- We like...Space, style
- We don't...Adjustable ride system
Big load-hauler is handsome and handy. But is it good enough to deserve your cash?The Insignia has picked up a rake of awards since it began sale, most notably the coveted 2009 European Car of the Year. So the estate-car version of this top-selling family car must be off to a good start.
Not least because the car it replaces, the Vectra estate, was actually rather better than the hatchback and saloon that shared its name with. It was more satisfying to drive and served up huge space for you and your belongings.
It was longer than the Vectra hatchback and its wheels were spaced further apart, giving it a smoother ride. The Sports Tourer, meanwhile, is still pretty big and a touch longer than other Insignias, though it uses the same wheel base and running gear.
But where the Vectra was no-nonsense and boxy, the Sports Tourer is sleek and almost handsome: we prefer the way it looks to other Insignias. The tailgate is big and heavy-looking, though it isn’t weighty to lift and – on the dearest models – has an electric motor to do the work. A curiosity is that, once opened, there’s a second set of tail lamps fitted to the body. This is now a safety must for car-builders if, as with the Insignia, the rear lamps lift skywards with the tailgate.
Many other car makers choose instead to attach the lamps to the car’s body but Vauxhall did things differently. It looks a gawky and needlessly complicated way around a problem even if it ds hoist the lamps out of harm's way when parking.
Moving inside, this Insignia serves up a big, boxy load bay and seats which fold easily to free up extra space on demand. Seats up, it's bigger than the Vectra estate but, seats flat, it isn't as spacious. There’s nothing clever but it all works well enough. The dash and driver’s view is as in other Insignias – which means an imaginatively designed dash with much use of a ‘boomerang’ motif that also shows in the front lamps and the door styling. Oddly, though, to our eyes the cheaper trim levels look and hang together as a design better than the dearer ones – we’d rather have an Exclusiv model than an SRi. We’d be out of track with ‘typical’ Insignia buyers, though. Vauxhall predict the SRi as the top seller. Even cheaper Insignias are stuffed with standard kit, and our SRi model had a long list of items, although the adjustable ride adds £750 to the bill, while headlamps that change their beam pattern according to the road add a further £850.
We’ve tried various Insignias enough to know that the 2.0-litre 158bhp diesel is our favourite for its punch and fuel economy, but here we tried a newcomer to Vauxhall, the 1.6 petrol turbo. This turns out 177bhp, which is impressive for its size, yet returns up to 35.8mpg overall and CO2 emissions of 186g/km. It’s cheeky and willing – even finding an extra 15% of overboost ‘go’ for overtaking. But it’s not as sweet and easy-driving as the diesel, so we’d recommend it only if you can’t abide diesel power.
To drive, it’s composed and easy, although the (optional) FlexRide system (which lets you pick between three chassis settings) seemed to make little difference. There’s not the fine-controlled responses you’ll discover in its keenest rival, the Ford Mondeo, but it’ll make a relaxed and comfy friend on a long trip.
Vauxhall expects that one in seven Insignias sold will be a Sports Tourer. It deserves to do well, not least because its prices measure up well against the competition.
To view and buy new and used Vauxhall Insignias, click on motors.co.uk
- Engines1.6 petrol turbo
- 0-60 mph8.7secs
- Insurance groups
Motors.co.uk value verdict: