- We like...Styling, quality, drive
- We don't...1.8 is too slow
Vauxhall's replacement for the Vectra enters showrooms soon. But is it the leap forward that Vauxhall says it is? This car faces a huge challenge. It fronts up against rivals, like the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen’s Passat that are terrifically capable, established and very well liked. And, to boot, the market sector it sits in is losing sales: we Brits aren’t buying family-size cars as we once did. If we tell you that BMW’s 3-series now outsells the Mondeo, you’ll understand.
Make no mistake, though. With the Insignia, Vauxhall has hit on a winner. For a start, it’s a handsome and individual car. That it looks different enough to stand apart from the herd is no small achievement, considering the space and safety constraints that its designers must, of necessity, have worked within. There’s a ‘blade’ motif that repeats across the car, at the base of the doors, in the dash, the front and rear lamps and the door inside handles. Day-time running lamps a la Audi show it, as do the rear light clusters at night. You’ll not easily mistake it for another car.
Step inside and even the cheapest of the range feels classier than you’d expect of a car costing (just) less than £16,000. Of course, you can spend up to £12,000 more than that, although the entry and mid-priced models feel so plush and are so generously equipped that it’s easy to save your money and stick with them.
There’s no one thing that’s revolutionary about the car. Although Vauxhall bangs on about its front camera system (that ‘reads’ traffic signs and issues warnings to the driver, if needed, or tells him/her that they are veering towards the road verge) and its adaptive lighting, these are options and pretty costly at that. Instead, the team behind the Insignia have taken all the essentials of a family car and upped the game on every front.
Mostly, it succeeds. Headroom for those sat in the back is tighter than in a Mondeo, because of the Insignia’s swooping, coupe-like roof line but in every other measure it’s a big, comfy car, easy to live with and great for a long journey. The cabin is pleasant on all versions and the grade of plastics, metals and fabrics is up there with the best.
We tried diesel and petrol versions in Exclusive, SRi and Elite trims. All feel exceptionally secure, yet responsive to steering that feels firm but without undue weight. The ride sponges away all but the most severe bumps, with only the hardest of thumps making themselves felt and heard inside the car.
The entry 1.8 petrol struggles to haul what is a heavy car, so you’ll need to drop down the six-speed manual gearbox by a couple of slots for even a modest hill. The 160bhp 2.0 turbodiesel has all the lugging power that the 1.8 petrol so needs, however, and is the pick of the engines currently available, although the 2.0 218bhp turbo that’s currently the next step up from the 1.8 if you want petrol power makes a quick sports saloon, particularly if you pick it with SRi trim.
For now, you choose between saloon or hatchback body styles, although an estate follows shortly, as do other engines including a low-CO2, high-mpg variant, called Ecotec, which will compete against Ford’s Econetic and VW’s Bluemotion.
It’s off to a great start, strong enough to steal you away from the Ford or VW you’d have previously bought. And Vauxhall’s decision to start afresh with a new name, rather than carry on the Vectra lineage, looks to be spot-on. If, as the make promises, this car sets the marker for a new generation of Vauxhalls, we can look forward to an exciting few years.
- Engines1.8, 2.0turbo, 2.8 V6; 2.0 CDTi (130 & 160bhp)
- 0-60 mph6.7sec-10.9sec
- Insurance groups
Motors.co.uk value verdict: