The new Insignia is a handsome car – much more so than its predecessor – although the creators of the Mazda 6 might point out that, from the front-end particularly, it’s not exactly original. The Insignia Grand Sport's curving roofline, mirrored cleverly by the upwards curve carried just ahead of the rear wheels on its lower bodyside, makes it look more elegant than most larger saloons manage, while the detailing is distinctive and neat. Entry-level Design-trim cars come with 17in steel wheels, but they’re fitted with very attractive trims that make it difficult to tell they’re not alloys.
Inside, the practicality standards of the last Insignia have been thoroughly surpassed as a result of a stretched wheelbase, granting second-row leg room significantly better than you’ll find in most compact executive saloons. Rear head room is a little affected by the plunging roofline, but it’s still sufficient to accommodate passengers who are more than six feet tall.
In the boot, a small compromise has been made in order to deliver the enlarged passenger quarters, so cargo capacity has decreased slightly from 530 to 490 litres. The boot looks a little bit shallow compared to some rivals', but is still well capable of swallowing bulky items such as suitcases and buggies.
Quality inside is a little bit mixed. There are soft-touch materials on the upper dashboard that reach downwards to the margins of the centre console and sideways along the tops of the door consoles, making many of the car’s upper surfaces look quite pleasant. Where the mouldings are hard, however – on the lower doorcards and around the transmission tunnel – they are quite shiny and plain, while the flimsy plastics around the steering column feel quite poor.
The Insignia Grand Sport's 1.6-litre diesel engine is actually slightly quieter than the 2.0-litre unit that powers the more expensive diesel model – although neither could really be considered a particularly refined car.
Your natural concern is that 108bhp won’t be enough to propel this 4.9-metre saloon with sufficient conviction to make it easy to drive. But in fact, the smaller diesel provides more than enough torque to make this car drivable in normal daily use, although it runs short on puff in some circumstances.
The engine has a slightly limited band of usable torque; it comes on strong smartly enough from low revs, before running a bit short on power as the needle rises beyond 3500rpm. A consistently weighted and reasonably slick six-speed manual gearbox makes keeping the car pulling keenly a pretty easy task, though. Working the engine while accelerating up to motorway speeds can feel like hard graft, and there isn’t quite enough torque on tap to pull off overtaking on single carriageways without sweating a little bit. But if you’re happy to move along with the general flow of traffic, there’s plenty of urge on tap and more than enough for steep inclines.
The Insignia Grand Sport conforms to the typical dynamic mould of big saloons by being softly-sprung, long-striding and generally comfort-orientated. Its standard passive suspension combines with its 17in wheels to make for a ride that’s compliant at all times, but that also feels a little too under-damped to make for ideal ride isolation over sharper edges.
The suspension copes quite well when you hurry the car along, keeping a decently level and closely-controlled body and maintaining respectable grip levels and good stability under duress. But, although the steering is well-paced and weighted and very distantly feelsome, the Insignia Grand Sport’s handling isn’t as sweetly balanced or as engaging as that of some of its rivals.