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Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer review (2009 onwards)
What – Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer
Where – Wiltshire
Price – £17,865 to £30,690
Available – June 2009
Key rivals – Ford Mondeo Estate, Mazda6 Estate, Citroen C5 Tourer, Honda Accord Tourer, SEAT Exeo ST, VW Passat Estate, Toyota Avensis estate, Renault Laguna Sport Tourer
The Car of the Year 2009 spawns a handsome estate version - but are its looks enough to compensate for middle-of-the-road driving dynamics and comfort?
Likes: Design, quality interior, competitive pricingDislikes: Dithery handling, annoying controls, workaday and bossy sat-nav woman
While the Vectra came to epitomise mediocrity with its indifferent looks and plasticky made-to-budget interior, the Insignia arrived recently to great acclaim as a handsome replacement. Vauxhall - and continental cousin Opel - are looking to change people's perceptions about their brands with a sweeping new design philosophy and they have come up trumps.And the new estate version continues the tradition, with a car that is pleasing from nearly all angles. Like most modern cars colour and wheels are important - but even cooking versions in non-metallic paint and small wheels impress. Posher versions with big 20" wheels (option on SRi only - above right) really look the business, and from the rear look suspiciously like an Audi A6 or Q7.
The new estate heralds the arrival of a new petrol engine, a 1.6 Turbo, joining a 1.8 and a 2-litre turbo in the petrol side, along with a 2.8 V6. Most sales - probably around 70% - will go diesel: a 2-litre unit offering either 130 or 160hp.The new 1.6 Turbo is something of an oddity; it offers considerable power and torque advantages over its normally aspirated 1.8 brethren, but with nearly identical fuel economy and CO2. It is decent enough, but heavily laden with children and shopping I fear it would run out of puff.
I didn't drive the other petrol versions, but spent the majority of my time in a 160hp SRi diesel. The SRi trim level is a perennially popular Vauxhall trim, offering just the right degree of sportiness and kit that buyers like, and indeed a full one-third of Insignia buyers have gone this route so far.The engine is smooth and responsive and provides plenty of low down torque which is well suited to the sorts of family-lugging this car will spend its time doing. On the B-roads of Wiltshire it ambled along happily, while my time on the M4 suggested that motorway life will suit it well. The 6-speed manual gearbox is reasonably slick and direct.
Ride and handling
The dynamics of this segment have come on fast in the past few years, spearheaded by the previous Mondeo. While the Vectra was consistently found wanting in comparison, the new Insignia is a much better proposition. It is generally smooth and fluid and confident progress is assured. But by no means perfect; I found the 1.6 Turbo especially bounced about more than I expected on dubious road surfaces, and wheels certainly make a difference. And while the big and handsome (and popular) 20" five-spoke alloys offer more purposeful turn-in for the steering, there is a price to pay in the comfort department. As the wheels get smaller and the tyres narrower, the car generally becomes more pliable which may suit better its typical usage. But the fact remains that the Mondeo remains the class leader in the dynamic stakes.
Alongside its exterior design, the interior is the other great plus-point of the Insignia. The plastic is solid and firm and has a premium feel about it; the wood, when present, is also well done. The car eschews iDrive type systems and festoons the dash with buttons, which will delight some but annoy others. I prefer the dark grey to the sea of fake silver in the Mondeo.Some of those controls are slightly fussy in operation, and it is annoying that the sat-nav instructions are not duplicated to the central info screen between the (pleasing) speedo and rev counter dials, necessitating a distracting glance at the central screen. Furthermore, the sat-nav woman is a bossy boots who barks orders at you in a faintly Germanic accent, and there is no male alternative.
The slab sided Vectra Estate's saving grace was an enormous boot that garnered it support from the antiques trade. Seats up, the Insignia's is slightly bigger - but seats down, the Insignia follows segment trends by being smaller than its predecessor. All models get the increasingly ubiquitous false bottom which is large enough for laptops and other valuables you might want to hide away.Equipment levels are on the generous side: all models get cruise control and air conditioning, and electric driver's seat for height. Rear legroom is more attuned to children than adults, which will be fine for many but not for all.
