Vauxhall Insignia Hatchback (2013 - ) Expert review
The Vauxhall Insignia Hatchback is one of the most popular family cars there is. When it competes with cars like the Volkswagen Passat and Ford Mondeo, that's saying something.
- Elegant design
- Low-CO2 engines appeal to company users
- Decent safety kit
- Cabin disappointing on both quality and practicality
- Some horribly clattery diesel engines
- Not very good to drive
At a glance
Even when compared with much newer rivals, the Vauxhall Insignia is a handsome-looking car. The massive, deep grille dominates the front end, while the sleek-looking headlamps sweep away at the sides. Further rearwards, the roofline tapers attractively, while the intricately-shaped rear light clusters are connected by a chrome strip. All versions come with alloy wheels and LED daytime running lights, while SRi and VX Line trims get a sporty makeover, with bigger wheels and a collection of skirts and spoilers.
The Insignia’s cabin is a mixture of positives and negatives. On the plus side, the seats are comfortable and supportive, while the simple dashboard design makes it easy to find and use all the various buttons. If you go for a version with sat-nav, however, the ergonomics take a turn for the worse. The system is controlled partly through touch-screen functionality and partly through a mousepad-like controller positioned down by the gear lever. It’s a distracting and imprecise way of doing things, and neither the pad nor the screen are sensitive enough. The menus are arranged in a pretty bizarre way as well. Quality isn’t as strong as it is in many family car rivals, either, with some fairly hard, dour-looking plastics.
This is an important area for any family car, and unfortunately, the Insignia does a pretty disappointing job. The rear seats aren’t particularly generous on either headroom or legroom, and although the boot is big, you’ll find inconvenient ridges in the floor and a massive load lip to haul heavy items over. Rivals like the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat are more spacious and more practical than the Insignia.
Ride and handling
The crucial thing with any family car is a cosseting ride, and the Insignia just isn’t as comfortable as a lot of its rivals. There’s a slight jitter, even on surfaces that look smooth, and bumps and potholes aren’t dealt with smoothly enough. Go for one of the trims with SRi somewhere in the name, and you get big wheels and a lowered sports suspension that make the ride even worse. No Insignia is that satisfying in the corners, either. It feels big, heavy and cumbersome compared with a lot of its rivals, and the steering is rather numb and dim-witted.
There’s a vast range of petrol and diesel engines to choose from with the Insignia, and the vast, vast majority of people go for the latter. The choice of these varies from fuel-sippingly frugal to Porsche-scaringly powerful (well, nearly), and there’s a choice to cover pretty much everything in between. The ones of most interest to most people will the 2.0-litre units with 118bhp and 138bhp thanks to their impressively low CO2 emissions. They give decent performance, with good low-end pull and a reasonably broad spread of power. However, they're horribly noisy, sending far too much clatter and vibration through to the cabin. The 168bhp 2.0-litre diesel is much better in the refinement stakes, making it the Insignia's most pleasant engine. However, with higher CO2 emissions and list prices, company car tax bills will be quite a bit higher than they will on the less powerful diesels.
This is one of the areas in which the Insignia compares very well with its rivals. The two most popular engines, the 2.0-litre Ecoflex diesels with 118bhp and 138bhp, give carbon dioxide emissions of less than 100g/km, and that means exceptionally low tax bills for company car drivers. They also return fuel economy of more than 76mpg, which also helps with your running costs. The more refined 168bhp diesel won't be quite as cheap to run, but bills won't be prohibitively expensive if you want your Insignia to be as pleasant as it can be. What won’t help your long-term costs, though, is the heavy depreciation that the Insignia suffers. If you’re a private buyer, make sure you push your dealer for a big discount to help offset your losses. It shouldn’t be hard, because Vauxhall dealers are always willing to trim sticker prices by a big amount.
Vauxhall currently ranks mid-table in the manufacturer standings of Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, but as an individual model, the Insignia doesn’t score particularly highly. What’s more, you don’t get a particularly competitive warranty package, with only a three-year/60,000-mile arrangement supplied.
The Insignia has achieved the maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests, but because it was tested quite a few years ago, it hasn’t been subjected to the latest, more stringent procedures that many of its rivals will have faced. Every Insignia comes with a reasonable amount of standard safety equipment, including six airbags, anti-lock brakes, an electronic stability programme and Isofix child seat mounting points.
If you thought there were a lot of engines to choose from, wait until you see the choice of trim levels. The sheer number of them is simply dizzying, not least because pretty much every trim is also available in ‘Nav’ format, which adds satellite-navigation. Entry-level Design cars come with remote locking, electric front windows, climate and cruise controls and a stereo system with DAB and Bluetooth, but you have to upgrade to SRi trim for powered rear windows, as well as sporty makeover. Tech Line trim gives you automatic lights and wipers along with standard sat-nav, while Elite trim comes with leather and a bunch of other toys.
Maybe because you like the Insignia’s handsome looks, but more likely because the Insignia is very, very affordable to run as a company car thanks to its low CO2 emissions. However, the Insignia trails key rivals in a variety of different areas, so unless the numbers really stack up, we’d point you towards one of the alternatives.