Vauxhall Insignia Review
Vauxhall takes aim squarely at the Mondeo and the Insignia is the result. It offers a large choice of engines, spacious interior and fresh, premium looks.
Pros: Slick styling, spacious interior, quality build, well-equipped
Cons: Mondeo is still better to drive, steering could be more precise, compromised rear headroom
Trim range: ES, Exclusiv, Tech Line, SE, SRi, Elite
Petrol engines: 1.4T (140), 1.6 (170), 2.0T (250), 2.8T V6 (325)
Diesel engines: 2.0 CDTi (120, 130, 140, 163), 2.0 CDTi BiTurbo (195)
Gearboxes: Six speed manual, six-speed automatic
What is the Vauxhall Insignia?
The Insignia is the latest in a long line of Vauxhall family saloons that can trace its roots all the way back to the 1903 5HP: the firm has evolved its offer in this market sector over the years and the latest Insignia is the result.
This Vauxhall has a competitive combination of spacious interior and curvy looks, combined with a big choice of petrol and diesel engines. It was revised for 2013 to add more technology and bring it in line with buyers’ ever-growing expectations.
Insignia buyers have plenty of petrol and diesel engine options. Our favourite everyday option has to be the 163hp version of the 2.0-litre CDTi diesel (there are many versions!). On top of the 163hp, the 2.0 CDTi has an impressive 280lb ft of low-down torque. Shame it is so noisy and clattery, though. Vauxhall also offers the 2.0-litre Bi Turbo, which produces an impressive 195bhp and 295lb ft of torque, but it too is rattly and doesn’t feel as fast as the figures would imply.
After a petrol? The best in our opinion is the downsized, turbocharged 1.4-litre turbo. At the other end of the range, the VXR Supersports is a headline-grabbing range-topper that is an unlikely BMW M5 rival, with 325bhp for all-wheel drive-assisted 0-62mph acceleration in 5.6 seconds and a top speed, in the Supersports version, of 170mph.
Ride and handling
On the road, the Insignia is competent, refined and assured, but it isn’t as fun to drive as Ford’s alternative. The Insignia’s steering lacks the precision of the Mondeo’s and there is also more body roll in corners.
A FlexRide adaptive damping system is fitted as standard on sportier models, which alters the suspension steering and throttle response. We found it difficult to tell the differences between the modes but its rough-road composure is very impressive.
Behind the wheel
Dashboard and driving position
We like the Insignia’s curvy, modern dashboard design; we’re also pleased to see the facelifted model has a much more straightforward centre console, with fewer buttons for the heater controls. In the centre is a colour screen which, on top versions, carries a wide range of functions: this, however, remains, fiddly.
A wide range of adjustments for the seats and steering column, mean it should be easy to find a comfortable position. The seats themselves are also absolutely first rate, some of the best you’ll find in any car.
Visibility is a bit disappointing; the Insignia’s nose falls away sharply, making it difficult to work out where it ends. At the back, the tall rear window doesn’t help either.
You really need parking sensors – both front and rear – so we highly recommend you choose them as an option if they’re not fitted as standard.
Gadgets and technology
Aux-in and USB sockets are fitted on all Insignia models. The Navi 600 sat nav system is fitted as standard on Nav and Tech Line versions. Features include a 7”colour monitor and a CD/MP3 player.
The optional Navi 900 system has 3D maps and individual journeys can be uploaded via the USB socket.
- Smartphone connectivity: Socket that integrates with the Apple iPhone, standard on all models
- Navigation: Navi 600 and 900 systems are both SD card based
- Personalisation: Both telephone and audio integration displays menus from user’s devices on the car display screens
- Audio: An auxiliary socket is standard on all models. Bluetooth audio streaming and a DAB digital radio is dependent on trim
- Internet: Vauxhall does not offer internet functionality on any Insignia model
- Can it Tweet or Facebook: No, this Vauxhall has no social media functionality
- What is the standout gadget on the Vauxhall Insignia: You can upload routes to the optional Navi 900 sat nav system via the USB socket
Passenger space and practicality
There is plenty of legroom for two rear passengers in the Insignia. A third will fit, but may be uncomfortable on long journeys because of the large transmission tunnel. The slopping roofline also significantly eats into the rear headroom.
The load bay is perhaps not the easiest to load due to the shape of the opening, but with 500 litres and the large hatch, it is practical space. The Ford, though, still offers more space. There is the practicality of a standard fit split/fold rear seat.
The Insignia is at its best on the motorway, where it cruises very well. However, for such a slippery-looking shape, the Insignia throws up a surprising amount of wind noise at speed, especially around the door mirrors. While the diesel engines deliver on performance, they are too noisy and this is echoed in the interior when accelerating.
Driver, passenger and side airbags are fitted as standard. ESP Plus, Emergency Brake Assist and traction control are also included and add up to a top five-star NCAP crash rating. The lack of a driver’s knee airbag and rear side airbags are the only notable omissions.
Running Costs/Value for Money/Pricing
Fuel economy in the revised 2013 models is exceptional. The 120hp and 140hp 2.0-litre Ecoflex variants are, remarkably, capable of 76.3mpg and emit just 98g/km. That’s better than many a small car on the market and makes it one of the most fuel efficient real world cars you can buy.
The petrol versions are pretty good too, but be warned if you go for the 1.4-litre turbo. It’s a nice engine, which pulls well and is very refined, but economy will plunge if you start working this small motor hard. Saying that, the VXR is generally uneconomical all of the time, no matter how you drive it.
Quality is better than you may expect, but not quite up to German premium executive opposition from Audi and BMW, which feel more special. Even so, you have little doubt it will last well beyond 100,000 miles – probably even 200,000.
Pricing and equipment
Insignias are competitively priced; the entry-level 1.8-litre ES is £18,050, but we would pick the Tech Line, which costs £1800 more at £19,895. The Vauxhall looks better when compared with the Ford; a Mondeo 1.6 EcoBoost SCTi in Zetec Business trim is more at £21,245 and is similarly equipped.
Value for money
We would expect there to be plenty of offers and deals on the Insignia at Vauxhall garages; this and the lifetime warranty means it should be given serious consideration.
The current Mondeo might be getting a little long in the tooth, but it is still winning acclaim and sales, so it has to be the Insignia’s most serious rival. Other cars worth a look include the Volkswagen Passat and Mazda6.
Despite the svelte looks, spacious interior, plus large choice of engines and models, the Insignia can’t quite deliver on the road, which is where rivals score higher. Even so, it’s a fine all-rounder that’s still worth a look for the fleet driver with a lot of miles to cover.