First DriveInsignia gets new 'Whisper' 2.0-litre diesel, which promises better refinement and company car-friendly figures
First DriveThe refreshed Insignia is a capable all-round machine with notably better driving dynamics
What is it?
It’s the new estate version of Vauxhall’s Car-of-the-Year-winning Insignia family hatchback, and it’s called the Sports Tourer.
Unlike the Vectra Estate, known and loved by off-duty white van men and airport taxi drivers alike, this car has the same wheelbase as the Insignia saloon and hatch. That means it’s significantly less accommodating overall than the car that went before it; its 1530-litre maximum carrying capacity compares rather sheepishly with the old Vectra wagon’s whopping 1850-litre payload.
But the good news is that, largely because it wasn’t designed to carry so much, the Insignia Sports Tourer doesn’t look anything like as upright, square or utilitarian as the Vectra Estate. Judge for yourself, but in our book the Insignia Sports Tourer is among the more svelte-, classy- and handsome-looking new load-luggers out there, and should have visual appeal for a much broader customer base than its antecedent.
And it’s not all bad news for the compulsive house-mover either. Thanks to some intelligent packaging, there’s actually more boot space in the Insignia estate "seats up" than there was in this car’s predecessor. With an underfloor compartment as standard, Vauxhall’s FlexOrganiser boot divider on the options list, and lashing points in all four corners, it’s also easy to make effective use of the available space.
What’s it like?
As a static object, more desirable than a Vectra by a factor of at least five. It’s got a much more stylish and expensive-looking cabin too, so it feels much more upmarket to sit in, and as you twiddle with indicator stalks and prod menu buttons, there’s an aura of quality and robustness you can appreciate that simply hasn’t ever been present in any other Vauxhall.
Luton is adding a new petrol engine to the Insignia range at the same time as launching the Tourer body style, a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol with 178bhp and 170lb ft of torque. Rather confusingly, it slots into the model range between the normally-aspirated 1.8 petrol and the 2.0-litre turbo. It’s got the performance of a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre petrol engine, but much lower CO2 emissions and fuel consumption, says Vauxhall. And though almost 70 per cent of Insignia estates will be 2.0-litre diesels, the 1.6 was the engine that was fitted to our test car.
This whistling four-pot will be familiar to anyone who’s driven a Corsa VXR or an Astra SRi. It’s rarely afflicted by turbo lag and much more tractable than an atmospheric 2.0-litre would be, hauling the big Insignia to 60mph in a commendable 8.7sec. Truth be told, it doesn’t feel as fast as that out on the road, but it’s got very useful torque from just over 2000rpm, which swells to 196lb ft on temporary overboost.
The forced-induction motor sound and feels well insulated in the nose of the Insignia. Our test car also rode bumps quietly on its standard-fit 17in alloys.
Less impressive is the Insignia’s primary ride though; it just doesn’t deal with larger B-road bumps and dips as fluently as a Mondeo, neither does it steer with the same precision or feel as the Ford. A little torquesteer even makes its presence felt at times, under full throttle. Body control is good though, even in cars with Vauxhall’s ‘Comfort’ chassis settings, and wind and road noise are both reasonably well suppressed.
Should I buy one?
On first inspection the Insignia Sports Tourer seems to occupy a very similar position in its class as its hatchback sibling. It’s sufficiently desirable, stylish and well-built to rule the roost, and the accessibility and usability of its load bay is impressive.
Unfortunately for Vauxhall, the absence of that final degree of dynamic polish robs it of the kind of handling and refinement it would need to command ultimate respect.
Is the 1.6 turbo the pick of the range? Probably not. You’d have to be very sure that you didn’t want a diesel-engined Insignia wagon to opt for this one. A 158bhp 2.0-litre diesel would be more economical, cheaper-to-tax, damn near as refined, just as quick, and only about £1000 more expensive to buy.
In fact, we’ve a sneaky suspicion that the forthcoming 188bhp 2.0-litre BiTurbo diesel will be the Insignia Tourer to opt for, which joins the range in late 2009. Coincidentally, it’ll also be the only Insignia diesel offered with Vauxhall’s active four-wheel drive. And along with this car’s good looks and attractive driving environment, two turbos and four driven wheels will both be things even a class-leading Mondeo can’t match.