Desirability drives the modern car market with ever-increasing reach and power, and it’s pushing cars like the Vauxhall Insignia to the margins. The industry is reshaping itself to cater for those who’d happily downsize out of a traditional family saloon for a premium brand, or the latest fashionable crossover SUV.
But as any enlightened thinker or country singer will tell you, lasting happiness depends – apparently - much less on getting what you want than on wanting what you’ve got. If only more people knew.
Vauxhall may have therefore contributed much more greatly to the nation’s happiness with its latest revision to the Insignia – pretty consistently the biggest selling car in its fleet-dominated class since 2008 - than any premium brand does with its latest and greatest aspirational trend-setter.
This five-door family hatchback - already much more likely to feature on your driveway than in your post-promotion grand plans - is cheaper to buy, cheaper to own, smarter to look at and generally more pleasing to use thanks to its 2013 facelift. All of which makes it, albeit not quite desirable with a capital 'D', at least something closer to the mark.
All this only stands the next generation Insignia in good stead. And Vauxhall aren’t finished there. For 2017, the next generation Insignia will be available as a far more alluring coupé-styled saloon and joined by the Sports Tourer and the re-invigorated, rugged Country Tourer previously dropped from the range in 2015. We have already tried the new Grand Sport on the UK roads and it has proven itself as a capable cruiser, with the new car set to reach forecourts in June.
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 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.
The current Insignia, launched in 2008, was the first product to appear on GM’s Epsilon II platform. As part of the model’s most thorough refresh since then for 2013, Vauxhall simplified the Insignia range, updated its styling, upgraded its interior, and reappraised its chassis settings and the contents of its bonnet. The aims were a wider, lower and more planted overall look; a more comfortable ride; a cleaner fascia with more up-to-date infotainment and connectivity technology; and the kinds of emissions, equipment levels and P11D prices to make the company car lists of the UK’s biggest fleet operators.
The Insignia offers plenty of versatility across hatchback and estate models, though the engine range that at its peak swelled to five diesel engines and four petrols, has now been reined in to three petrol and two diesel as the car heads towards the end of its life. Unfortunately, that paring back of engines doesn’t follow on to the seven trim levels that don’t offer the kind of natural progression in terms of additional equipment that you’d expect, with different bits such as ther OnStar technology system and larger alloys coming and going as you move from the base Design through to the top Elite spec.