ECO WITH POWER: Vauxhall’s approach to eco motoring is different to most. Instead of stripping back power to boost economy and lower emissions, the firm has achieved great results with the full 158bhp. Ian Robertson reports
Vauxhall and its European subsidiary have been headline news over the past few months, with uncertainty over their future. Now General Motors has decided to keep its European arm, with a restructuring plan to help build profits and put Vauxhall and Opel on a sound footing for the future. There’s also good news in the large car sector – the Insignia is outselling its arch rival, the Mondeo, by a small margin, having found over 34,000 homes this year, compared to 32,000 for the blue oval’s offering.
Part of this success is down to Vauxhall’s new eco-warrior, the Insignia ecoFLEX, developing CO2 emissions of just 136g/km, yet pumping out a hearty 158bhp. This is a totally different approach to the majority of car makers, who focus their efforts on the most humble of engines, cutting back on power wherever possible to shine when it comes to CO2 emissions and fuel consumption. Most would dream to produce stats like the Insignia ecoFLEX with its top speed of 137mph and brisk 0-62mph time of 8.9 seconds, yet still delivering 54.7mpg on the combined cycle.
Out on the road, the Insignia has an accomplished feel, with good road manners and tidy handling. The Mondeo may be the better driver’s car, but the Insignia isn’t too far behind. At motorway speeds, it soaks the miles up with ease, although road and wind noise is a little louder than you might expect. The 2.0-litre common-rail turbodiesel engine is refined and relatively quiet, but it does make a bit of a racket when you put your foot down. With higher gearing in first and second gear, the Insignia can get bogged down, so you need to stir the gearstick to make decent progress and get the turbo spinning.
The cabin is where Vauxhall has excelled, with quality materials and a neat design. The wrap-around effect is pleasing, with fine detailing to the instruments. With equipment decent on all trim levels, the number of buttons on the centre console can be difficult to puzzle at first glance. Once you’re used to them though, everything falls logically and easily to hand, with a plush, quality feel. Adjustment to the seating and steering column allow you to easily get a comfortable driving position, and there’s a decent amount of room up front. In the rear, things get a little more tricky due to the sloping roof, where six-footers will find things a little tight. Knee and shoulder room are good, however, with the headroom being the only weak link. Boot space of 520 litres with the seats upright is competitive, and there’s a sizeable 1,463 litres with them folded flat.
The price for all this eco-consciousness is £500 over and above the cost of this entry-level Exclusiv model. Compared to the non-ecoFLEX model, you gain 6mpg on the combined cycle, and drop two vehicle excise duty bands, thanks to the CO2 emissions drop from 154g/km to 136g/km. This represents a saving of £30 per year at the current rates. You also gain an extra 2mph on the top speed.
RIVALS: Ford Mondeo ECOnetic 1.8 TD Ci, Volkswagen Passat BlueMotion 1.6 TD I
- Engine: 1956cc, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel with particulate filter
- Gearbox: 6-speed manual
- Max power: 158bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max torque: 258lb ft at 1,750 to 2,500rpm
- Max towing weight: 1,600kg
- Max speed: 137mph
- 0-62mph: 8.9secs
- Combined consumption: 54.7mpg
- CO 2 emissions (taxband): 136g/km (E)
- Bootspace: 520/1,463litres
- Insurance group: 21
Looks good, quality interior, lower CO2 emissions, better fuel economy
Rear headroom tight, extra £500 outlay, higher gearing inhibits progress