Vauxhall Insignia review
If you look beyond its handsome shape, the Insignia is a near-miss in the large family car sector.
Wide range of engines and trims
Stylish interior design
Not as practical or comfortable as rivals.
Dull to drive
Cabin quite cramped

Vauxhall Insignia review (2008-on)

The Vauxhall insignia is a handsome machine, better-looking than its main rival, the Ford Mondeo. But in this fiercely competitive sector, there are no prizes for being nearly good enough.

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What is the Vauxhall Insignia?

The Insignia is Vauxhall’s family car, introduced after its Vectra predecessor struggled with poor owner satisfaction survey results, not to mention ridicule on television from Jeremy Clarkson.

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Available in hatchback, saloon and estate body shapes, with prices starting at £18,040, the Insignia was weighed down with expectation even before it was launched. It had to be good. And on first impressions it was. It’s a handsome machine, better-looking than its main rival, the Ford Mondeo, thanks in particular to a recent facelift. But in this fiercely competitive sector, there are no prizes for being nearly good enough, and the Insignia comes up short against such class leaders as the Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat. Although even standard models are well equipped, the Insignia suffers from a lack of refinement, engines that aren’t quite as efficient as those of the Ford and VW and a shortage of cabin space, particularly in the back.

The drive

Insignia rear 2

The problem the Insignia has is the quality of its rivals: the Volkswagen Passat is supremely comfortable, the Ford Mondeo a responsive machine that keen drivers will enjoy. The recent facelift brought improvements to the Insignia’s previously imprecise handling, vague steering and uneven ride quality. That said, it still can’t quite match either rival. Indeed it has serious competition in the form of Hyundai’s surprisingly good i40 and Peugeot’s vastly improved offering in this class, the 508. One thing the Insignia does have on its side is a huge range of engines: a 1.4-litre turbo petrol, 1.6, 1.8 and 2-litre petrol units and 2-litre diesels with various power outputs. Again, the recent facelift brought some new 1.6 and 2-litre SIDI (spark injection direct ignition) petrol engines to the table, and improved powertrains. But it’s the diesel that is best suited to the model, and both the 130bhp and 160bhp power levels are more than adequate.

The interior

Insignia cabin

Although the Insignia looks a big car from the outside, it’s not as roomy inside as you would hope. The steeply sloping rear window robs the rear seats of headroom and makes seeing behind trickier than it ought to be. The boot is big (530 litres in the hatchback), the front seats are multi-adjustable and the dashboard looks stylish and is built of soft-touch materials that give it a high-quality feel. But it’s not terribly user-friendly, and Vauxhall’s infotainment system isn’t as quickly mastered as those of rivals. There’s a large array of trims, but even the standard models come with electric front windows and door mirrors, air-conditioning and a socket for MP3 players. Some elements, such as the electric parking brake, don’t seem to add any real value.

What to look out for

Problems reported have included electrical and electronic issues — especially with the electronic parking brake and the complex control interface — and mechanical concerns include clutch and brake problems, faulty clutch sensors, failing clutches, binding brake pads and dual mass flywheel failures (both petrol and diesel models). Some diesels leaked power steering fluid — a serious fire risk — but models affected by this should have now been fixed under a technical service bulletin. Diesel particulate filter problems requiring an ECU software upgrade have also been noted. Owners have also complained of issues with engine warning lights and other diagnostic glitches, leaking fuel filters, the differentials of 4×4 models, premature rust, faulty heated seats, failed wiring, leaking rear doors and failed information displays.

The Insignia has been recalled twice, for incorrect deployment of the driver’s airbag and then to correct the anti-pinch function on its electric windows. It was rated 12th out of 15 in its category in the 2012 JD Power survey of customer satisfaction (beating only the Laguna, Peugeot 407 and its predecessor, the Vectra) and 95th overall.

The One to Buy

The Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 CDTi 130 Exclusiv hatchback


£21,415 (correct at first publication)
956cc, 4 cylinders
130bhp @ 4000rpm
221 lb ft @ 1750rpm
6-speed manual
0-62mph in 10.4sec
Top Speed:
60.1mpg (combined)
Road Tax Band:
L 4830mm, W 1856mm, H 1498mm

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