From £17,1857
Range-topping Insignia hatchback gets four-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox to go with its conspicuously well-turned styling

Our Verdict

Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport

The new Insignia is essential to Vauxhall’s future and needs to be good. So is it?

Nic Cackett
24 March 2017

What is it?

Having sampled the entry-level diesel Insignia Grand Sport, we move straight on to the most expensive petrol-driven version, the 2.0-litre 4x4 Turbo, which is sold exclusively in range-topping Elite Nav trim. With a 2.0-litre petrol engine and eight-speed auto, the model develops 256bhp, but the real windfall is the GKN-developed four-wheel drive system, derived from the same Twinster technology used in the Ford Focus RS.

Costing from £27,710, this go-faster variant pushes the Insignia firmly into the fringes of Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series territory, although similarly priced versions of either aren’t nearly as well equipped as the Vauxhall.

Alongside the standard family-pleasing 4G wi-fi hotspot, you also get LED matrix headlights, heated seats, a larger 8.0in touchscreen, sat-nav, dual-zone climate control, a Bose sound system and 20in alloys. 

What's it like?

The last car I drove which mated a 250bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine to an eight-speed automatic was the Audi A5 Sportback we road-tested a few weeks ago, which went like stink, sounded like a suppressed gunshot and engaged each of its gears with the precision of a nine-dart finish.

The Insignia’s most notable shortcoming then is not that its powertrain is bad, but that the latest comparable backdrop is so transparently good. Trivial irks prevail in retrospect. Fast starts in the Vauxhall tend to want an old-fashioned buildup of engine revs before anything much happens; on the motorway, downshifting from the ultra-long final ratio into something more productive seems to take a while, because the 'box is a little too intent on dabbling with seventh before summoning up fifth or sixth.

Its lack of a bespoke, lever-finding ‘Sport’ mode or else paddle-shifters feels like an oversight even at half the price of the A5 Sportback. Nevertheless, this absence best demonstrates the sort of car Vauxhall actually intends the Turbo to be. Regardless of the badge, this isn't an Ingolstadt-style hard-charger - it mostly wants to be thought of as a distant relative to the long-dead big-capacity option: amenable, quiet, and just brisk enough to be considered effortless.

This it manages rather well, driven with the right kind of consideration. Like the cooking model (and much like the Astra, too) it is the saving in weight which makes the Insignia immediately more biddable than its predecessor, and more obviously likeable, too. Adaptive dampers are standard in the 4x4 Turbo, and in their more submissive settings, they do a remarkably worthy job of isolating occupants from the nastier side effects of the car's outsized alloys.

The four-wheel-drive system, bolstered in this case by winter tyres, feeds into much the same usable theme. The Twinster’s ability to move torque either side of an axle is intended to deliver a pleasantly neutral handling bias - but it was equally unfazed by a Norwegian blizzard, which easily qualifies the Insignia as a credible all-weather option.

Should I buy one?

Probably the best point to make about the 4x4 Turbo is that it costs almost exactly the same as an entry-level Audi A4 with a 148bhp 1.4-litre TFSI engine, and is also significantly cheaper than the four-wheel-drive 236bhp Ford Mondeo Vignale. Against either rival, this model makes a fine case for itself, being better value and (to these eyes at least) comfortably better looking. It's also worth remembering the quantum leap made inside, where the old Insignia's ergonomic fluster has been put aside for the kind of slick interior that - while not overtly luxurious - proves virtually impossible to tire of. 

Broadly speaking, the Insignia is less rewarding to drive than its badge and output might have lead you to assume – and with official fuel economy of 32.8mpg, it’s hardly setting the niche’s economy benchmark – but if those factors are lower down the list than plenty of kit, a hugely practical interior, sterling functionality and commendable all-round comfort, the priciest Grand Sport makes its own peculiar kind of plush sense. 

Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport Elite Nav 2.0 Turbo 4x4

Price £27,710Engine 4 cyls, 1998cc, turbocharged, petrolPower 256bhp at 5300rpmTorque 295lb ft at 2500-4000rpmGearbox Eight-speed automaticKerb weight 1649kg0-60mph 6.9sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 32.8mpg combined; CO2/tax band 197g/km, 36%; Rivals Ford Mondeo Vignale

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Comments
45

24 March 2017
A competent good looking car. Can't think of anything in this segment that's as well equipped and FAST!
No doubt all those people who moaned about the 17 inch wheels being to small on lesser models will moan the 20 inch ones on this are to big.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

24 March 2017
So it's considerably cheaper than a Mondeo and therefore much, much cheaper than an equivalent Audi, looks great, is well built and drives nicely, yet you give it 3 and a half stars?

24 March 2017
The outgoing Insignia was a handsome car, but ubiquity helped to demote it the status of an appliance. This new car is similarly handsome but I can't help thinking it will go the same way in the minds of drivers needing practical everyday transport.

The list price comparison is little pointless in this area of the market, especially next to those other lease/CoCa champions the Mondeo and A4. I can easily envisage an A4 with a 'Pack' being cheaper per month than this high-power petrol Vauxhall Unicorn.


24 March 2017
bomb wrote:

The outgoing Insignia was a handsome car, but ubiquity helped to demote it the status of an appliance. This new car is similarly handsome but I can't help thinking it will go the same way in the minds of drivers needing practical everyday transport.

The list price comparison is little pointless in this area of the market,.... I can easily envisage an A4 with a 'Pack' being cheaper per month than this high-power petrol Vauxhall Unicorn.

Compare it to a LARGE HATCHBACK. An A5 with 4 wheel drive, heated leather, Auto, and a 250hp engine will be cheaper? I don't think so but then you're only guessing.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

27 March 2017
xxxx wrote:

Compare it to a LARGE HATCHBACK. An A5 with 4 wheel drive, heated leather, Auto, and a 250hp engine will be cheaper? I don't think so but then you're only guessing.

I used the A4 as a reference that's what was mentioned in the article. Guessing?? Feel free to do some easily accessible research.


24 March 2017
Nice to hear its a decent car, and looks pretty wonderful value too. The Estate will be even more of a Q car, and deals with the unfortunate rear window treatment. From a personal point of view, they need to drop the Ugly Kid glass, and offer it with a manual box. Better still swap the motor for V6 they will make for the Australians. Certainly more than a 3.5 star car

24 March 2017
I don't know what Vauxhall have to do to get a fair crack at the whip. I would love to see a test between this and the basic A4 at the same price. Only the worst kind of badge snob would choose the boggo Audi.
This looks great. Well done Vauxhall.

24 March 2017
I don't know what Vauxhall have to do to get a fair crack at the whip. I would love to see a test between this and the basic A4 at the same price. Only the worst kind of badge snob would choose the boggo Audi.
This looks great. Well done Vauxhall.

24 March 2017
Only 3 and a half stars after the reviewer praises it against the more expensive, lesser equipped Audi A4? What on earth have Vauxhall got to do to get a decent total of ratings these days? Maybe the takeover by the PSA group will improve their status with the car magazine reviewers? I like the new Insignia, I really do, however, I recall being at a UK motor show looking over the Insignia when it debuted, and it was massive then. I understand that this model is even bigger. good luck trying to park one of these in a supermarket, council or private car park. Reckon you could find space in your street to park it these days? Not down my street could you readily find a 5 metre plus gap. And as for trying to get it into your garage ...

24 March 2017
At just under £28k - probably a lot less with discounts usually available for Vauxhalls - for car a 4WD medium sized saloon, with plenty of room, decently built, refined, reasonably good dynamics and that kind of performance, this is a hell of a bargain.

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