Vauxhall Insignia hatchback (2009 – ) expert review

By Andy Goodwin & Andy Pringle, 25th September 2013

The verdict

The Vauxhall Insignia is a good-looking family or business car that makes short work of long-distance driving, with some attractive low-CO2 engines, but it's not as good to drive as the Ford Mondeo.

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Expert rating:

3.8

Pros

  • Elegant design, with good standard equipment
  • Excellent long-distance motorway cruiser
  • Low-CO2 engines will appeal to company users

Cons

  • Not as classy as VW Passat
  • Overly sensitive steering
  • Poor resale values

Full Review

1. Exterior

To our eyes at least, the handsome Vauxhall Insignia is the best-looking mass-produced car of its type, making the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat seem traditional in comparison. It always was a good-looking car, but the facelift in late 2013 has improved it still further. With coupé-like styling and hockey stick creases down its flanks, the Insignia has a low-slung attitude, and there are some neat details, such as the way the chrome trim at the front and rear works with the lights.

Our rating: 5

2. Interior

There are some lovely touches  including the curved metal door pulls which feel aviation-inspired. The good news is that the 2013 facelift ushered in a much-improved fascia, with far fewer buttons and controls on the centre console. There is also a new eight-inch touch-screen system, which was fitted to all the cars we have driven so far, but is optional on all trims except Tech Line, where it is standard. It’s a decent system, which can also be controlled by a new track-pad just behind the gearlever (a further option), as well as by voice commands and controls on the steering wheel. Our only major complaint is that the quality of materials lower down in the cabin is disappointing.

Our rating: 3

3. Practicality

While it might not look it from the outside, the Insignia has a massive 530-litre boot, pretty much on a par with the Ford Mondeo. With the seats folded down it’s bigger than the Ford, with 1,470 litres of space. There’s enough room for four inside, but the middle rear seat is only suitable for short trips, and the coupe-like roofline does make the Insignia a little less accommodating than the very best.

Our rating: 4

4. Ride and handling

The Insignia can cover ground quickly thanks to its safe handling, which reassures the driver. Thus far, we have only driven the very latest 2013 car in Germany and, while it’s safe and confident on the road, the Insignia is happiest at medium pace and not as fluid as the Mondeo or as relaxed as the Passat. The biggest disappointment is the steering, which feels numb around the straight-ahead position, but is very direct at the same time, with little play. That means the car can feel a little twitchy at high speed, because you get almost no sensation as the wheels first begin to turn, and it’s all too easy to turn too far too quickly.

Our rating: 3

5. Performance

There’s a wide range of engines available in the Insignia, with both petrol and diesel options, and power outputs ranging from 118 to 247bhp. We’ve tested two of the new engines that were introduced at the same time as the facelift, the 2.0-litre diesel and the turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol. They are both refined and give decent performance, although the long gearing of the six-speed gearbox means you only tend to venture as far as fifth and sixth gears on the motorway. Drop much below the legal limit in those gears and you fall out of the engine’s power band, demanding you drop down a gear to get it running at its most efficient again.

Our rating: 3

6. Running costs

In the past, the Insignia was criticised for not offering enough low-CO2 engines, but the arrival of the new diesel engines with the facelift has fixed that. Both the 118- and 138bhp versions of the Ecoflex 2.0-litre diesel engine have CO2 emissions of just 99g/km – better than anything to be found in the Mondeo or Passat ranges, and making the Insiginia particularly attractive to company users. The petrol engines are pretty impressive, too, with the lower-powered version of the 1.6-litre turbo averaging almost 48mpg and the 1.4 turbo returning 54.3mpg.

Our rating: 4

7. Reliability

Vauxhall is below Ford but ahead of Volkswagen in the Reliability Index manufacturer ratings. We experienced no issues during our time with the Insignia, and it felt like it could tackle thousands of miles.

Our rating: 4

8. Safety

The Insignia performed very well in Euro NCAP crash tests, with a five-star rating and 94 per cent score for adult occupant protection. Every Insignia gets six airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability programme and ISOFIX child seat mounting points fitted as standard, while SRi trim includes anti-whiplash front seat head restraints. A tyre-pressure monitoring system is optional across the range.

Our rating: 4

9. Equipment

Trim levels include Design, Energy, Limited Edition, SE, Tech Line, Elite and SRi, with Design and SRi also available as Nav versions, with sat-nav included.  Even the basic Design cars get good equipment levels including digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, alloy wheels, climate control and automatic lights. Limited Edition models get a bespoke body kit, sports pedals and front foglights, while SRi and SRi VX-Line models are sportier, with big wheels and sports suspension. SE, Tech Line and Elite are discreet but full of toys, such as electric rear windows, automatic wipers and chrome-effect window surrounds (on SE); sat-nav on Tech Line; and dual-zone climate control, leather trim and an electrically adjustable driver’s seat with Elite.

Our rating: 4

10. Why buy?

The Insignia is a fine car if you spend the bulk of your motoring life on the motorway; and, with competitive list prices allied to low CO2 emissions from its diesel engines, it will be very attractive to company car drivers.

Our rating: 4

Expert review 3.8stars

  • Exterior5
  • Interior3
  • Practicality4
  • Ride and handling3
  • Performance3
  • Running costs4
  • Reliability4
  • Safety4
  • Equipment4
  • Why buy?4

Our recommendations

Best on a budget:

Insignia 1.4i VVT Turbo Design

The entry-level trim combined with this low-CO2 petrol engine offers a lot of car for the money

Best-seller

Insignia 2.0 CDTi 140 SE

Excellent economy and performance, with lots of useful equipment

Blow the budget

Insignia 2.0 SiDi Turbo Elite Nav

Powerful engine, lavish equipment and the latest technology

With coupé-like styling and hockey stick creases down its flanks, the Insignia has a low-slung attitude