What is it?
The rather long-winded name of this new Vauxhall Insignia spells it out: it’s the familiar ‘eco’ version of the 2.0-litre diesel engine with the new ‘Tech Line’ trim level. With this you get the useful addition of Vauxhall’s Navi 600 sat-nav system and a 7in colour screen. You also get the company’s rather neat i-drive-style controller on the centre console.
The healthy equipment list also includes cruise control, a trip computer, a four-way electrical lumbar support and 17in alloys with low-profile tyres. The list price for all this is £20,454 but you really need to add a DAB radio at £160. The test car’s rather unflattering ‘Summit White’ paint finish was another £100.
What's it like?
The original 2.0-litre Insignia was a disappointment as far as the drivetrain was concerned. Although the diesel unit - unique to GM Europe - was undoubtedly broad-shouldered, it was unacceptably unrefined. The second gear ratio was also pitched slightly too high, making rolling starts very difficult - a truly infuriating glitch for town driving.
Over two years on, there’s no doubt that GM engineers have made big strides in civilising the engine in the Vauxhall Insignia’s nose (the installation of this unit in the Astra is, to my ears, still too commercial). That said, it’s still fairly vocal, especially at lower speeds and wider throttle openings but it’s pretty decent at a cruise.
GM has also improved the shift action, with the action across the gate a lot slicker and second gear is pitched just right for pulling away at 5mph+. The interior - always an attractive place to sit, is now even more tightly-constructed and the interior plastics on the centre console now have a pleasing matt sheen. The driving position is also excellent, with the pedal box and steering properly well-positioned for right-hand drive and the fat leather wheel satisfying to hold. One purely practical consideration is the Insignia’s sheer width, which makes it hard work in standard-size car parking spaces.
The Insignia could hardly be described as dynamic, but it is perfectly pleasant to punt along and would obviously be at home on long motorway slogs. While the steering is quite quick just away from the straight ahead, the Insignia is otherwise neutral in character. The chassis has one particular quirk: the mildly sporting suspension tends to induce a slight, but repetitive, ‘hopping’ on certain stretches of road. It felt as if the damping was over-aggressively checking rising movements of the body.
The Sat-Nav and the console controller are absolutely worth having. The screen is big and the navigation graphic clear and the discrete controller (just a simple knob) is very easy to use. Used with the DAB, the controller makes it easy to scroll through a continuous list of stations - making this one of the best DAB installations I’ve encountered.
Should I buy one?
If nothing else, the promise of over 60mpg from a car this big is pretty impressive. And the Insignia feels massively solid and well-screwed together. The engine is effective rather than charming and it’s nice place to sit. I can’t see the private buyer wanting something like this, but the user-chooser, who has to cover long-distances, might be well-satisfied.
It clearly lacks the verve of the Mondeo and Skoda Superb and the engine refinement is still behind class standard, but on wet night on the M40 you’d probably feel you were in safe hands.