The more graceful shape results from a lower scuttle, a longer bonnet (which is now aluminium), a prouder, more vertical front grille, narrower headlights (including new LED, 32-element IntelliLux units, a £1010 option), a longer wheelbase and sculpted body sides that present Vauxhall’s familiar blade-like styling element in a new way.
The Insignia Grand Sport comes with wheels varying in diameter from 17in to 20in depending on specification, but all models have the same spring and damper rates for their all-independent suspension. A Tourer (estate) version carrying a £1500 premium is due a few weeks after the saloon and a higher-riding Country Tourer model is due at the year-end.
Like the current Astra, the Insignia delivers a startling weight saving right across the range: up to 175kg, model-for-model, of which 60kg comes from the body alone. The car is also impressively aerodynamic. Design chief Mark Adams cites the simplicity of the sleek lines as one reason for an impressively low drag factor of 0.26. The interior is similarly impressive: it is simple, drawing inspiration from the clean surfaces of the exterior, and from Adams’ preoccupation with simple logic for switch design and layout. Best of all is an enhanced aura of quality, inside and out.
On the road, the new Grand Sport has the same relaxed, easy-cruising feel as its predecessor, but improved. Its slight increases in length and width aren’t detectable from the driving seat, though when you set it up for a six-footer, there’s still decent generous room for same in the rear. Our test car, a mid-spec Insignia Grand Sport Tech Line manual retailing at £23,910 (with £3900 worth of accessories that included the IntelliLux headlights, a newly-offered £705 glass sunroof and £555 worth of two-coat metallic paint) had the more powerful of two 1.5-litre petrol versions, packing 163bhp claimed to give it an 8.4sec 0-60mph time and a 138mph top speed.
The peak torque of 184lb ft, developed between 2000 and 4500rpm, felt even more relevant to the car’s performance, however, because one feature especially relevant to UK motorways was the car’s relaxed gearing (2500rpm at 70mph) and another was its surprisingly strong top-gear acceleration around that speed. The six-speed manual gearbox is sweet-shifting and its action matches the clutch perfectly, but once the engine is turning beyond 3000rpm, it gains speed in high gears without effort or noise.
This model/engine combination turns in combined fuel consumption of 47.1mpg, while emitting 136g/km of CO2, which promises day-to-day consumption in the late 30mpg bracket. With the 65-litre fuel tank, the car should have an easy cruising range of 460 miles-plus.
The Insignia Grand Sport’s long wheelbase and wide track make this a very stable car with excellent directional stability. The 17in wheels on the car we tried were very good at damping higher frequency surface disturbances, but we get the feeling that bigger wheels with classier rubber would have sharpened the steering, which is okay, but still fails to stand out. They might increase tyre noise, though, which is already no better than average in a class that contains some good performers.
Overall ride comfort is better than before, and just about ideal for a car like this: flat and notably quiet over bumps, with a decent level of damper control that promotes good grip and near-neutral handling in fast corners. Brakes are powerful and easy to modulate. Even so, the 'Sport' in this car’s title shouldn’t be taken literally. The Grand Sport’s engine is smooth and quiet, and its wind noise is commendably low.