Review and road test of the Vauxhall Insignia
The second generation version of Vauxhall's Insignia gets a useful update in this facelifted guise. Jonathan Crouch looks at what's on offer.
Ten Second Review of the Vauxhall Insignia
The second generation version of Vauxhall's Insignia has been usefully updated, now offered only in five-door hatch form and featuring a heavily revised engine range, plus smarter looks, a classier cabin and some hi-tech features. If, like many business buyers, you're browsing in the £25,000 to £35,000 bracket selecting a medium range Mondeo segment model or a mid-sized executive contender, it's a contender that you really can't afford to overlook.
If you perceive Vauxhall's Insignia as a middle management mainstream company car, then the brand reckons it's time you had a re-think. The second generation version of this model launched in 2017 was a decent step forward and now, that design has been lightly updated, primarily with a thoroughly revised range of engines. Continuing attributes include a spacious cabin, plus there's an optional slick-shifting 8-speed auto gearbox and a clever 4WD system at the top of the range.
Think of a feature you can get in a pricey compact German premium brand - LED matrix lighting, Lane Keep Assist, Head-up Display, cutting-edge media connectivity. All of it's on offer here. It's a strong package.
Cars like this one don't spend their lives on open country roads but on endless motorway trips and snarled-up suburban crawls. Dynamically, they should be designed to suit that remit - in the way that this one really is. To some extent, it feels like the bigger car it's become in second generation form, the suspension floating you over broken surfaces that would have troubled and impeded the previous pre-2017-era model. Few other models in this segment ride better, which is some compensation for the fact that this isn't in any sense a car that you'd take out to drive for the fun of it. But it's one you'd be very happy to have chosen at the end of a long day fighting against the clock to meet appointments with awkward clients who simply don't care about the difficulties of grappling with Britain's congested highway network.
You might be surprised, given the current environmental zeitgeist, to learn that nearly all Insignias are still sold with diesel power, though as much as anything, that's down to Vauxhall's continued refusal to offer this model with sensibly priced petrol units. The usual Insignia driver's choice these days is the 122PS 1.5-litre three cylinder diesel unit, recently borrowed from the Astra line-up and available with the option of 8-speed auto transmission. There's also a freshly added 174PS 2.0-litre Turbo D unit if you want a bit more performance, also with that same auto option. For the few who want petrol power in this car, Vauxhall offers a couple of new 2.0-litre turbo powertrains, both wedded to a new 9-speed auto gearbox. One develops 200PS, the other (in the top GSi) puts out 230PS, that flagship model featuring an intelligent all-wheel drive system with a sophisticated built-in rear torque vectoring set-up.
Design and Build
Insignia buyers are now restricted to a single five-door hatch body style, but it still looks quite appealing, with a flowing shape based on the brand's Monza concept car. Vauxhall believes that this Insignia has 'the aura of a car from the premium, upper class'; you decide. The brand reckons that this improved model looks smarter - thanks to a few front end styling tweaks and the adoption on plusher variants of piercing Intellilux LED pixel headlights. The company's stylists believe the car also looks lower and wider than it previously did, thanks to the position of the air inlets with their integrated fog lamps. The prominent grille and those slim-line headlamps enhance the wide horizontal design of the front end and provide it with a bold appearance.
Inside, the cabin now feels a little plusher than it did before, thanks to the addition of precisely placed chrome accents. As previously, the driver sits quite low and is surrounded by clean lines, pleasant surfaces and impressive build quality, a highlight being the frameless touchscreen of the IntelliLink infotainment system.
Cabin width in the rear remains a strong Insignia selling point - as you'd expect it might be given that this car is wider than supposedly much bigger 'E-segment' models like BMW's 5 Series or Mercedes' E-Class. Unfortunately, mitigating against that is the height of the centre transmission tunnel and the fact that the rear bench has been sculpted so that any middle occupant must position themselves on an uncomfortably-raised section of foam. This hatch model does though, boast a reasonably-sized 490-litre boot.
Market and Model
The Insignia has quite a few attributes but, as before, the main reason you're likely to choose it in this segment is because of its value pricing. With this facelifted version of the MK2 model, the range has been slimmed down to a single hatch body style and, from the launch of this updated car, pricing for mainstream models sat in the £24,000 to £35,000 bracket, spread across four main trim levels - 'SE Nav', 'SRi Nav', a sporty-looking 'SRi VX-Line Nav' model and top 'Ultimate Nav'-spec. Beyond that, there's the top GSi high performance 4x4 variant, which costs just over £40,000 and will be rare sight indeed.
There are just three mainstream engines, the range kicking off with a three cylinder 1.5-litre 122PS diesel, which can be had with the £1,700 option of automatic transmission. We'd think twice about finding the extra £1,000 that Vauxhall wants for the four cylinder 2.0-litre 174PS diesel; it's a lot less economic and the auto option with that unit for some reason costs over £3,500 more. You'd think in this day and age where using diesel goes against the general zeitgeist, Vauxhall would offer a reasonably priced petrol option, but no; hardly anyone's going to choose a petrol engine in this car because the cheapest one, the 200PS auto-only 2.0-litre powerplant, can only be had with this pricey 'SRi VX-Line Nav' trim and costs around £35,000.
Cost of Ownership
This improved Insignia consumes up to 18 per cent less fuel than the outgoing model thanks to powerful new high-efficiency engines.
The engine range features three and four-cylinder units, including a 1.5-litre (122PS) diesel unit that achieves up to 61.4mpg (WLTP). This three-cylinder engine is up to 50kg lighter than its four-cylinder predecessor in the outgoing model. Above these are two 2.0-litre petrol engines with 200PS and 230PS, as well as a 2.0-litre four-cylinder 174PS diesel. All Insignia diesel units are fully RDE2 compliant, meaning no four percent BiK surcharge. The 1.5 Turbo D unit puts out a very competitive 121g/km of WLTP-rated CO2 in manual form, a return replicated if you opt for the 2.0 Turbo D engine (or 130g/km for the auto).
The 2.0-litre petrol engines are the first Vauxhall engines with cylinder deactivation. Unless the driver needs a lot of power, the variable camshaft control deactivates two cylinders, significantly reducing fuel consumption. The 2.0 Turbo petrol manages 167g/km of CO2 in 200PS form - or 179g/km in 230PS GSi guise.
You'll also need to know that Vauxhall includes a three-year, 60,000 mile warranty as standard, a package that can be extended up to five years and 100,000 miles at extra cost. A year's free breakdown cover is also provided, along with a six-year anti-corrosion guarantee. Plus you can opt for a service plan that lets you pay monthly to spread the cost of regular work to your car. As part of this, Vauxhall offers discounts on wear and tear items, such as brake pads and windscreen wipers.
Overall, we're reasonably impressed by what Vauxhall has delivered here. This smarter package builds on the strengths of the original version of this model - which primarily centred around a spacious rear cabin, decent equipment levels and a pretty efficient range of engines.
The Insignia might still not be quite good enough to beat the premium German makers at their own game, but it's certainly now one of the classier propositions in the volume part of the D-segment. Which makes it all the more astonishing that it's so much more affordable than obvious rivals. It's time to change the way you think about Vauxhall's Insignia. If you doubt that, you need to try one.
Vauxhall Insignia review by Jonathan Crouch