Vauxhall Insignia review

First drive review: Vauxhall Insignia (2013)

It is the new one… honest

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Only the most determined Vauxhall-spotter will notice that what they’re looking at here is actually an updated version of the Insignia but under the bonnet, in the cabin and at the cash register, there’s a fair bit to talk about.

The important stuff, first. The new Vauxhall Insignia range’s official prices – starting at £16,279 – are actually £2,000 cheaper on average than for the current models. But that’s not quite the windfall it appears. Vauxhall has changed its pricing strategy to more accurately reflect what actually happens when you walk into a main dealer. Effectively, dealers were marking down Vauxhall’s official price by at least that much to draw in customers, so the company has simply readjusted its list prices to reflect that. It says this approach makes the transaction more “transparent”.

On the plus side, each car now has a lot more standard kit. Every model is equipped with DAB digital radio, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, cruise control, a leather steering wheel, LED running lights, an electrically adjustable driver’s seat and more.

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There are also three fresh diesel offerings; effectively 118bhp, 138bhp and  161bhp versions of the familiar 2-litre CDTi unit. The two lower outputs have tax-busting 99g/km CO2 emissions, so these will be the company car and fleet stars of the range. Vauxhall reckons the 118bhp model will save company car drivers almost £1,000 over a three-year period, compared with the equivalent Ford Mondeo. The company says these super-frugal engines can deliver a range up to 1,175 miles on a single tank of fuel, partly thanks to the revised model’s incredibly low aerodynamic drag coefficient of just 0.25. That makes it more slippery than, for example, a Porsche 911.

We drove the version that Vauxhall reckons will be the favourite: the 138bhp 2-litre ecoFLEX Start/Stop. It manages the magic 99g/km CO2 figure, but develops as much torque as the more powerful 161bhp model. That gives it good mid-range punch, but with a very tall sixth gear – it does 80mph at just 2,000rpm – it still delivers 76.3mpg. However, it’s still not a very refined or quiet engine, especially under load.

Vauxhall claims to have made over 60 revisions to the chassis to make it a better drive, and while it is unlikely to trouble the best in class, it is definitely improved. The steering, in particular, delivers better feel and feedback, while the body feels more tied down and tight. The ride quality is improved, too, although it still feels a little firm. The result is that driving an Insignia quickly on a twisting B-road isn’t such a mundane chore anymore.


Inside, the Vauxhall’s fascia has been given a makeover. A fairly common criticism of the last model was that it had too many buttons scattered across the dash. It’s a much cleaner treatment, now, and features a large, 8in touchscreen (you’re nobody, today, unless you’ve a touchscreen; the bigger the better). It functions a bit like an iPad and controls the audio, sat nav and DAB radio, and is quite intuitive to use.

The instruments comprise analogue dials on either side of a digital screen, which displays a choice of different layouts including a giant speedo with navigation instructions in the centre. That one looks quite groovy.

The new car looks classier. There are no sheet metal changes but at the front, the glossy chrome grille, now wider, has been located a bit lower down than before, while the headlights have been mildly redesigned with distinctive “boomerang” LED running lights. At the rear of the car, the chrome logo bar has been lowered and extended into the tail-lights to make the model look lower and wider. The refresh is a subtle but effective evolution of what was already quite a good-looking car.

So this new Insignia really is more of an evolution than a step-change. It’s better looking, better to drive and makes more financial sense, especially to the company car and fleet crowd. That’s perhaps not enough to tempt those buyers who simply must have a German badge but if you’ve got a Ford-type contender on your shortlist, you really should include the Insignia.

Verdict ★★★☆☆

Improved but a car to buy with your head, not your heart


1956cc, four-cylinder turbodiesel
138bhp @ 4000rpm
258 lb ft @ 1750rpm
6-speed manual
0-62mph in 10.5sec
Top speed:
Road tax band:
L 4842mm, 1856mm, 1484mm


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