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Driven: Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.

Driven: Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer
A simply brilliant family estate car from a company going through some significant changes.

   



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Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer

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Good points: Attractive looks, one of Vauxhall's impressive new interiors, space, comfort, performance, equipment levels make for great value

Not so good: Handling a bit lacklustre, cabin a bit black

Key Facts

Model tested: Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer SRi VX Line Nav 2.0 170 Turbo D BlueInjection
Price: Insignia Sports Tourer range starts from 19,135; SRi VX Line Nav 170 from 25,300, car as tested 31,445
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door estate
CO2 emissions: 139/km (VED 200 first 12 months, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 53.3mpg
Top speed: 139mph
0-62mph: 8.4 seconds
Power: 170hp at 3,750rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 1,750- to 2,500rpm

Our view:

Oh, Vauxhall. Just as it seemed the Griffin was turning a corner, with the magnificent Astra winning the European Car of the Year award and simultaneously signposting a brighter, high-quality product future for the marque, the company and its parent Opel were hived off by American giant General Motors and sold to the PSA Group, the French conglomerate behind Peugeot and Citroen. Cue uncertainty. Cue loads of platform-sharing for future Vauxhall machines. Cue the (extremely remote) possibility of Vauxhall ceasing to exist at all.

This is a pity, because the Astra truly is a great C-segment hatchback. And, having now sampled this wonderful Insignia in Sports Tourer guise, it's clear GM-owned Vauxhall/Opel was onto something good. Not, of course, that PSA can't still steer the company in the right direction; the Grandland X, essentially a 3008 in a Luton suit, appears to be a perfectly proficient compact SUV-crossovery-type-thing that bodes well for the brand's immediate future, at least.

But will we, one day and with the needlessly dewy eyes of nostalgia, be looking back on the Insignia Sports Tourer as the 'last true Vauxhall'? Maybe. And if that situation comes to pass, then what a way for Original Vauxhall to bow out. Ignoring, for a moment, its simply colossal full name - a heady mix of 'SRi' and 'VX Line' and 'Turbo D' and intercapped 'BlueInjection' that suggests someone in Marketing wasn't familiar with the word 'concise' - the sporty diesel model in red looks marvellous. Beefy lower bodykit. Nice silver detailing. Giant 20-inch wheels on rubber-band 245/35 tyres. Rakish angle to the tailgate. It all comes together to make a really interesting-looking wagon, that certainly has the edge on its Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat rivals. But is it more handsome than the Skoda Superb? Hmm, tricky.

The interior is more in the old-school Vauxhall tradition when you first open the door and peer inside, because it's lots of black on black on a bit of charcoal grey on black. That could make it quite dour within but, thanks to a few design touches from the aforementioned Astra, it's not and therefore is a nice place to spend time. And we did - more than 14 hours, to be precise, as we toured around Norfolk on a 432-mile family trip, no less. Highlights of the Sports Tourer's cabin are the solidity of all the fixtures and fittings, Vauxhall's excellent IntelliLink infotainment that incorporates the OnStar concierge service, some great touchpoints in the form of the steering wheel and gearlever, and plenty of space. Strangely, Vauxhall persists with the square central TFT screen in the instrument cluster that goes on to form a small sliver of the two circular analogue dials to either side. It's an unusual juxtaposition of the cutting edge and the outmoded, and about the most jarring thing to behold within the Insignia.

Boot capacity is good in the Sports Tourer at 560 litres minimum, but it doesn't challenge the 610-litre cavern tacked on the back of the Superb Estate or the Passat's 650-litre whopper. And the sloping rear glass, so attractive from the outside, limits the Vauxhall's ultimate carrying capacity. However, while it's not the physically biggest on the inside - given the size of the exterior - the Insignia Sports Tourer does have other practical plus points, such as a real-world fuel return of 49.8mpg. And yes, that was all around the fiddly lanes of North Norfolk (we're strongly resisting the urge to add 'Digital' here...). About the biggest road the Vauxhall got to cruise on was the A17, which is a congested sod of a route, so nearly 50mpg from a 170hp/400Nm estate like this is extremely good going indeed.

Best of all, the appearance of the Insignia Sports Tourer is not let down by the car's dynamic display. Indeed, save for safe but uninspiring handling, there's precious little to mark the Vauxhall down for. Ride and refinement are first rate (astonishing, considering the 20-inch wheels at each corner), the steering is extremely pleasant to use, the six-speed gearbox is lovely and slick, the turbodiesel engine is a thumpingly good performer across a wide range of traffic situations, and the whole car simply feels beautifully resolved and in sync with itself. No one facet of its character is out of kilter with anything else and while that might sound an easy thing to achieve in a car, there are hordes of automotive products that have gone before the Insignia Sports Tourer that have proved it is anything but.

Which made this refreshingly brilliant Vauxhall all the more endearing and yet somewhat poignant at the same time. Quite aside from the whole PSA conundrum and what precisely will happen to the company in the future, the Insignia Sports Tourer faces two huge challenges: the first is the Skoda Superb we keep mentioning, because - while we think the Vauxhall has two key rivals in the form of the Mondeo and Passat comfortably covered - the Czech machine is a different kettle of fish and still, in our opinion, the best thing in its class; and the second is that D-segment 'family cars' like this are being squeezed out of existence by the dramatic growth in SUV sales.

So what is the Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer? Doomed to extinction, courtesy of death by 4x4? The end of an era in a British marque's storied history? Simply a missed opportunity to dethrone the Superb king? Nope, primarily it's this: a damned fine estate car, one of the very best you can buy. It'll make a much more expensive, comparatively equipped and powered Audi, BMW or Mercedes estate look stupidly overpriced and anyone who ends up with a Sports Tourer, be they company car users or private buyers, should be very happy indeed with their wagon. This Vauxhall is a cracking machine. It's a shame the marque left it so late to starting making products like this, then, isn't it?

Alternatives:

BMW 3 Series Touring: It's lower-spec premium wagons, like the 320d ED BMW, which - along with SUVs - are poaching sales from the likes of the Insignia. Yet the Vauxhall is arguably the nicer car.

Ford Mondeo Estate: Another formerly common sight on our roads which is now rarer than the defecations of a rocking horse. Mondeo isn't the driver's car it once was, and it's pricier than the Insignia.

Volkswagen Passat Estate: This thing has aspirations to break free and challenge the likes of the BMW, the Audi A4 and the Mercedes C-Class. Don't be fooled; it's just a posh repmobile.


Matt Robinson - 15 Sep 2017



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2017 Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer drive. Image by Vauxhall.2017 Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer drive. Image by Vauxhall.2017 Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer drive. Image by Vauxhall.2017 Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer drive. Image by Vauxhall.2017 Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer drive. Image by Vauxhall.

2017 Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer drive. Image by Vauxhall.2017 Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer drive. Image by Vauxhall.2017 Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer drive. Image by Vauxhall.2017 Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer drive. Image by Vauxhall.2017 Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer drive. Image by Vauxhall.








 

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