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Driven: Vauxhall Insignia 2021MY. Image by Vauxhall.

Driven: Vauxhall Insignia 2021MY
New engines, a nine-speed automatic transmission and subtly massaged looks for Vauxhall’s classy big D-segment contender.

   



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Vauxhall Insignia 200hp 9AT 2021MY

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Good points: clever adjustable damper settings, spacious and well-built cabin, smooth looks, decent driving manners

Not so good: the 2.0-litre engine is a bit coarse, cabin ambience is dark, new 9AT 'box not the slickest, pricey as tested

Key Facts

Model tested: Vauxhall Insignia SRi VX-Line Nav 2.0 Auto
Price: Insignia 2021MY range from £23,795; SRi VX-Line Nav 2.0 Auto from £33,165, car as tested £33,525
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: nine-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 167g/km (VED Band 151-170: £555 in year one, then £155 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 37.7mpg
Top speed: 146mph
0-62mph: 7.2 seconds
Power: 200hp at 4,000-5,500rpm
Torque: 350Nm at 1,500-4,000rpm
Boot space: 490-1,450 litres

Our view:

With Ford already having announced that after 28 years of production it is killing off that staple symbol of the D-segment, the Mondeo, and so many other manufacturers all flocking towards the comforting sales-figures embrace of crossovers and SUVs, Vauxhall is persevering with the Insignia, giving its largest vehicle a moderate refresh for 2021 and beyond.

Now, to be clear, we like this generation Insignia. A lot. It's a quietly understated, notably talented big car. It doesn't do anything particularly flashy, of course, and there are a few quirks with it - such as it having a cabin that's lovely in terms of the design of it, the ergonomic correctness of all the major controls, and possessing decent material finishes. But why does it have to be so gloomy in here? Vauxhall (or, by extension, Opel more correctly) seems to have a penchant for overwhelmingly black interiors. There's a smattering of silver here and there, but we could do with a bit more light and shade within. Oh, and a change to those unusual analogue-digital hybrid dials in the instrument cluster. They looked odd, dated and clunky in the old Insignia in 2014, so by 2021 and the era of full TFT gauge packs, the time has surely come to do away with Vauxhall's archaic layout entirely.

Naturally, the Insignia still has all its practicality merits. The cabin is enormous, although the boot isn't quite as big as that on some of its key rivals and the handsome Sports Tourer estate variant seems to have been quietly killed off by the company, either during this facelift or perhaps even earlier. Anyway, on the outside, moderately tweaked looks ensure the Insignia can still be classified as handsome. The 2021MY cars will mainly be identified by their slicker lamp clusters, an easy signifier being that the DRLs in the headlights have now moved to the bottom of the units, instead of being situated at the top as before. Other than that, it's essentially a revised radiator grille and front bumper arrangement to note, although the Vauxhall continues to look good as it moves into the final stages of its life cycle.

The key 2021MY changes come under the bonnet. A raft of all-new, modular aluminium three- and four-cylinder petrols are deployed, one of them being this 2.0-litre four-pot turbo we're testing here. It comes in two specifications: as this 200hp/350Nm unit, which directly replaces the old 1.6 engine, and then in a higher-output trim of 230hp that is exclusively reserved for the GSi flagship of the Insignia line.

One of the things to note about the new 2.0-litre powerplant is that Vauxhall has decided not to go down the mild-hybrid route in order to provide glitzier eco-stats, as so many rival manufacturers do these days, instead equipping the four-cylinder with some other clever fuel-saving tricks. Like the ability to drive on a low-lift, 'five'-stroke Miller cycle at times to preserve petrol. Or, more impressively, featuring cylinder deactivation for the first time in any Vauxhall engine. Furthermore, the 2.0-litre, in either 200- or 230hp guise, is paired to a fresh nine-speed automatic transmission for the facelifted car.

All very noble. And yet all ever so slightly underwhelming. Compared to the 1.6 it supersedes, this 2.0-litre unit makes no more horsepower and only 50Nm greater torque, which means it's only marginally better for acceleration and top speed (three-tenths quicker to 62mph at 7.2 seconds and 146mph flat out), and not that different for economy stats. It's also not the most refined drivetrain we've ever tried in an Insignia, never mind in the wider D-segment marketplace. Rev it and the four-cylinder sounds strained and coarse, and it also never feels particularly strong, while the nine-speed automatic is perfectly acceptable but not exactly class-leading in refinement. It's not that the 2021MY Insignia is a bad car in any way, but we have to believe there are better engine options elsewhere in the Vauxhall's line-up than this 200hp petrol.

Otherwise, the Insignia continues to put on its class act. The handling is crisp and tidy, the steering is excellent for this type of car and there's plenty of grip to play with. Gone are the days when we used to have to pepper a turbocharged Vauxhall's review with the dreaded words 'understeer' and 'torque-steer'. However, it's as a refined daily cruiser that the Insignia works best and one thing it has always done brilliantly continues here.

There are plenty of manufacturers with models that feature adaptive damping who could take a leaf out of Vauxhall's book in this department. We might have said there's no light and shade in the cabin colourway, but there's oodles of the stuff in the different shock absorber settings, so that when you put it into the comfiest mode there's suppleness and fluidity to the car's movements, and at the other end of the scale there's tautness and limber control. What's best is that you can feel the car change as you cycle through the suspension modes; exceptional stuff, because we've always said if you're going to have multimode switchable dampers, make it worthwhile for the driver in the first place by clearly differentiating the settings.

Overall, then, not much has changed with the Vauxhall Insignia 2021MY but then not much needed to. The new 2.0-litre, 9AT drivetrain is not the most cultured operator and we could do with a cabin that wasn't so unremittingly dark within, yet the Insignia proves to be an amenable and easy-going companion. If you buy one or end up with one as a company car, you'd never be disappointed with it. In fact, we suspect you'd really rather like it - every model of this generation Insignia we've driven has felt like a quality piece of kit overall. Can the model survive even deeper into the 2020s, though? Will there be another generation of what was once the ubiquitous 'family car' in the UK? Only time will tell. For now, the Vauxhall is definitely still worthy of serious consideration in this class - just try a different engine in it, is all we'd say.

Alternatives:

Mazda6: another with similarly outmoded petrol engines to choose from, but the Mazda's beautiful looks and high-quality cabin are preferable to the Vauxhall.

Skoda Superb: smoother drivetrains and transmissions, the option of plug-in hybrid derivatives, nicer graphical interfaces, a bigger cabin - the Skoda eclipses the Vauxhall in many ways.

Volkswagen Passat: incredibly proficient and incredibly dull with it, many will still see that VW badge on the Passat's conk as reason to go for it instead of the Insignia. We'd rather have the Vauxhall, but.


Matt Robinson - 8 Apr 2021



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2021 Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 Turbo SRi Nav VX Line UK test. Image by Vauxhall.2021 Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 Turbo SRi Nav VX Line UK test. Image by Vauxhall.2021 Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 Turbo SRi Nav VX Line UK test. Image by Vauxhall.2021 Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 Turbo SRi Nav VX Line UK test. Image by Vauxhall.2021 Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 Turbo SRi Nav VX Line UK test. Image by Vauxhall.

2021 Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 Turbo SRi Nav VX Line UK test. Image by Vauxhall.2021 Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 Turbo SRi Nav VX Line UK test. Image by Vauxhall.2021 Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 Turbo SRi Nav VX Line UK test. Image by Vauxhall.2021 Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 Turbo SRi Nav VX Line UK test. Image by Vauxhall.2021 Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 Turbo SRi Nav VX Line UK test. Image by Vauxhall.








 

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