Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer 4x4With over 56,000 sold in the UK since its launch last year, the Vauxhall Insignia has proved a huge success. It’s seen the manufacturer make the jump from fleet favourite into the contention of more premium rivals, such as the new Ford Mondeo, BMW 3 Series and Audi A4.

In what is an already extensive line-up of bodystyles, engines and trim levels, there’s a new addition in the form of the first diesel Insignia Sports Tourer 4×4. Its adaptive four-wheel drive system – previously only available with a petrol engine – is now available with a 2-litre CDTi diesel engine.

We drove the attractive and spacious Sports Tourer – with its 540 to a maximum of 1,530 litres of luggage space – but the combination is also available in saloon and hatchback-guise.

The four-wheel drive system works by automatically distributing power between the front and rear axles to maximise traction and comes fitted with an electronically controlled limited-slip differential. This controls the distribution of power between the rear wheels; shifting power to whichever wheel has the most grip to ensure seamless movement.

Gallery: Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer 4×4

Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer 4x4

Seamless 4×4 ability

If four-wheel drive isn’t required – such as when driving on a motorway – the car reverts to two-wheel drive to maximise fuel efficiency.

The 158bhp 2-litre diesel engine is capable of going from 0-60mph in 9.8 seconds while returning an average fuel consumption of 47.1mpg and emitting 164g/km of CO2. There have been improvements to its engine management software and turbo, and the overall effect is a quieter, more refined unit especially during mid-range acceleration.

If you opt for petrol power instead, there’s the 2-litre turbo with 217bhp – which has benefitted from a four-wheel drive option for longer – a 2.8-litre turbo V6 with 260bhp and 4×4 as standard, or the hot VXR model – using the same 2.8-litre engine, but with 321bhp.

Vauxhall offers the Insignia Sports Tourer 4×4 in five trim levels: Exclusiv, SRi, SRi Vx-Line, SE and Elite. Entry-level models come fitted with 17-inch wheels, climate control, an electric parking brake and MP3 compatibility as well as driver, front passenger, side and curtain airbags.

FlexRide suspension

SRi adds 18-inch alloy wheels, lowered sports suspension, front fog lights, front sports seats, tinted glass, a sat-nav and the company’s FlexRide electronic suspension system – which uses adaptive dampers to adjust the suspension depending on driving conditions.

There are three settings – standard, Sport and Tour. Sport stiffens the ride and ups pedal response while Tour offers the best compromise for UK roads, with its slightly softened ride while maintaining the handling and response benefits of Sport.

There aren’t many directly comparable rivals to the Insignia Sports Tourer 4×4 as not many manufacturers include a 4×4 version in their ranges. The most obvious rival is the Audi A4 Quattro which, with a starting price of just over £30,000, is a little more expensive but can also be expected to hold its value better than a top-of-the-range Insignia.

At its most expensive, an Insignia Sports Tourer will set you back almost £35,000 – with the four-wheel drive a £1,750 premium. When similar models, like the Ford Mondeo estate, Skoda Superb estate and Volkswagen Passat estate are all available for £20,000, the 4×4 Insignia starts to look very expensive – for those who tow a large caravan or do a lot of driving in rain or snow it’s an ideal car.

Tow king

When we first tested the car fitted with both the 4×4 and towing pack – which also includes self-levelling rear suspension – the Insignia proved a very capable towing car, comfortably controlling a 2,000kg Caravan which was hooked onto our car during part of this test.

Its mix of space, refinement, fuel economy and all-weather capability is an attractive package but it won’t be to everyone’s taste or needs. Although the rarity of four-wheel drive systems in other popular saloons and estates can only play to its strengths.

Key Facts

Model tested: Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer 2.0 CDTi 160 4×4 SE
On the road price: £27,670
Price range: £24,505 – £34,540
Date tested: October 2010
Road tester: Rhian Angharad Jones