Vauxhall is looking to make a big statement with its new Insignia, a car described as the brand’s “flagship” by fleet boss James Taylor.
On the road
On the road
It’s got a bigger name for starters, being known as Insignia Grand Sport to differentiate it from the less visually impressive previous Insignia, and it’s a lower, sleeker and smarter-looking car.
The dimension changes versus the outgoing car show what Vauxhall has tried to do with a car that’s moved looks-wise in the direction of a four-door coupe rather than upright hatchback. It’s 55mm longer and 7mm wider than its predecessor, but 29mm lower, which makes a real difference to the profile. Nose-on, it looks like it means business, with the wider profile and sleek headlights (which have a hint of Mazda 6 about them), while the side view is of an elongated, almost American car.
Pricing and specification can also be filed under ‘go big or go home’ as Vauxhall seeks to reinforce the Insignia’s sales position well clear at the top of its class – the car has in recent years outsold the likes of the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat by a ratio of 2:1. The manufacturer claims it has cut list prices by around £2,500, which is certainly an aggressive move designed to lure undecided user-choosers. A Tech Line trim, which is the model most appealing to company car drivers, with the 136hp 1.6 diesel, costs £21,525. A Ford Mondeo Zetec, one trim level down from Vauxhall’s Tech Line, with the 120hp TDCi diesel costs another £2,195, while a Volkswagen Passat 1.6 TDI 120 in most basic S trim is £1,590 up from the Vauxhall. Even the Skoda Superb 1.6 TDI 120hp in SE Technology trim will cost another £1,200 over than the Insignia Grand Sport.
However, that doesn’t mean Vauxhall has skimped on the standard specification. The entire Insignia range gets keyless entry and start and the innovative and pioneering OnStar system incorporating call centre help, wifi hotspot and a host of other useful features, plus DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and automatic lights. Tech Line adds 17-inch alloys, front and rear parking sensors, satnav, dual-zone climate control, a touchscreen an inch larger at 8.0 inches, lumbar adjustment and automatic wipers. That’s a lot of toys on a car priced to make a statement.
In the cabin, there has been an improvement all round, but particularly with the changes to the infotainment system. It’s still not the best around, but there’s a better balance between what’s done on the touchscreen versus number of buttons on the dashboard, where the main controls are climate, audio volume and a home button. To be brutally honest, it’s still not the most user-friendly on the market, but it’s a big step forward and is no longer a weak spot for the car. Also worthy of note is that the satnav is very quick to respond, and doesn’t take ages loading either on start-up or when entering a destination. A number of rivals could learn from Vauxhall’s advances here.
Otherwise it’s all perfectly acceptable inside, and in some places interior quality is actually better than it looks at first glance. This is especially true across the dashboard and door armrests, where the materials are all softer to the touch than they initially appear. Having said that, there are some areas of cheaper plastic further down.
The gearlever is nicely shaped to the palm of the hand, albeit a touch rough around the edges, and on the road there’s a noticeable distortion in the rear view, because of the shape of the rear glass. It’s wide but relatively short, so much so in fact that the rear wiper clears a significantly smaller area than those on other hatchbacks.
In the back there’s certainly a great deal of legroom, to the extent that only the Skoda Superb can really counter the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport’s ability to house big adults. The lower roofline has implications for headroom, though, so much so that Vauxhall has actually cut into the roof lining in the back to create a fraction more space up top.
Unusually, the new Insignia actually has less boot space than its predecessor, with the 490-litre luggage area being a full 40 litres smaller. Again, that swooping roofline is largely to blame. As you might guess from the shape of the car, the boot is long but loses out by not having a massive depth to it. Getting a large number of taller or squarer items in will be a struggle, but it’s otherwise not prohibitively small. Bear in mind, though, that the Ford Mondeo has 541 litres, the Volkswagen Passat offers 586 and the Skoda Superb hatch can manage 625 litres. There is also a Vauxhall Insignia Sport Tourer coming in the next couple of months that increases practicality with a 560-litre load area.
To drive, the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport is sensible rather than sporty, and the car has been set up as a mile-muncher rather than B-road blaster. The chassis offers plenty of grip when pushed, but the amount of body roll and lighter steering persuade against hooligan behaviour. The ride has a slightly hard edge when the car hits bumps, but is compliant thereafter.
As for refinement, there’s a degree of engine noise that is almost pleasingly gruff rather than the kind of irritating rattle that previous generations of Vauxhall diesels used to emit. At motorway speeds, there’s a bit of road noise detectable, but wind and engine noise are largely absent.
