"The Insignia is styled to look more like a sporty coupe than a family car, and while the interior is upmarket, it can’t match the Ford Mondeo for practicality."
When it was crowned European Car of the Year in 2009, Vauxhall boldly claimed the Insignia was good enough to rival executive favourites like the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. However, in reality, it's still more suited to those looking at the Ford Mondeo, Honda Accord and Citroen C5. Despite its hatchback body, it's styled more like a sporty coupe than a family car and there's a massive range of engines and trims to choose from – plus a flagship VXR Supersport model with 321bhp and four-wheel drive.
On the road the Insignia is very comfortable and quiet. So while it lacks the driver appeal of the Ford Mondeo, it's a great choice for anyone who regularly travels long distances. The Insignia's steering is light but the car feels stable, and there's plenty of grip. The wide range of engines means there is something to suit all tastes – with the range-topping VXR Supersport model managing 170mph and 0-60mph in just 5.6 seconds. The mid-range diesels are a better bet for the majority of drivers, though, with the 128bhp 2.0 CDTi managing 0-60mph in 10.4 seconds and packing plenty of power for long motorway cruises. The cabin impresses too and it's easy to find a comfortable driving position with the supportive front seats. The gearlever is placed high and the shift action is light, so changing gear feels pleasant.
On long motorway runs, the Insignia feels extremely comfortable. There's plenty of space for driver and front seat passengers, and while headroom in the back feels tight due to its sloping roofline, legroom is reasonable. At cruising speed, wind and road noise is hushed, and the Insignia makes long journeys go by quickly. However, if you select the bigger wheels on SRi or VX-Line cars, it does tend to thump down into potholes and follow ruts in the road. If you value comfort highly, it's worth adding Vauxhall's FlexRide adaptive damping system, automatically tweaks the suspension, steering and throttle to match driving conditions.
With driver, passenger and curtain airbags offered as standard, the Insignia gets a leading five-star Euro NCAP test result. The Insignia was built from the ground up using brand new engines and parts, so reliability is much improved over the old Vectra – finishing an admirable 21st in the 2012 Auto Express Driver Power survey. What's more, every new Insignia – even the flagship VXR – now comes with a 100,000-mile lifetime warranty, covering the car for any eventuality for as long as a franchised dealer services the car.
A wide opening and easy to operate hatchback tailgate means access to the 530-litre boot is good. The rear seats fold down to create 1460 litres of space, but the load area isn’t completely flat making carrying longer items tricky – a Skoda Superb fares better in this area. On the plus side, front passenger space is plentiful and there are lots of places to store things. Rear knee room is acceptable, but sadly headroom is compromised by a comparatively low roofline.
Value for money
The Insignia is keenly priced and if you haggle hard you can get a decent discount – but entry-level versions are sparsely equipped. While the cheapest ES and Exclusiv models have big-car basics like air-conditioning and cruise control, they make do with manually wound rear windows, and has plastic wheel trims instead of alloy wheels. SRi, SE, ecoFLEX and Elite versions are better, so it's really a case of picking the best balance of price and equipment for you. Cars at the top end of the range are expensive and will lose their value the fastest – especially the flagship VXR Supersport, which loses out to rivals like the well-rounded and similarly priced BMW M135i.
Vauxhall's engines are relatively cheap to run but trail the best in terms of efficiency. The popular 158bhp 2.0-litre CDTi ecoFLEX offers up to 66mpg when fitted with stop/start but the entry-level 128bhp diesel is almost as frugal and much cheaper to buy. However, the BMW 320d is faster, more powerful and better to drive – and will still manage more than 60mpg. That said, many mainstream manufacturers can’t match Vauxhall's 100,000-mile lifetime warranty, which covers the first owner and any unexpected repairs for the lifetime of the car.