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First drive: Vauxhall Insignia. Image by Vauxhall.

First drive: Vauxhall Insignia
A midlife facelift for the top-selling Vauxhall Insignia goes much more than skin deep.

 



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| First Drive | Frankfurt, Germany | Vauxhall Insignia |

Overall rating: 4 4 4 4 4

The new-look Vauxhall Insignia features revised styling on the outside, a much more modern dashboard and infotainment system, new engines, new technology options and a revised chassis tuned for better refinement. It mightn't look it, but it's a comprehensive overhaul certain to keep the Insignia at the top of the sales charts in its segment.

Key Facts

Model driven: Vauxhall Insignia five-door Elite Nav 1.6 SIDI Turbo
Pricing: 23,614 on-the-road (Insignia line-up starts at 16,279)
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
Rivals: Ford Mondeo, Toyota Avensis, Volkswagen Passat
CO2 emissions: 146g/km
Combined economy: 47.9mpg
Top speed: 136mph
0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
Power: 170hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 260Nm at 1,650- to 4,250rpm

In the Metal: 4 4 4 4 4

Although the facelift is, at a glance, less obvious from the front of the new Insignia, park it next to the original and the changes pop out. The grille is at the heart of it all, being wider and mounted lower than before. The chrome bar that holds the Vauxhall logo is thinner too and features 'winglets' at the edges. This shape is mimicked in pronounced chrome inserts low down on the front bumper. These are all but invisible on a silver car, but they really transform the face of a darkly painted Insignia.

It's the rear of the new model that really stands out though, thanks to a more pronounced integrated spoiler shape and a bold new chrome bar joining the rear lights. Meanwhile, a handful of new alloy wheel designs ranging from 16- to 20-inch in diameter has been added to the range.

However, current Insignia owners are more likely to be blown away by the interior view, as the dashboard and instrumentation are all new - and as contemporary as they come without resorting to gimmicks. Well, for the most part anyway... Our top-spec test cars, fitted with dual-zone climate control, featured touch-sensitive buttons that were slow to respond and quite frustrating to use at times - necessitating longer glancing away from the road than conventional dials or buttons would.

We look forward to seeing how a more modestly specified car will appear, as the centre console seems much neater, less cluttered and better put together than the original car's. Admittedly the Elite Nav car is equipped with a swish eight-inch touchscreen system with loads of features such as access to a Vauxhall App Store (coming in 2014) and complete access to a paired up smartphone. The touchscreen itself isn't as good as say an iPhone's, but it's a damn sight better than using the touchpad interface that comes with it. We found it clunky and overly sensitive and soon gave up using it entirely.

However, the new instruments are a joy to use, especially when fitted with the (optional on most models) eight-inch high resolution screen in the middle. This is completely customisable and the interface on the tactile new steering wheel is highly intuitive.

Driving it: 4 4 4 4 4

Reflecting its relative rarity, this new 1.6-litre SIDI Turbo petrol engine is only available with the top Elite specification, which is a shame, as it's a sweet engine suited to the Insignia, staying hushed for the most part yet endowing the car with 170hp when required. It's not too bad on fuel either given its performance. Alas, for that reason 85 per cent of Insignia buyers are expected to stick with diesel power and to that end there are now three versions of the venerable 2.0-litre CDTi unit, producing 120-, 140- and 163hp, along with torque outputs of 320-, 370- and 380Nm. Importantly, the first two emit just 99g/km. There was no mention of the new 1.6-litre CDTi engine at the launch, but it's expected to make an appearance in the Insignia eventually.

Powertrain aside, the Insignia has had a few tweaks elsewhere. Indeed, the list of new components in the suspension is surprisingly long. The target was improved refinement and reduced NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness) and our first impressions certainly suggest that the engineers have done a good job. On top of that, despite large wheels on our test car, the Insignia continues to ride remarkably well.

What you get for your Money: 4 4 4 4 4

There are a bewildering number of models in the Insignia line-up (despite it reducing from 14 levels to 8...), which starts at 16,279 for the 1.8i (140hp) petrol hatchback in Design trim and rises to 29,329 for the Elite Nav specification Sports Tourer estate powered by the 195hp 2.0-litre CDTi BiTurbo engine fitted with an automatic gearbox. The former represents a reduction of about 2,000 for an entry-level model. Along with the five-door hatchback and Sports Tourer estate the four-door saloon continues to be offered, and of course there's the new Country Tourer variant we'll cover in a separate review.

Trim levels are Design, Energy, Limited Edition, SRi, SRi VX-Line, SE, Tech Line and Elite and though all engines are not available with all, there are five diesel options (all 2.0-litre) and four petrol (all but one turbocharged).

That's too much to detail here, but as a minimum the following are standard: 16-inch alloys, heated electric door mirrors, electric front windows, auto lights, ESP stability control, an alarm, six airbags, electric lumbar and height adjustments for the driver, cruise control, a leather steering wheel, LED daytime running lights, Bluetooth, digital radio and USB and aux-in connection ports.

Vauxhall expects the SRi version to continue to be the best seller. It features 17-inch alloys, 'sports' suspension with a lower ride height, sports pedals, a sports steering wheel, upgraded driver's seat (again referred to as 'sports'), front fog lights, electric rear windows, tinted glass at the rear and, if you go for the 195hp 2.0 CDTi BiTurbo engine, dual branch exhaust tailpipes and FlexRide (i.e. adaptive damping).

Worth Noting

Vauxhall claims that the new Insignia is the 'most streamlined vehicle in the world in its class'. The coefficient of drag for the hatchback (Cd) is quoted as 0.25, while the Sports Tourer estate returns a value of 0.28. This is thanks to extended under-body covers, a redesigned front bumper and headlight housings plus an integrated boot spoiler. The EcoFlex models go further with an active air shutter for the front grille that opens only when additional cooling is required - apparently helping to reduce drag by up to eight per cent.

Summary

While shouting about how great the Insignia has already done, Vauxhall is confident that the updated version will do better again. The upgrades run deeper than the facelift and should appeal to retail buyers as much as the new low-emission engines will attract the fleet sector. Overall it's a successful revamp.


Shane O' Donoghue - 17 Sep 2013









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2013 Vauxhall Insignia. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2013 Vauxhall Insignia. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2013 Vauxhall Insignia. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2013 Vauxhall Insignia. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2013 Vauxhall Insignia. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2013 Vauxhall Insignia. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2013 Vauxhall Insignia. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2013 Vauxhall Insignia. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2013 Vauxhall Insignia. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2013 Vauxhall Insignia. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2013 Vauxhall Insignia. Image by Vauxhall.
 






 

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