Vijay Pattni16 September 2013

First Drive: new Vauxhall Insignia

Facelifted fleet special gets a few revisions to keep it fresh – but are they worth it?

Sales reps of Great Britain, unite!

Quite right: it's the brand new Vauxhall Insignia, Luton's D-segment champion of the motorways!

Stretching the definition of ‘brand new' a bit, aren't you?

Yes, you're quite right. It's not actually brand new, more a thorough spruce up to keep the big ol' lug up to date.

So what am I looking for then?

There's a wider, lower chrome grille at the front, redesigned headlamps, new lower front fascia inserts, slimmer, smarter reartail-lights and a repositioned chrome bar at the back. Yes, it's all very minor, but Vauxhall's feedback to the Insignia's looks has been very positive thus far, so the philosophy was, if it ain't broke, slather some high-gloss on it.

What else?

There's a big change inside, in the shape of an optional 8in instrument cluster that incorporates two analogue dials on the outer edges - revs and fuel - while allowing for a digital dash in the middle, where the speedo is available in analogue or digital form, or indeed, you can show the sat nav, audio or smartphone functionality. It's very, very smart.

You should also opt for the new 8in touchscreen infotainment system in the centre console; it certainly ups the perceived quality and enhances the class of the cabin. Speaking of which, you get upgraded dash materials, a new look steering wheel, and new leather trims available.

So far you've given me a new set of headlights and a couple of new screens inside. There must be something else.

Yes. A staggering 80 per cent of all Vauxhall Insignias are sold for business customers - Vaux' doesn't hide this fact, actually recognising the Costa Coffee-glugging motorway sluggers are the key to the car's sales success. And thus, there have been a few suspension changes to make it more comfortable for this kind of person.

There are new suspension bushes, while the dampers and anti-roll bars have been retuned to reduce NVH (noise, vibration, harshness). There's also a new set of suspension control arms to improve driving comfort, though there has been a concession to more enthusiastic drivers with a reprogrammed electronic steering map for more feel.

And?

It's very...comfortable. The steering is noticeably better, the new mapping giving a decent, accurate pointyness to the delivery. You can wing it around country roads with some level of abandon, though inevitably the sheer weight of the thing will temper your most enthusiastic ambitions. The new bushes do make it a tad more comfortable, but all this can be negated by choosing the wrong wheels: 16s bounce around a bit, 17s felt too harsh, while perversely, the 18s felt like a good compromise. We didn't get to test any fitted with the FlexRide adaptive damping, but we suspect this could be a worthy tick on the options list.

The new 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel with 99g/km of CO2 has motorway rep written all over it. It grumbled at the lower and upper ranges of its ability, but performance was punchy, swift even. There's a 160bhp version of this engine, along with the new BiTurbo which does 0-62mph in 8.7 seconds while still returning just over 60mpg. There are petrols, too, but you'd be advised to steer clear, lest the residual value (now around £750 better after three years than before) drop.

Should I buy one?

Depends if you eat your breakfast at a motorway service station or in the comfort of your front room. No, all joking aside, this new Insignia is a very polished product with flashes of premium aspirations. The drive is good, if not the class best - it's the familiar story of the Mondeo being slightly better - but it's around £1500 cheaper across the range than before. Worth a look.

 

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