Refined, flexible and fairly economical. This isn’t the first representative of the more affordable end of the Insignia range to impress us, mind you – and if you’re interested in this car for the reasons we expect you to be, it’ll be the more affordable models you’ll probably be interested in. But, just like the 108bhp 1.6-litre CDTI, this Insignia has the accessible torque to move what’s undoubtedly a large car’s mass quite easily, not to mention good cruising manners and creditable efficiency.
The engine settles to a distant hum at idle, staying smooth and quiet through typical operating revs right up until close to the redline. In cars priced as aggressively as the Insignia, mechanical refinement isn’t a quality you expect, but this one certainly has it – and enough of it even to clinch a marginal buying decision if such things are high among your priorities. Don’t expect premium-branded equivalents to necessarily be quieter.
The car’s controls are medium-weighted and all perfectly pleasant to use, with little notch or spring to the manual gearlever’s action and a well-tuned clutch. Getting the car moving is easy, therefore – and, though there’s less need than you might think to hop up and down that gearbox in order to preserve your momentum, when you need to change gear it’s never a chore.
The engine’s 184lb ft of torque, present from just 2000rpm, shoulders the Insignia’s mass quite easily, and you find yourself leaving high gears in train when speeding up on your way out of urban areas and allowing the car to accelerate from low revs. On the motorway, where you need to work both engine and gearbox a bit harder to overtake with confidence, things are a little different. But there’s certainly enough accessible torque here to suggest that the car could handle a cabin full of family, a boot full of luggage and even a light trailer or caravan respectably well.
The Insignia’s suspension feels pretty conventional in its dynamic execution, bringing plenty of ride comfort, good handling stability and respectable cabin isolation to the table, and prioritising all three above any handling verve – just as it probably should. The car’s commitment to do what really matters well would make it a fine long-distance machine and a very pleasant, secure-handling car to drive every day. Through corners the car grips fairly keenly, and has decent handling response and balance for its size, making it easy to place. But body control is better around those bends than it is along a rising and falling B-road, where the car’s vertical composure can be found wanting if you hurry it.
The official New European Driving Cycle fuel economy quote for the car is 46.3mpg – and, quite rarely, that’s not such a considerable over-estimation of the car’s true potential. Our test car returned between 42- and 45mpg on its trip computer during a couple of mixed and reasonably length test drives, which is certainly a good enough result to warrant considering it in place of a diesel for all but the highest-mileage user.
That the new Insignia’s cabin over-delivers on equipment, comfort and space we already know after several acquaintances with it. There’s enough cabin space here to earn the car a rank among the most practical in its price bracket for a family of four, as well as three ISOFIX childseat anchorages across the second row seats which remains quite a rarity at least until you get into the MPV market. On material richness there’s a more plain look and feel to the dashboard’s fixtures and fittings than in plenty of rivals; so you could certainly buy ‘nicer’ for the money. But you’d be unlikely to get so much kit for your money.
The Sport Tourer’s 560-litre boot isn’t the very largest among cars of its kind, but it’s certainly large enough to swallow longer bulky items loaded longways. At this level you have to pay extra for 40:20:40 split-folding back seats, but that’s the only blight on an otherwise impressive showing on practicality and load-carrying potential.