The Vauxhall Insignia 1.6TD Ecotec review
Put simply, if you worked for a business that handed out cars then the chances are you drove a Ford Cortina/Sierra or a Vauxhall Cavalier. It’s no exaggeration to say that they were the gods of the road and in its best-selling year, 1979, the Ford Cortina alone accounted for 11.3 per cent of all UK new car sales.
To put that into perspective, Ford’s total UK sales in 2017 are currently at 11.8 per cent of the UK market.
The blame is mainly down to the growing popularity of both premium badges and also of crossover models as the family car market gets ever more diluted on all sides. So where does that leave this new Vauxhall Insignia, targeted straight at that company car market that’s only going to get smaller?
In many ways, it’s doubly bad news for the Luton firm’s finest as, more than many other cars, the Insignia is primarily bought by fleets. Around 80 per cent are used for company purposes on British roads.
But despite all that, there are still plenty of sales out there to be won. The Ford Mondeo and Peugeot 508, after all, are hardly the youngest competition and there are plenty of fleets that still want those high numbers of cars. At the same time, few manufacturers can match the kind of breadth offered by Vauxhall’s range either.
Then there’s the new Insignia styling. While you could argue it’s a little anonymous from a distance, from closer up we think this new Vauxhall is a smartlooking car with some really nice lines, especially the curve of the roof and the shape of the front lights.
There are some hints of the Mazda 6 here and there but to our eyes that’s no bad thing. Overall, it’s a very clean and uncluttered design.
Talking of cleanliness, this 1.6-litre Ecotec model is the most efficient and least polluting model in the Insignia range.
Down-sized engines are no longer that unusual in the market, although you can’t help but raise half an eyebrow when finding out that this Insignia (not a small car remember), boasts just 110bhp under the driver’s right foot.
The engine is certainly better than you expect for such a big car
Yet it’s enough to get the Vauxhall from 0 to 60mph in 10.9 seconds and on to a 131mph top speed as well as a 70.6mpg average fuel economy and 105g/km emissions. While at first glance those figures seem decent enough, the reality is that a 94g/km Mondeo has been available for some time, so you could rightly expect the Insignia to match or better those.
The good news though, is that the engine is certainly better than you expect for such a big car and it feels swifter on the road than those figures suggest.
While the engine is a little vocal from cold, it has enough grunt once on the move to keep up with the rest of the traffic and actually cruises on faster roads surprisingly well.
Given that this is where most Insignias are likely to spend the majority of their time, pounding UK motorways, perhaps that’s just as well In refinement terms the cabin is well insulated from road, engine and wind noise but we wouldn’t mind the ride being a little bit better.
It isn’t all that uncomfortable in truth, but making it slightly more forgiving of changing road surfaces wouldn’t go amiss.
The new Insignia will cost from £18,625
That wouldn’t change the Insignia’s handling characteristics much either, as this certainly isn’t a rewarding or involving car to drive down a twisty B road. There’s little or no feedback about what the car is doing beneath you and also little feelgood factor for driving it hard. Rivals are certainly more likely to put a smile on your face, that’s for sure.
While its most immediate predecessor was better, past Vauxhalls in this class certainly haven’t excelled when it came to driver involvement so perhaps this isn’t that much of a negative – although the interior has both its ups and downs.
First the positives: some excellent storage (although the glovebox is too small) and masses of space, particularly in the rear seats where legroom must be close to Mercedes S-Class levels they’re so big.
There’s also a big boot, although it’s a bit shallow and there’s only filler rather than a proper spare tyre, despite there being space for it. Overall, the interior is a pretty good place to be and there are some nice touches such as a heated steering wheel and head-up display.
But while the negatives may all be minor, they’re not exactly hard to find which becomes frustrating. The infotainment system isn’t fast enough and could be more intuitive, plus it repeatedly malfunctioned when plugging in our iPod and the instruments themselves are an odd mix of traditional analogue dials and digital images which look out of place.
The interior of the new Vauxhall Insignia
Some of this might be forgivable but items in the cabin, such as the buttons on the steering wheel or the indicator stalks, feel cheap. There’s even a rough edge on the underside of the gearknob where it has come out of its mould which you can frequently feel.
Taken individually you might forgive them, but they all add up to car that feels frustratingly half-cocked in terms of its impact. It doesn’t even feel noticeably ahead of the likes of the dated Ford Mondeo.
That, ultimately, sums up much of this latest Insignia. There’s a lot going for this new Vauxhall but somehow it never seems to fulfil that potential. That’s a shame because there’s a lot to recommend it for, most notably with its comfort levels and size.
A few minor improvements here and there and this could easily be the best in class rather than merely just another contender in the repmobile class.
Overall, it’s a very clean and uncluttered design
Price: from £18,625
Engine: Turbo-diesel – 1.6-litre
Power: 0 to 60mph in 10.9 seconds, 131mph top speed
Fuel economy: 70.6mpg
CO2 emissions: 105g/km
Rivals: Ford Mondeo, Mazda 6, VW Passat