One area that lets the car down is the emissions figures for what is the newest contender in the segment. Admittedly, the Insignia Grand Sport offers 16hp more than its rivals, but nevertheless the 136hp Vauxhall Insignia is well adrift of its rivals for CO2 output; its 114g/km figure compares pretty poorly with the 94g/km of the Ford Mondeo, the 105g/km of the VW Passat, and the 108g/km of the Skoda Superb. The lowest the Insignia Grand Sport gets is 105g/km for the 110hp entry-level diesel. Vauxhall does, however, claim that the car performs well in terms of real-world figures versus official ones, something that would appear to be backed up to a large extent by our fuel economy run, where we achieved an impressive 88.3% of the official extra-urban figure on a motorway run, and 77.5% of the combined figure over our 108-mile test circuit.
From a whole-life costs perspective, the Insignia’s previously mentioned pricing gives it a strong start, and a residual-value jump over the last car puts it at 34.8%, according to KwikCarcost. This places it ahead of the Mondeo and Passat, both of which are below 31%. The Skoda Superb is up at 39.9%, though, a huge figure that gives the Czech brand a slight edge in overall whole-life cost.
Nevertheless, the Vauxhall Insignia is well ahead of its core Ford and VW rivals on costs, and that gap grows again if you look at the models that match-up for spec against the Vauxhall rather than the lower trim levels that better match the P11D price.
So the new Vauxhall Insignia has all it needs to at least match the success of its predecessor. It’s better looking, and its pricing and specification combination is designed to give rivals nightmares. It’s not the best-handling car in its class and the efficiency figures aren’t its strongest suit, but there’s a lot to like and it certainly puts forward a compelling case for both fleet manager and user-chooser.
This is the second generation of Vauxhall Insignia. The first was launched in 2008 and significantly revised in 2014.
The Insignia bounced Vauxhall back into contention after a few years of Vectra doldrums, and through its life, powertrain revisions brought efficiency and performance, keeping it competitive.
The Vectra was never as loved as the Cavalier that went before, and was seen by many as being adrift of its arch rival, Ford’s Mondeo.
The Vectra name was used through two generations of car – first between 1995 and 2002, and then between 2002 and 2008.
Before it, the Cavalier name had spanned three generations, and was one of the key company cars from the 1970s to the 1990s. The first generation, launched in 1975 (pictured), was a saloon, coupe and hatchback. In 1981, the mkII version came in hatch, saloon and, from ’83, estate shapes.
The mkIII Cavalier arrived in 1995 as a saloon or hatchback, and this car was the base for the Calibra coupe. Over the three generations, more than 1.8m Cavaliers were sold in the UK.
What they said
What they said
"The Insignia is a flagship car for the brand. You can see the car looks stunning inside and out, and from a whole-life cost proposition this car is potentially an even greater step than the last change, because we’ve rolled prices back by £2,500 versus the outgoing car. From a P11D point of view we’re in a fantastic spot, plus we’ve seen residuals improve by around £2,000."
fleet sales director,
Need to know
Three things we like...
At night, the interior lighting around the screen adds a classy touch
Nose on is a great view - wide and sleek
The IntelliLux Matrix headlights are a pretty pricey option at £1010, but they turn night into day
...And one we don't
The infotainment system is much-improved, but could still be more user-friendly for the uninitiated
Decent levels of performance from the 136hp diesel, although sporty handling and driving fun aren’t the car’s highest priorities.
Emissions figures are behind the class best, although Vauxhall is claiming the car will perform well in real-world comparisons.
Loads of leg room in the back, although head room is not quite so plentiful. The boot isn’t as big as most rivals’ - it goes back a long way but is quite shallow.
Great standard kit levels, including keyless entry and OnStar from the Design base model. Tech Line has all a company car driver wants.
A dramatic change from the last car, the Insignia is now lower-slung, wide and sleek. It works.
Comfort and refinement 8/10
Our car had £220 noise-reducing laminate side windows admittedly, but high-speed refinement is great. Ride is perhaps a touch harsh, but not upsettingly so.
Given the aggressive P11D price, there is a good mix of materials across the cabin. There’s reasonable oddment space, too.
Another area of improvement, with a good blend of buttons and touchscreen operation, but it still isn’t the most natural to use.
Whole life costs 10/10
Very aggressive P11D and decent RVs for the sector give the Insignia a big advantage over Ford and VW.
CCT opinion 8/10
A car with strengths and weaknesses, but you can’t argue with the on-paper case. It also looks great and is well equipped.
The low list price and high equipment levels grab the attention, backed up by the styling change. Not perfect, but it pushes Vauxhall forward in the sector.