"The Insignia is styled more like a sporty coupé than a family saloon, and while the four-door has a premium feel, it's not as practical as its Ford Mondeo rival."
When the Insignia was crowned European Car of the Year back in 2009, Vauxhall boldly claimed its family model was good enough to rival compact executive favourites like the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. Despite its hatchback or four-door body, the Insignia is styled more like a sporty coupé than a family car, while there's a massive range of engines and trims to choose from – including a high-performance flagship VXR model with 321bhp and four-wheel drive.
On the road the Insignia is very comfortable and quiet. So while it doesn’t have the same driver appeal as the Ford Mondeo, it's a great choice for anyone who regularly travels long distances. The steering is light but the car feels stable, and there's plenty of grip. The cabin impresses, too. The gearlever is placed high and the shift action is light, so changing gear feels pleasant.
On long motorway runs, the Insignia is very comfortable. There's plenty of space for driver and front seat passenger, and although rear headroom feels tight, legroom is reasonable. Minimal wind and road noise at cruising speed means long journeys pass by quickly in this car. But it thumps into potholes at town speeds, especially if you go for a higher-spec model with big alloy wheels.
Standard driver, passenger and curtain airbags helped the Insignia achieve the maximum five-star score in Euro NCAP crash tests. The car was built from the ground up using brand new engines and parts, so reliability is still under scrutiny, but there have been no official recalls, while owners haven’t yet reported any major problems, either.
The hatcback tailgate is easy to operate and opens wide, giving good access to the boot. The rear seats fold to provide 1,460 litres of space, but the load area isn’t completely flat. Still, there's plenty of front passenger space and lots of storage cubbyholes. Sadly, the relatively low roofline compromises headroom.
Value for money
The Insignia is keenly priced, but entry-level versions are sparsely equipped. While the cheapest Exclusiv has big car basics like air-conditioning and cruise control, it also makes do with manual 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. Cars at the top of the range are expensive and will lose their value the fastest.
Vauxhall's engines trail the class leaders in terms of fuel efficiency and emissions. The popular 158bhp 2.0-litre CDTi diesel returns economy of 48.7mpg. Compare that to the more powerful diesel engine in the BMW 320d, which provides over 60mpg.