For a number of years, there were two distinct camps when it came to large family hatchbacks. The Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Vectra which later turned into the Insignia. Yes, other offerings like the VW Passat and Mazda 6 were available but they never really sold in the same dizzying numbers.
The reason for the Insignia’s popularity was the extremely good value for money, these were cars that were built in huge numbers and offered with very attractive deals.
But since then there’s been a new crop of competition that’s tempting people away from the Griffin badge. That’s meant Vauxhall has had to up its game with the latest generation model, now its been badged Insignia Grand Sport to add more appeal, and to improve things further it’s been given additional styling touches as well as a greater amount of standard equipment and technology.
But has Vauxhall done enough to keep the Insignia at the top end of the sales charts?
IN THE CABIN
The interior of the Insignia has been well-thought out, with an eight-inch Intellilink touchscreen display which gives quick access to all the usual media functions like Bluetooth, DAB and satellite navigation.
All cars come with steering wheel-mounted controls, which is pretty standard for the class. Overall, it’s a pleasant place to be no matter how long the journey. It’s all, very nice, but just doesn’t feel particularly special.
Equipment is pretty good though even base-spec models get Bluetooth connectivity, 17-inch wheels, and electronic climate control. This means that even if you’re looking to buy a low-specification car, you’re not going to be short-changed.
As one of the biggest cars in its class, the Insignia is able to offer a fair amount of boot and cabin space. It’s slightly longer than a Volkswagen Passat, though it is still shorter than the Ford Mondeo. That said, it’s perfectly well equipped to seat three adults in the back, with plenty of legroom on offer – though taller passengers may find their headroom impaired slightly by the sloping roofline.
In standard hatch form, the Insignia offers 530 liters of boot space with all rear seats folded up. Put them down, and this space grows to 1,470 liters. Those seats split 60:40 too, which allows for a more flexible storage solution.
But for smaller items, there are plenty of storage options inside with all manner of cubbies providing areas for the clutter that tends to accumulate within cars of this size.
ON THE ROAD
There’s a good variety of engines available with the Insignia, ensuring that there’s a power plant tailored for pretty much everyone. At the bottom of the range sits a 1.5-liter turbocharged petrol unit, this pumps out just short of 140bhp and for a car of this size it does feel a little underpowered, it is pretty frugal though, drive it carefully and it should return around 50mpg, which is pretty good for its class. There is a 163bhp version that’s better suited to motorway life and will return similar levels of economy.
Sitting at the top of the range is a 2.0-litre petrol with 278bhp. It certainly feels rapid, but some of the rivals just feel a little more engaging, a little more involving.
As for diesels, there’s a 1.6 with either 108 or 134bhp or a 2.0-liter with 168 or 207bhp. The lower powered 1.6 emits just 116g/km of CO2 and fuel economy 64.2miles per gallon, so if you’re looking to save money at the pumps this is well worth considering. Even if you up the power to the 134bhp version you’ll still get an average fuel economy in the low 60s and emissions of 121 g/km.
One area Vauxhall really wanted to improve with the Insignia was its ride and handling, and the work that they’ve put in has really made a difference. The ride is smooth at low speed and if you opt for the FlexRide adaptive dampers, it improves things further. This sets the car up depending on whether you’re on motorways or country roads. Really though, this is a car designed around comfort rather than sportiness. The steering is responsive though, but there is a little body roll when you push it hard. It’s also pretty refined in here, which is good news for anyone who’ll spend lots of time in one.
There are a number of reasons why the Insignia could present an attractive proposition. It’s one of the more spacious family hatchbacks in its class, it’s surprisingly involving to drive for such a big car and overall it offers excellent value for money.
There have been some question marks raised over the build quality though and some of the older versions have had electrical issues.
Overall though, the competition in this class has really strengthened, and cars like the VW Passat and Peugeot 508 offer more tech and better build quality and are well worth considering before you make your decision.