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Driven: Vauxhall Insignia GSi BiTurbo D. Image by Vauxhall UK.

Driven: Vauxhall Insignia GSi BiTurbo D
Vauxhall’s warm ‘GSi’ performance badge is back and, on the Insignia, it makes for a corking D-segment machine.

   



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Vauxhall Insignia GSi Grand Sport BiTurbo D

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: handsome looks, lovely sports seats, impressive adaptive damping, strong engine, superb chassis, interior space

Not so good: pricey, and even allowing for the GSi being softer, it's not as sporty as you might wish

Key Facts

Model tested: Vauxhall Insignia GSi Grand Sport 2.0 210 BiTurbo D 4x4 Auto BlueInjection S/S
Price: Insignia Grand Sport range from £19,330; GSi BiTurbo D from £33,965, car as tested £34,400
Engine: 2.0-litre twin-turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door large hatchback
CO2 emissions: 186g/km (VED Band 171-190: £1,240* in year one, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 40.4mpg
Top speed: 145mph
0-62mph: 7.3 seconds
Power: 210hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 480Nm at 1,500-1,750rpm
Boot space: 490-1,450 litres

* = VED Band 171-190 is normally £830 in first year but Insignia BiTurbo D engine does not meet RDE2 (Euro 6d) emissions regulations

Our view:

The current Vauxhall Insignia, in hatchback Grand Sport form as tested here or as the stylish Sports Tourer estate, always feels like a case of 'too little, too late'. By this, we mean it's comfortably one of Vauxhall's best products in years, but now that the British brand is owned by the PSA Group (Peugeot, Citroen and DS), it might be the last 'true' Vauxhall we see for good; everything else will be a badge-engineered PSA product, y'see.

That's a bit of a shame, but at least the Insignia signed off the GM-ownership days with the revival of one of the brand's historic performance badges: GSi. Also seen on a sub-VXR, 'warm' version of the Corsa supermini, it means much the same thing on the Insignia: sharper chassis and looks, but maybe not such a potent drivetrain. In the Insignia's case, there's either a 256hp petrol or a 210hp twin-turbo diesel, which is what we're driving here.

As Shane has already driven the GSi overseas, and we've already had the regular diesel Insignia wagon for a week, we're not going to go into great detail about the Vauxhall's market positioning nor its looks, save to say we like the subtle but beefier exterior aesthetic of the GSi Grand Sport, while the shapely front seats are divine. Other than that, and a bulging specification list on which everything save for the Lava Red paint (£285) and the Winter Pack Three (£150, and WP3 is just arcane-speak for 'a heated windscreen') is standard fit, it's the same old Insignia story: massive, nicely put together, more interesting to look at than previous Vauxhall cabins but still a little on the 'dark' side (no, we don't mean it's a Sith; rather, it's that the interior colours are rather sombre) within.

However, we really like the driving experience, mainly because Vauxhall's FlexRide adaptive suspension - that has an additional Competition mode for the GSi - is some of the best variable damping in the business. There's a real difference to the way the car rides and handles when you flick it between Tour (the softest, best for motorway loping and crumbling streets in towns) and Sport or Competition (use when you're on a twisty back road), without either extreme being too unbearable on its weaker side; so the body control is never too sloppy in Tour, the ride never too crashy in Sport. Add in great steering, the excellent traction benefits of the GSi's 4x4 system and a potent drivetrain with a super-slick eight-speed gearbox, and the Insignia adds up to a really classy, really likeable package. Indeed, we did nearly 350 miles in the Vauxhall, across a wide variety of routes, and enjoyed every minute behind its wheel.

It's not perfect, though; of course it's not. For a start, the BiTurbo D drivetrain - for all its 480Nm muscularity, which is great - doesn't feel appreciably quicker than the front-wheel-drive, 170hp/400Nm Insignia Turbo D wagon we last drove. And that Vauxhall gave back an overall 49.8mpg while fiddling and faddling around on the stop/go, narrow lanes of Norfolk, whereas the 4x4 GSi managed just 40mpg at a 48mph average overall, with a best of 47.8mpg on a long M25/M1/A46 cruise. So it's clear the single-turbo diesel is going to be the cheaper to run, by quite some margin - on which note, it's worth pointing out the GSi succumbs to a ridiculous first-year tax bill of £1,240, courtesy of its non-Euro-6d-compliant engine kicking out 186/km of CO2. Tsk.

Further, there's a nasty level of synthetic engine noise overlaid through the speakers in Sport, which spoils an otherwise-excellent drive mode setting, and while we accept the GSi is not meant to be as hardcore and stridently rapid as a VXR-badged product, it still feels a bit too much like a very fast regular Insignia, rather than something truly sporty. While the handling is very good and the chassis sweetly balanced, there's no genuine sensation that this is a sharper Insignia than its more humdrum siblings.

But we still think it's a cracking car, all told, and it'll probably make more sense to buyers as this diesel variant. The problem is, which buyers are those? Company users are going to stick with the lesser diesel Insignias, for the aforementioned tax/cost issues associated with the GSi. Private buyers, meanwhile, if not tempted by SUVs - which are slowly throttling the life out of D-segment cars like the Insignia - have a lot of choice elsewhere, both traditional (see 'The Rivals', below) and more overtly stylish: machines like the non-V6 versions of the Kia Stinger, the swoopy Volkswagen Arteon and the lovely, new, now-in-house rival from across the Channel, the Peugeot 508. Oh, and don't forget the brilliant Mazda6, either.

However, even with the cloying grasp of SUVs and the wealth of talented rivals out there and the feeling that some 'lesser' Insignias might be a more sensible idea, it's still hard to dislike something as talented, attractive and engaging as the Insignia GSi BiTurbo D. It's also likely to be better value-for-money than most of the competitors we've mentioned here, which means you'd be happy sinking your money into the Vauxhall. Although maybe not saying its proper, full name in its entirety - as you can see from the Tech Spec box, the GSi's official moniker goes on for several weeks. But we digress.

Is the Insignia truly too little, too late? Maybe. But it's nice to know Vauxhall is still capable of making cars as superb as this, nonetheless.

Alternatives:

Ford Mondeo ST-Line: Ford doesn't actually do a 'sporty' Mondeo in the Mk5 range, so a 180hp TDCi ST-Line would be your best alternative to the GSi, but the Blue Oval product remains a sharp steer and a lovely thing.

Skoda Superb Sportline: Skoda goes the whole hog with its tautest Superb, blessing it with the choice of a 280hp TSI petrol and 4x4. There is a 256hp petrol GSi available, but it won't quite match the Czech for driving thrills.

Volkswagen Passat GTE: as an alternative to a sporty diesel, how about a sporty hybrid? Volkswagen's plug-in Passat isn't cheap but it does boast 218hp and, supposedly, 166mpg...


Matt Robinson - 20 Sep 2018



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2018 Vauxhall Insignia GSi. Image by Vauxhall.2018 Vauxhall Insignia GSi. Image by Vauxhall.2018 Vauxhall Insignia GSi. Image by Vauxhall.2018 Vauxhall Insignia GSi. Image by Vauxhall.2018 Vauxhall Insignia GSi. Image by Vauxhall.








 

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