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A worthy competitor for any car in the segment, premium or not

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

1 October 2008

What is it?

This is the new Vauxhall Insignia, the creators of which I found myself admiring a little bit more with every mile I drove it. Not just for their handsome new car’s performance — we’ll come to that later — but for the way they have fallen to the daunting task of creating a great product for a sector which has halved in size in half a dozen years.

However, ten per cent of car sales in the UK alone still amounts to 200,000-odd cars a year, worth billions. The sector was clearly worth fighting for. The question was how the mainstreamers should arrest the trend.

Some, like Honda, started touting their cars as “near premium”. Ford, already improving, had its Driving Quality message to extend and improve. Vauxhall’s mission was clear but tough: invest and make massive improvements on every front.

Matching the other mainstreamers wouldn’t be enough: GM would have to go to the top of the class with the Vauxhall Insignia.

To achieve this there is a new name, a new chassis, optional full-time four-wheel-drive, an enticing array of Euro 5 engines, an impressive ‘Germanic-precision-meets-sculptural-artistry’ coupe shape and several thousand words of good intentions.

What’s it like?

Our Vauxhall Insignia test car was a 2.0-litre 16-valve petrol turbo four, featuring twin balancer shafts and variable value timing, producing a healthy 217bhp at 5300 rpm and an even more impressive 258lb ft between 2000 and 4000 rpm.

What strikes you first about the Vauxhall Insignia is how imposing its styling is. The Insignia comes as both saloon and hatchback, but they’re so similar that you have to examine the rear shut-lines to tell the difference.

GME design director Mark Adams has always said that, if anything, the Vauxhall Insignia’s interior design takes an even bigger step than the one taken with the exterior.

The wraparound architecture of the cabin and most of the trim and switchgear would do justice to a car at Jaguar XF level. It’s a shame for GM that a new VW Golf VI was on hand to show that in matters of trim grain, instrument graphics and fine switchgear detail, the Insignia still has room to improve.

But our early production car was on a par with Ford’s latest Mondeo, perhaps better, and there was a warm and comfortable ambience about the cabin that well and truly beats the Ford.

The engine pulls strongly right to its redline, and sounds and feels more sophisticated than any four-cylinder Vauxhall in your memory-bank. The six-speed gearbox’s change quality sets it far ahead of any Mondeo, and it doesn’t hurt that the lever, its gate and trim surround are all things of beauty.

Used to the full the Insignia 2.0 turbo is a true 150mph car, with a 0-60mph sprint time of 7.2 seconds thrown in.

You can also vary the steering effort and throttle sensitivity by choosing different suspension regimes. I was pleased to find that the Sport setting wasn’t so hard that for practical purposes it would be ignored, as in many systems, and that its slightly firmer steering and brisker throttle were the settings I’d choose for all driving.

Grip is plentiful, even in standard two-wheel drive guise, and damping at high speed over undulations wouldn’t disgrace a BMW.

For me, the Insignia disappoints in one major area: rear room. This is a big car, on a long wheelbase, yet with the front bucket seat set comfortable for me in the front, I’m as cramped for knee room as in some of the larger superminis.

For many owners that won’t matter, especially those who are persuaded by its 70-litre fuel tank and its giant boot.

Should I buy one?

Bottom line: the Insignia is so far ahead of the Vectra that comparison is useless. It’s also a very tough Mondeo rival, possibly not quite as crisp when it comes to near-limit handling, but more composed, quiet and comfortable over difficult surfaces.

The buyer who opts for a Vauxhall Insignia is choosing a damned good car, even when the field includes Mercedes, BMW and Audi.

Join the debate

Comments
15

1 October 2008

Three words: Hertz, rental, car Sorry, I'm struggling to take this thing seriously. It looks like a mid-1990s Hyundai Elantra, and according to the review it's got no space in the back. I mean, who expect minicabbers do they expect to buy it?

1 October 2008

[quote Autocar]but for the way they have fallen to the daunting task of creating a great product for a sector which has halved in size in half a dozen years.[/quote]

Has the sector really halved?

Lets face it, what is the Insignia? Looking at its lineage, its a new Vectra, which was a new Cavalier. If you get the tape measure out, the Insignia is larger than the old Omega, and bears no relation to a car of that segment of the past. It's not just Vauxhall of course. No wonder sales have dropped.

 

 

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

1 October 2008

Handsome car, beautiful wheels, shut lines that look finer than the new BMW 7's.

