Another day, another round of teasers for Skoda’s first performance SUV
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£29,655 when new
Is that the Insignia GSI? Nope. This Insignia Sport Tourer has the same 256bhp, 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, same eight-speed automatic gearbox and same torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system as the GSI, but none of the chassis/suspension/software tweakery that should, with any luck, make it a bit more than just an angrier-looking, firmer-riding repmobile. We’ll find out one way or another when we drive it next year. So what’s this, then? An ordinary, very highly-specified Insignia with the most powerful engine/drivetrain on offer. In fact, you can only have the big engine with top ‘Elite Nav’ trim, so while £30k base feels a bit rich for a Vauxhall estate, you get heaps of standard kit. Way more than the Germans give you for the same money. Kit like clever matrix LED headlights, 20-inch alloys, Bose audio with nav, Apple CarPlay and much besides. A BMW 320i Touring, with xDrive and M Sport, is knocking on for £35,000 with no option boxes checked, and while it has BMW’s rather good all-wheel drive and eight-speed auto ‘box, it’s way down on power (but oddly, not that much slower) and less spacious than the cavernous Vauxhall. Sounds like a no-brainer… Wait a minute, because it’s not. First problem is that Brits are badge snobs, and for some driving a Vauxhall when one could have a BMW (albeit a much less well specified one) is tantamount to going on five-star holiday to Bangor, when for the same price you could stay in a budget hotel somewhere south of the Equator – where it’s at least sunny and there are no sheep or people with names like Llanfairpwllgwyngyll. There’s little Vauxhall (or any other ‘mainstream’ brand) can do about this. Second is that the ST is, in a number of ways, compromised. Most importantly, it’s not very interesting to drive. It’s soft and quiet (not Audi A4, but not that far off), with light steering and a chassis best described as ‘inert’, so people who are interested in such things (who, incidentally, are usually happy to forgo badge for something that drives well) will look elsewhere. The ST is a talented enough cruiser – that there are no paddles on the wheel speaks volumes – but almost everything it competes with offers (to a degree) a bit more involvement. Hopefully the GSI will mend this. That’s not good. There are other issues. While the seats are good, the driving position is wrong, the eight-speeder doesn’t react quickly enough when you want all 256bhp at once (not that said 256bhp does much. 0-62mph still takes over seven seconds) and, driven conservatively, you’re looking at high-twenties mpg. There a but? Sure. Plentiful kit, good-looking in an inoffensive, nothing-to-see-here kind of way, big boot, good infotainment, clever tech. Comfy, but for the odd driving position. It makes some sense if you want a swift, if not fast, cruiser with a big boot and much tech, and diesel doesn’t appeal. And Vauxhall lovers will like it because it’s better than the car it replaces in every single, measurable and immeasurable way. That said, for the money we’d get a similarly swift Superb. If you’re set on an Insignia, you get an equally wafty experience from lesser, cheaper engines .