VAUXHALL TRIUMPHS WITH NEW INSIGNIA
STUNG by criticism that its last offering, the Vectra, was worthy but dull Vauxhall has come out with all guns blazing in a no-holds barred programme to reinvent itself in the fleet-dominated mid-size car market.
The result is the Insignia, a car as sparkling and glamorous as the Vectra was insipid and boring. It is as far away from its predecessor as possible to imagine and unlike Ford and Renault which have kept their long-established nameplates (Mondeo and Laguna) Vauxhall is absolutely correct in ditching the unloved Vectra badge and emphasising the difference with a new name.
It is hard to know where to start but I’ll go with the obvious and begin with the styling. Let’s face it, the Vectra looked like a brick (rode like one too, come to think of it but I’ll refer to that later) but as with the stunning little Corsa, Vauxhall has injected a much-needed dash of flair and glamour into the Insignia’s shape and demonstrated a willingness to be bold.
Seen in profile or from the rear three-quarter it’s more coupe-like than saloon and there is a lot more going on in the detailing too. The sides are lightened by a dramatic slash design in the front door and the `blade’ shape that Vauxhall stylists refer too is echoed inside, in the door handles. You or rather other drivers will notice them at night as well where the rear lamps again echo the theme. Talking of the lighting, Vauxhall is now chasing Audi for the title of having the most dramatic daytime running lights.
All in all, in styling terms this car makes a very strong statement and to my eyes is a triumph. Round One to Vauxhall.
There are practical benefits of the car’s shape. Vauxhall boasts that the Insignia has one of the lowest drag coefficients (0.27) in its class which translates into fuel savings. It also makes the car exceptionally stable and free of wind noise. My test took part in extremely windy conditions in Scotland and even at motorway speeds the Insignia remained planted, despite very strong gusting cross-winds. The rear screen also remained completely free of the teeming rain, something that drivers of the otherwise brilliant Skoda Superb will regard with envy!
So the styling works aesthetically and on a practical level but we haven’t yet scratched the surface of this amazing new car or mentioned what I regard as its crowning glory, the chassis. Now I have said before that Vauxhall haven’t really delivered on the ride/handling front before and certainly have lagged behind the acknowledged class leaders, Ford.
The Insignia reverses that. The ride is just beautiful, absolutely top-drawer stuff and fully repays the effort taken to tune the car for our roads. Talking to Miguel Fragoso, Director of the Engineering Centre at Millbrook where the UK development was co-ordinated, he said that whereas European cars tended to tuned more for high speed stability and ride comfort, in the UK drivers wanted sharper handling because (a) our motorways are not as fast and (b) our roads tend to be twistier. I’m delighted to say that I think we get the best of both worlds because the Insignia has a remarkable ability to smother bumps and poor surfaces yet corners beautifully too.
In terms of ride comfort I would say it is a match for the Mondeo yet beats it in the handling stakes. Vauxhall has probably just built a class-leading chassis.
The cabin is another triumph and again, Vectra drivers will feel as if they have stepped into another world. The architecture is sweeping and elegant, the detailing superb, the equipment levels generous. The seats have won awards for their ergonomic design and the options list has stuff others can only dream of. The sat nav is a doddle to use and soon you will be able to buy an Insignia with a system that `reads’ speed signs on the road ahead and warns you if you’re in danger of breaking them.
The engines offer the usual Euro 5 petrol and diesels , from a 1.8 through to the 2.8 V6 flagship. I tried the mid-range 2.0 diesels and found them to be predictably good. No surprise there, given today’s technology.
As with the Corsa in its category, I think the insignia is a landmark car for Vauxhall. It demonstrates again the recently-found styling flair and confidence and a determination too not to accept second best in any area. It is a stunning car, more than capable of holding its own in a very talented market.
Prices from £15,935.