What is it?
This is the Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 CDTi 160 Exclusiv. We’ll get straight to the point with this one, with the combination of generous-yet-cheap Exclusiv spec and the most powerful diesel engine, this is the real sweet spot in the Insignia range.
With 158bhp and 258lb ft of torque on tap, the Insignia CDTi 160 delivers 30bhp and 37lb ft more than the entry-level CDTi 130, and yet consumes identical amounts of fuel (an impressive 48.7mpg on the combined cycle), and emits identical CO2 (154g/km). It also costs just a few hundred pounds more than its less powerful sibling.
What’s it like?
On the road, the CDTi 160 is predictably impressive. We already know from the other guises we’ve tested that the Insignia is Vauxhall’s best Mondeo-chaser yet. The handling is accomplished (albeit not as exploitable as the Ford’s), and the Insignia looks good inside and out.
To this impressive mix the punchy CDTi 160 engine adds supreme in-gear flexibility and a good slug of extra mid-range punch, turning the Insignia into a long-legged cruiser and surprisingly potent overtaking tool. You don’t pay any penalty in refinement, either - if anything, the 160’s more relaxed power delivery makes the Insignia sound less strained and more refined.
The 17-inch alloys that come with the Exclusiv trim level also provide the best balance between an absorbent, pliant ride and outright grip over the bumpy, scarred UK road network. The 17s also generate comfortably the least amount of road noise of the available wheel and tyre combinations.
Our criticisms are limited to the artificially elastic, slightly darty steering (although models on 17-inch wheels feel less nervous in this respect) and an optional automatic gearbox that, while very smooth shifting, feels as though its saps the diesel’s mid-range power.
Should I buy one?
Definitely. If you are considering an Insignia, then the CDTi 160 Exclusiv provides the best balance between power, value, refinement, economy and handling. It’s a seriously impressive package and one that, at the moment, the Ford Mondeo can offer no direct rival to.