Seats in the standard cloth trims are decent if not sumptuous, while the leather of the more upscale models impresses and feel more cosseting. Options are reasonably priced, with sat-nav at £900 also giving you a better stereo and a shark fin aerial, while the useful Bluetooth phone connection is £150 more. Front and rear parking sensors, something of a must on this big 4.9 metre-long car, are £365.
Economy and safety
Anyone interested in economy should generally avoid the petrol models; the most frugal, the 1.6 Turbo, offers 36mpg combined and 186g/km of CO2. The diesels oddly both have identical fuel economy and CO2 emissions of 47.9mpg and 159 g/km of CO2. My real world computer read-out suggested 39mpg. All engines are compliant with Euro 5, the latest EU emissions directive.I did not drive the automatic variants on this launch, but if the autos on the hatch/saloon are anything to go by, they are to be avoided. They will also cost you around 15% more fuel and CO2. Safety is enhanced by standard ESP and ABS across the range, together with front, side and curtain airbags, and Isofix anchors on all 3 rear seats. The estate has not been NCAP tested as yet, but the hatch has received 5-stars.
The MSN Cars verdict
I think this estate version is one of the best looking cars in its class, with one of the best interiors. While its handling is not class leading, many drivers will not notice, leaving comfort and practicality as the key areas for prospective buyers to adjudicate on. After I reviewed the hatchback in October I concluded that perhaps for the first time Vauxhall had a flagship model that people would actually want rather than merely consent to be given - perhaps by some tyrannical fleet manager. In this age of the user-chooser, Vauxhall have come up with the goods at the right time.
Engines (petrol) 1.6-litre 16v Turbo1.8-litre 16v2-litre 16v Turbo2.8-litre V6
Engines (diesel) 2-litre CDTi 16v (130hp)2-litre CDTi 16v (160hp)
Power (bhp) 1.6-litre 16v Turbo: 1801.8-litre 16v: 1402-litre 16v Turbo: 2202.8-litre V6: 2602-litre CDTi 16v (130hp): 1302-litre CDTi 16v (160hp): 160
Torque (lb/ft) 1.6-litre 16v Turbo: 1691.8-litre 16v: 1292-litre 16v Turbo: 2582.8-litre V6: 2582-litre CDTi 16v (130hp): 2212-litre CDTi 16v (160hp): 258
0-62 (secs) 1.6-litre 16v Turbo: 8.71.8-litre 16v: 11.62-litre 16v Turbo: 7.62.8-litre V6: 7.02-litre CDTi 16v (130hp): 11.12-litre CDTi 16v (160hp): 9.3
Top speed (mph) 1.6-litre 16v Turbo: 1371.8-litre 16v: 1262-litre 16v Turbo: 1472.8-litre V6: 1542-litre CDTi 16v (130hp): 1242-litre CDTi 16v (160hp): 132
Combined mpg 1.6-litre 16v Turbo: 35.81.8-litre 16v: 35.82-litre 16v Turbo: 31.72.8-litre V6: 23.92-litre CDTi 16v (130hp): 47.12-litre CDTi 16v (160hp): 47.1
CO2 g/km / Tax % 1.6-litre 16v Turbo: 186 (25%)1.8-litre 16v: 187 (25%)2-litre 16v Turbo: 209 (29%)2.8-litre V6: 277 (35%)
2-litre CDTi 16v (130hp): 159 (19%)2-litre CDTi 16v (160hp): 159 (19%)
Price examples Entry level(1.8i Exclusiv):£17,865Mid range(2-litre CDTI 130 SRi Nav):£22,415(2-litre CDTI 160 Elite Nav):£24,665Top-of-the-range(2.8-litre V6 4x4 auto Elite Nav):£30,690
Ride and handling***
MSN Cars verdict****
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