VAUXHALL SHAPES UP
It was all going so well – great Scottish roads for sampling the Insignia, arguably the best chassis Vauxhall has produced for a mid-sized car, and a crisp, flowing design wrapped round it. But no manufacturer can launch a new car these days without inventing a “design language”. Ford has “Kinetic”, BMW “Flame Surfacing” and now, says Mark Adams, Vice President of Design for GM Europe, Vauxhall brings us “Sculptured Artistry”, and he managed to repeat it several times while keeping a straight face.
Apparently it’s all about wing graphics – a design theme repeated across the car – in the door handles, headlamps, dashboard – you name it, it’s got wings. I’ll settle for knowing that Adams and his team have done a great job in raising GM’s design game. Although the last generation Vectra was a massive advance over the squarewheeled 90s incarnation, it still maintained the aggressive appearance of its predecessor, a theme happily taken up by many drivers. They will have to look elsewhere this time.
The biggest drawback of the design appears to be a lack of space for rear seat passengers. Legroom is just about acceptable but tall passengers will find their heads scraping the headlining, thanks to the tapering roofline. Let’s hope things are better in the Sports Tourer when it appears next spring. By contrast, drivers and front passengers have plenty of space. There’s stacks of adjustment for the driving seat and steering wheel and I had no difficulty finding a comfortable driving position.
Diesel options will start with two versions of the same 2.0-litre common-rail engine, a Euro-V development of the current GM/Fiat co-developed 1.9-litre engine, fitted with a particulate filter as standard. Either 128bhp or 158bhp variants are available from the start. Then to cap it all, there will be a 190bhp twinturbo version to replace the V6 engine available in the outgoing Vectra. And it won’t stop there as GM is working on its own V6 diesel, as Sue Baker explains on page 26.
I struggled to find a 128bhp model, but sampled the 158bhp variant in SRi and SE trim and also with automatic transmission and Flexride – Vauxhall’s adaptive damping system. In all cases, the Insignia comes with a generous specification, including electronic stability programme, automatic headlights, electric driver’s seat height adjuster and electrically adjustable four way lumbar support, cruise control, plus front, side and curtain airbags.
SE trim certainly offers a more compliant ride than the sports orientated SRi with lowered and stiffened suspension, but the contrast is not as great as it might once have been. While the SRi certainly provides a firmer ride, it’s still a compliant set up, which doesn’t appear to compromise ride quality that much. At the same time, SE isn’t a soft option but errs more on the side of comfort. Flexride is impressive too, but no more or less so than similar systems used by other manufacturers. Left to its own devices, the system will constantly alter damping rates according to driver behaviour and road conditions. Alternatively, drivers can select between Tour for a more comfort-oriented ride or Sport for a stiffer setup. And it simply does as it’s asked. Jerks and thumps are unexpected from a modern auto box, but we found them on the Insignia when switching between lower gears. That’s something that Vauxhall will need to address.
Overall, the Insignia chassis is not as sharp as the Mondeo, but that won’t matter to many owners. There’s room for improvement, but this is a car that Vauxhall can be proud.
RIVALS: Citroën C5 VTR + 2.2 HDi, Ford Mondeo TITANIUM 2.0 T DCi, Renault Laguna DYNAMIQUE S dCi 150
- 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: 48.7mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 154g/km (D)
- 0-62mph: 8.9secs
- Max speed: 135mph
- Insurance Group: 10