Car review: Vauxhall Insignia

Carlton Boyce / 13 March 2017

This big car with a small price is quiet, refined, and extraordinarily stable.



Score 7/10

I was surprised to find out how little the Insignia costs when I finally got round to reading the specification sheet that comes with all press fleet cars. 

A sticker price of £22,424 for the 1.6-litre CDTi ecoFLEX that I borrowed for a week seemed far too little for a car with genuine five-seater potential. And that’s five proper-sized adults, with the rear-seat passengers sitting behind an equally tall driver too, even if taller folk will find their hair brushing the headlining. 

Vauxhall Insignia side view

The Insignia an unapologetically full-size car of the old school. The sort of car your father used to aspire to. A proper car. Which is the trouble...

An old design

The Insignia is an old design and it shows. 

The price is low to lure buyers into buying one who thought they couldn’t afford a car in this class, which is fine for company car drivers or those with little interest in driving; if space is all you’re after then there is little to disappoint here.


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A nice, albeit bolted on, interior

Which might be a little harsh because the interior is quite a nice place to be; everything fits well, the materials aren’t that bad at all and equipment levels are high. 

It feels very durable, too. The trouble is everything feels like it’s just been bolted on for showroom appeal rather than properly integrated in at an early stage of the design process.

Vauxhall Insignia dashboard

11 seconds to reach 62mph

My press car was fitted with the 134bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine, which was quiet enough but felt a little out of its league when asked to haul 1.5 tonnes along at anything other than a modest cruising speed. 

Taking almost 11 seconds to reach 62mph just isn’t acceptable these days and you can’t even point to decent fuel economy to excuse it: Vauxhall claims that owners should be able to enjoy almost 75mpg but they won’t. 

Honest John has crowd-sourced real-world fuel consumption figures from real-world owners and reports that it will swallow a gallon of diesel every 45 miles or so. 

The reason, I assume, is that owners are having to drive their cars hard to get a decent level of performance, so if you’re thinking of buying a diesel-powered Insignia I’d be tempted to try and find the money to buy the more powerful 168bhp version. 

Running costs are unlikely to be much higher and it would be a much more relaxing car to drive.

Excelling at high-speed touring

The Vauxhall is, alongside the Ford Mondeo, the definitive rep’s motorway cruiser, so that it excels at high-speed touring shouldn’t come as any surprise. 

It’s quiet, refined, and extraordinarily stable at 70mph and while the relatively low-power engine does struggle at times, there are few nicer ways to get a couple of hundred miles under your belt, even if the wind noise is a bit higher than the class average.

Vauxhall Insignia rear view

Less dynamically capable

However, things unravel a little when you leave the motorway network. As mentioned, the Insignia is an old design and it just isn’t as dynamically capable as its more modern rivals. 

At gentle speeds it feels OK but things get ragged very quickly when you try and press on any harder, although it is a comfortable car with a compliant suspension that soaks up bumps and lumps with impressive poise.

Overall running costs should be relatively modest, helped by that low CO2 figure. Residual values aren’t great but you should be able to knock at least £2,000 off the showroom price, which helps drive the cost to buy one down even more.

Or, better still, buy a secondhand car from 2015 with one previous owner and fewer than 10,000 miles on the clock for about £13,000. 

Your local Vauxhall dealer won’t like it but you’ll save a bundle at almost no extra risk. And at that price, the Insignia finally starts to make some sense.

4 reasons to buy a second hand car

Stats

Power – 134bhp

Torque – 236lb ft

0-62mph – 10.9seconds

Top speed – 130mph

Kerb weight – 1,538kgs

Official average fuel consumption – 74.3mpg

Honest John real world fuel consumption – 48.8mpg

CO2 emissions – 99g/km

VED class – Band A

Towing capacity (braked) – 1,250kgs

Towing capacity (unbraked) – 750kgs

Warranty – 3 yrs/60,000 miles

Price – £22,424

Price as tested - £23,669

Vauxhall Insignia front seats

Best-in-class

The Skoda Superb is superb. It’s huge, and drives brilliantly. No, really, it’s huge.

The best of the rest

John Major made the Ford Mondeo a bit of a cliché, but you’d be surprised at how good it is to drive.

Left-field alternative

The VW Passat trades drivability for good looks. It also features the best interior in its class, which might be enough to tip the scales in its favour for some.

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