her head against the taillights.

Also, the load bay does not seem to be particularlyy accessible as the rearbumper is very protruding.

Finally, this tailgate obviously is very heavy. So the opening mechanism needs to be extra solid and thus needlessly expensive.

19 March 2009

I guess the decision to stick with the standard wheelbase is down to cost but it must be a marketing mans nightmare; trying to flog a load-lugger thats significantly smaller than the model it replaces.

Matt, im sure I read that the Insignia will get the 2.9 v6 DTi engine (destined for the Cadillac CTS) possibly as a VXR model, which will come with 4WD too...?

19 March 2009

Sports Tourer puts final nail in Mundano's coffin, Vauxhall/Opel have done a fantastic job with the new Insignia, better looking than an Audi A4 externally and Mercedes C Class inside.

Wheats

19 March 2009

Look at all the buttons on the centre console! The new Honda Accord is continually slated for this but no such criticism for the Vauxhall has ever been mentioned.

Wonder why that is?

19 March 2009

[quote wheats]Sports Tourer puts final nail in Mundano's coffin[/quote]

Appart from the Mondeos better interior space, smoother diesels and superior chassis that is.

I'm not a massive fan of the New Mondeo having run one for a year but it's not as clear cut as you are suggesting. When all the hype over the Insignias launch is over I'd put money on the Mondeo being the bigger seller. It''s a Vauxhall which is still a problem for alot of people.

19 March 2009

I agree Vauxhall still has a stuffy image.Also is it only me who thinks the latest Corsa is looking dowdy and dull now the Fiesta is here especially in 5 door form? and how similar the Insignia looks to the original Omega at the front end??

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