This car is currently rarer than rocking horse emissions. You won’t see any on the road just yet, because cash-strapped Vauxhall is delaying registering the first press cars until the number-plate change come September. In the meantime our chance to sample an Insignia ecoFLEX meant a trip to the motor industry test centre at Millbrook, to drive it on the motorwaystandard high speed bowl and the hill route, a network of tracks that faithfully reproduce hilly, twisty country roads.
Applying its ecoFLEX green measures to the Insignia, Vauxhall’s priority has been to lower fuel consumption and CO2 output from the best-choice 2.0-litre CDTi engine without unduly diminishing the car’s behaviour and performance. Its engineers seem to have made a pretty good fist of it. There is no deterioration in the Insignia’s driving appeal or refinement, but there are worthwhile improvements to fuel economy and emissions to reduce its environmental impact and salve your green conscience. The greening of the Insignia follows now-familiar techniques like those other manufacturers are employing on their own eco models. In ecoFLEX mode, the Insignia has suspension settings that make it ride 10mm lower than a standard version, and an underbody that has been smoothed off to reduce drag. Gear ratios have been lengthened and the tyres are low-rolling-resistance (LRR) Michelins. On some cars, harder compound LRR tyres display a slight reduction in ultimate grip, but this didn’t seem to be a problem with the Insignia.
Economy is improved by 10 per cent and CO2 emissions decrease from 154 to 136g/km, a worthwhile gain that drops the car two VED groups (from G to E), saving £30 a year in road tax against a comparable non-ecoFLEX model. It is to Vauxhall’s credit that this has been achieved without affecting the car’s performance: top speed is improved by a couple of mph and the 0-62mph acceleration time is unchanged from a standard model. The car’s driving characteristics do not seem to be in any way adversely affected. The Insignia ecoFLEX retains the same supple ride, steering response and general driving characteristics that a non-eco twin has. You pay a £470 premium for the green measures, which should be recouped within a few years of cheaper road tax and less frequent top-ups. That up-front premium will also be reflected in a slight enhancement in secondhand value.
For performance and verve, the eco-friendly Insignia seems to outgun its Ford Mondeo ECOnetic rival. The price premium makes it look a bit expensive, but on this ranging-topping Elite model it does at least come with plenty of standard kit, including electric seats, leather upholstery, satellite navigation, climate control, parking sensors, adaptive headlights and auto wipers.
RIVALS: FORD MONDEO ECONETIC 1.8 TDCi, VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT BLUEMOTION 2 2.0 TDI CR
- Engine: 1956cc, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed manual
- Max Power: 158bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 258lb ft at 1,750-2,500rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 1,600kg
- Combined Consumption: 54.7mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 136g/km (E)
- 0-62mph: 8.9secs
- Max speed: 137mph
- Insurance Group: 11