From £17,1857
The Insignia GSi is Vauxhall's new performance flagship. Can this diesel estate version offer both pace and practicality?
Simon Davis
19 February 2018

What is it?

This is Vauxhall's new performance flagship, and a spiritual successor of sorts for the old Insignia VXR.

Following its reveal at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show, Vauxhall was keen to point out that this model - badged Insignia GSi - was not only developed at the Nürburgring but was 12 seconds faster around the circuit than the old VXR, despite being 64bhp down on power. No word was given on what that exact time was, but 12 seconds is 12 seconds. Make what you will of the official lap time’s absence.

What is clear is that, whatever that time was, it wouldn’t have been set in the variant of Insignia GSi we have here. While that car would have been the 256bhp petrol-powered Grand Sport hatch, this is the oil-burning estate - or Sports Tourer in Vauxhall speak.

Explained in a rather unforgiving manner, this means it’s the slowest, heaviest version of the fastest, most exciting Insignia - but only by a small margin. On the flip side, it’s also the most practical and offers slightly better economy than its petrol-powered stablemates. So every cloud and all that.

The engine is a 2.0-litre Biturbo four-cylinder diesel that develops 207bhp and 354lb ft of torque, sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission (the first to ever be fitted to a Vauxhall, don’t you know). There’s also a twin-clutch differential at the rear axle that allows more torque to be sent to the outside rear wheel during cornering.

Although the Insignia GSi’s suspension architecture is shared with other Insignia models – that means lightweight MacPherson struts and coil springs up front, with a five-link axle and coil springs at the rear – it sits 10mm lower and spring rates have been stiffened by as much as 40%. Vauxhall’s FlexRide adaptive damping has also been thrown into the mix, offering the choice of three driving modes: Standard, Sport and Tour.

What's it like?

Not quite as exciting as Vauxhall might lead you to believe, unfortunately. Despite all the claims about being developed at the Nürburgring, the Insignia GSi doesn’t particularly feel like a car that’s entirely comfortable with being driven in a more enthusiastic manner for a number of reasons. 

The steering is overly light and floaty around centre and doesn’t provide anything at all in the way of feel, meaning you’re never really confident that the front end will turn in as much as you need it to when you throw it in to a corner. It’s also quite a slow rack, so the need for large inputs further detracts from the big estate’s sportier claims. Selecting Sport mode does remedy this somewhat by adding a bit more steering weight, but there’s not really anything more in the way of communication to be found by doing so. Four-wheel drive does make for plenty of grip, though.

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The second issue is the powertrain. While the diesel engine does a perfectly sound job of getting what is a large car up to speed, the window where the bulk of its pulling power is available is small. Despite its 354lb ft of torque being produced from 1500rpm, you’ll need to reach about 3200rpm before it feels like it's accelerating with any urgency, and even then the transmission will upshift automatically on full throttle before it hits its redline at about 4500rpm - and that's even if you’ve selected manual mode. Keeping it at that 3000-3200rpm sweet spot is a bit of a challenge, too, because the car’s onboard computers can be hesitant to let you use the paddle shifters to drop down a gear at times.

The Insignia GSi does ride well, though. With the adaptive dampers set to Standard, body roll is of course present, but it's not overly noticeable and the car doesn’t crash about over rough road surfaces, even on the large 20in alloy wheels. There is a fair amount of vertical travel over undulations but, again, not enough to make it a sore point. Selecting Sport mode firms everything up by a noticeable amount, further controlling roll and that upward travel.

The flipside is that the low-speed ride is compromised – ruts and rough surfaces will send shudders through the cabin – but this does improve with greater pace. Tour mode does the complete opposite by softening everything up, making the Insignia GSi a comfortable and relaxed long-distance tourer.

The interior won’t blow you away with its material or aesthetic appeal, but it’s by no means an unpleasant place. The leather-upholstered sports seats are supportive, if a little firm, and there’s miles of space in the back. The boot is huge, too, with 560 litres of capacity available. That’s more than that in a Ford Mondeo estate (500 litres), although a Skoda Superb estate's boot offers an additional 100 litres.

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Should I buy one?

Despite Vauxhall purporting this to be a car you could enjoy at the race track, the reality is that no Insignia GSi will likely ever see one. It’s not quite the performance machine its manufacturer pitched it as – that's a bit of a shame, but also inevitable.

That’s certainly not to say you shouldn’t buy one; you’d just be wise to manage your expectations before doing so and not get sucked in by the Nürburgring marketing materials.

Ultimately, this is a brisk, handsome, massively practical and generously equipped family estate for a reasonable £34,475 asking price, and that’s no bad thing.

Vauxhall Insignia GSi Sports Tourer Biturbo

Where Surrey On sale Now Price £34,475 Engine 4-cyl, 1956cc, bi-turbo, diesel; Power 207bhp at 4000rpm Torque 354lb ft at 1500rpm Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerb weight 1807kg Top speed 144mph 0-62mph 7.4sec Fuel economy 39.8mpg CO2, tax band 187g/km, 37% Rivals Ford Mondeo Estate, Skoda Superb Estate

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Comments
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bowsersheepdog 23 February 2018

Insignia of the times

Lose all of the creases and lines from the flanks to leave them nice and smooth, drop the side window lower edge to run from where it starts at the door mirror directly to the point of the rear light cluster, and lose the horrid fake vents at the corners of the front bumper, or at least fill them with big, round spotlamps like the old Scooby/Evo used to wear.  Those three changes would leave a fairly good looking estate car, with an interior miles ahead of the Mondeo, which is after all its direct competitor.

And most importantly, bin the fucking ridiculous twenty inch wheels, which when the car reaches the two grand market, as it will sooner rather than later, will make it ripe for the scrapheap well before it's actually worn out, because buyers at that level can't afford twenty inch ultra-low profile tyres.  Putting such things on an average family car is fucking mental.

Cheltenhamshire 20 February 2018

Volvo V60

Surprised anyone cares a bit about this car or indeed review.  Really surprised Autocar has not shown the pictures Autoweek (US site) has from a Swedish newsite showing undisguised pictures of the bew V60.  Stunning.

tromgolf 20 February 2018

Insignia Tourer

Just when Mercedes announces that side strakes and sculpting is passé Vauxhall brings out a Hyundai  i40 estate lookalike. Ouch! 

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