Spending some time in our long-term Vauxhall Insignia this weekend brought back a lot of happy memories for me of how saloon cars used to be.

I grew up on a diet of watching saloon cars go racing in the BTCC in the 1990s. These cars were my real boyhood motoring heroes and I used to love seeing the Mondeos, Vectras, Accords, A4s and co crashing into each other on a fortnightly basis.

The real appeal with these cars though was the fact you could carve out some real brand loyalty. You could roll up at Brands Hatch or Snetterton in your Renault Laguna and then go and cheer on the same motor – on the outside at least – around the track. Volvo were always my favourites if you're interested.

It was watching these races where I picked up most of my initial impressions about brands that I still have today. Audi were the innovators, Ford and Volvo the dependables, Alfa Romeo the style conscious. And then there was Vauxhall.

Right up until I drove Insignia, my overriding memory of Vauxhall saloons was of a plucky but flawed effort, more concerned with coming along for the ride rather than going all out to produce something really special. This was personified by its performance in the BTCC, spearheaded by the ‘good ol’ boys’ Derek Warwick and John Cleland.