You won’t believe the interior of the new Vauxhall Insignia - particulary if your memory of cabins in Luton cars consists of cliff-faced fascias formed in ultra-durable plastics, plus knobs and switches straight from the Early Learning Centre. 

In detail and perceived quality, it’s close to matching BMW and not so far behind Audi. Vauxhall believes the expanding success of Chevrolet as GM’s new worldwide ‘entry’ brand gives them permission to move Vauxhall upmarket — though not to the extent of hiking prices — and their designers have taken full advantage. Design boss Mark Adams reckons the work with Insignia will “lift all GM Design”, and will have special impact on the new Astra, due in 2010.

The Vauxhall designers talk a lot about the Insignia cabin’s “warmth”, and when you slip behind the wheel, you’re struck by it. It comes partly from the soft-feel dash, the much-improved perceived quality (fine-needled instruments, upgraded materials, close tolerances, new switch and control designs) but much of it comes from the harmonious sculpting of dash and door caps, which form an eye-pleasing wraparound shape that works well with the fairly high centre console. 

Vauxhall will have four trim styles, but only two levels. There’s an everyman level (which is far from being the old ‘poverty’ spec) then luxurious, sporty and progressive levels versions which buyers choose more according to taste than price. Various forms incorporated in the exterior shape — a “wing” in the front and rear lights, a “blade” formed in the bodysides — are echoed in the sculpting of the fascia and doorhandles.

The result is a cabin about as far from a Vectra as it’s possible to get, not because the Vectra was so bad but because Insignia takes things so far further on. Why all the progress? Because Mark Adams felt GM Europe’s interior design had fallen a step behind the progress of its exteriors. Now they’re even, and the buyer will benefit.

Click here for the full story and more pictures of the Insignia.