What is it?
This is the new Vauxhall Insignia, the creators of which I found myself admiring a little bit more with every mile I drove it. Not just for their handsome new car’s performance — we’ll come to that later — but for the way they have fallen to the daunting task of creating a great product for a sector which has halved in size in half a dozen years.
However, ten per cent of car sales in the UK alone still amounts to 200,000-odd cars a year, worth billions. The sector was clearly worth fighting for. The question was how the mainstreamers should arrest the trend.
Some, like Honda, started touting their cars as “near premium”. Ford, already improving, had its Driving Quality message to extend and improve. Vauxhall’s mission was clear but tough: invest and make massive improvements on every front.
Matching the other mainstreamers wouldn’t be enough: GM would have to go to the top of the class with the Vauxhall Insignia.
To achieve this there is a new name, a new chassis, optional full-time four-wheel-drive, an enticing array of Euro 5 engines, an impressive ‘Germanic-precision-meets-sculptural-artistry’ coupe shape and several thousand words of good intentions.
What’s it like?
Our Vauxhall Insignia test car was a 2.0-litre 16-valve petrol turbo four, featuring twin balancer shafts and variable value timing, producing a healthy 217bhp at 5300 rpm and an even more impressive 258lb ft between 2000 and 4000 rpm.
What strikes you first about the Vauxhall Insignia is how imposing its styling is. The Insignia comes as both saloon and hatchback, but they’re so similar that you have to examine the rear shut-lines to tell the difference.
GME design director Mark Adams has always said that, if anything, the Vauxhall Insignia’s interior design takes an even bigger step than the one taken with the exterior.
The wraparound architecture of the cabin and most of the trim and switchgear would do justice to a car at Jaguar XF level. It’s a shame for GM that a new VW Golf VI was on hand to show that in matters of trim grain, instrument graphics and fine switchgear detail, the Insignia still has room to improve.