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Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer 1.6 Turbo SE
7/10

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Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer 1.6 Turbo SE

Driven April 2009

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It hardly seems fair on the poor old Vectra estate, sullen block-arsed brick of a thing though it was. Not only is the Insignia Sports Tourer (you just can't call an estate an estate any more, dahling) better-looking by a factor of many and better-driving by a factor of several, but the young upstart even matches the Vectra on bootspace.

This seems improbable when you see them parked up alongside one another, the Vectra's great cuboid rump next to the Insignia's curvy, shapely rear, but it's true: the Insignia has a 540-litre capacity with the seats up, identical to the Vectra and just a fraction smaller than the Mondeo.

Admittedly, it's an oddly shaped loadspace, splayed at the base - thank the Insignia's wider track for that - and tapering in towards the top. If you're looking to fit fully-assembled wardrobes in the boot, things might prove a bit awkward, but for most of us, there's plenty of room back here. There are a couple of other neat touches to raise the Insignia from the realms of utilitarian load-lugger, too: high-spec versions get an automatic tailgate, which can be raised fully or partially from the driver's seat.

The 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine is equally impressive. The 178bhp unit has already cropped up in the Astra, and though it will only account for a small percentage of Insignia sales (a mere five per cent or so), it's well worth a look before you opt for one of the ubiquitous diesels. It slots into the line-up between the 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre petrol engines, though boasts better fuel consumption and CO2 levels than both. Even in the portly Insignia, the 1.6 remains a zippy little engine, whipping the estate to 60mph in 8.7 seconds and cutting a lovely spitting hiss from the turbo on the overrun. The torque curve is impressively flat - peak twist is available from 2,200 to 5,500rpm, meaning there's plenty of power just where you need it. If you're planning on loading your Insignia to the brim with bricks and children and horsefeed, the 2.0-litre diesel might be a better option, but on one-up journeys you'll have more fun in the petrol.

Make sure you opt for it on the bigger wheels, though. Not only do the optional 19-inchers (£475) look a lot better, they also tighten up the back-end vagueness the car has on the standard 17in wheels without compromising the Insignia's tidy ride. Even so, it remains a fractionally less satisfying drive than the Mondeo... but only fractionally.

Overall, the Vauxhall is such a close match for the Ford that you're well advised to drive them back-to-back - and, importantly, see who'll cut you the best deal - before you splash out. In fact, if you're in the market for a bog-spec 3-Series, C-Class or A4 estate, the Insignia might be worth a quick poke around. Honest. You couldn't have said that about the Vectra, eh?

Sam Philip 

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