Maybe the limited rear space is a function of such a sloping roof. Surely the designers could have won more rear space in a front-wheel drive car which is I believe more than 4.8m long, around the length of an E-Class, but if they had moved the rear seats back further the passengers heads would be bent down under the rear window.

One final point would it not be better to drop the Vauxhall badge now? This car, like all Vauxhalls, is engineered wholly in Germany by GM Opel. I would actually prefer this car's image with an Opel 'blitz' on it; the Vauxhall image belongs in the past.

1 October 2008

It's certainly a good looking car and a worthy replacement for the Vectra, but you do have to wonder how long cars like this will survive. They're getting too big to park anywhere, too thirsty, too impractical for everyday use. Models from the ranges below invariably trounce them at every important benchmark and are cheaper to run.

Where does this leave them? The Insignia/Mondeo duel is not dead yet, but it may be moving to a convalescent home in readiness for that moment.

1 October 2008

I am really looking forward to driving this car.

It looks great in and out...

Personally I see nothing wrong with the Vauxhall badge - why do a few on thi ssite think otherwise, Surly Ford would also need to rebrand think of the rubbish they have made over the years.

I think Ford may have just registered its last Mondeo sale...

1 October 2008

In the spec that Autocar's test Insignia is in in the pictures, this certainly looks like a great design, inside and out. I'm all for cars that drive well, but I just cannot stand the design of the new Mondeo. It comfortably out-blands every car on sale in the world as far as I'm concerned, to the point that it actually makes me slightly angry when I see one (shame considering the great design of other new Fords like the Kuga and Fiesta). The 2.0T engine looks like a cracker as well. I would happily buy one today if it is anything like the road test suggests, although I'd probably get a bit bored of it once there are tens of thousands of them on UK roads. As for rear space, I would suggest that matters little to 99% of buyers. Family's will be carrying kids in the back and the rear space is plentiful enough.

1 October 2008

[quote stopitjon]Where does this leave them? The Insignia/Mondeo duel is not dead yet, but it may be moving to a convalescent home in readiness for that moment.[/quote]

Ha Ha! Classic mate

I actually think this is a very good looking car. Was amazed they managed to create such a good looking car after the hideously bland Vectra. As most people dont buy based purely on ultimate handling capabilities I would imagine Ford are nervous. Since the only interesting design aspect of the Mondeo is working out just how many cans of silver spray it uses on the dashboard of one car. I bet Ford have got their name down to buy the first Insignia on sale so they strip it down and inspect it fully.

Expect to see some special edition Mondeo models complete with discounted pricing and tacky stickers soon... 'Mexico', 'Finesse', 'Flight' anyone?

1 October 2008

[quote Marky13]Personally I see nothing wrong with the Vauxhall badge - why do a few on thi ssite think otherwise, Surly Ford would also need to rebrand think of the rubbish they have made over the years.[/quote]

My point was Vauxhall is just an applied brand, there's nothing behind it, it's pure badge engineering. Ford, regardless of good, bad, or indifferent models in its heritage, is just that, a company with an ongoing heritage, with a badge on the product that connects the showroom with the car plant and the HQ, all with the same name on them.

Beyond that I feel that 'Vauxhall' is holding their image and now sales potential, with this great looking car, back. The Opel marque is true, as it traces it heritage back pre-war to the present day. The essence of Insignia and all future GM Europe models is Opel, Saab increasingly so too, under the skin.

1 October 2008

[quote TegTypeR]If you get the tape measure out, the Insignia is larger than the old Omega, and bears no relation to a car of that segment of the past. It's not just Vauxhall of course.[/quote]

I'm right with you on this Teg. Roughly, the Mondeo is the size the Granada was, the Focus is as big as a Sierra, the Fiesta has the dimensions of an Escort and the Ka is no smaller than the original Fiesta. It would seem that there needs to be a re-alignment of sectors based on size, since as time moves on we're not comparing like with like. Considering that most people who used to buy a Mondeo will now go for a Focus because it's big enough, I'd suggest the sector has effectively grown.

www.eco-trainer.net

1 October 2008

I hope the estate will have more head room.

This new found Vauxhall competence will hopefully lead to more price competition with Ford.

The questions about who uses the space seems odd to me as with a one car family of 6 and expecting a car to handle really well. I buy the estate models of this segment as a better all round proposition than an MPV or stretched SUV. It does mean searching out specialists for an occasional seat in the boot but otherwise the cars fit the bill perfectly.

Perhaps manufacturers other than Peugeot will take note and offer a third row option but that would cut their excess profits on the MPVs.

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