Vauxhall Insignia hatchback review
"The latest Vauxhall Insignia is sharper to look at and drive, while offering lots of equipment for the price"
- Excellent value
- Enjoyable to drive
- Sleek and stylish
- Lacks premium brand image
- No plug-in hybrid model
- Petrol engines are thirsty
The Vauxhall Insignia targets the very best family cars on sale and in many ways it betters them. This alone should make it a hit for Vauxhall but it still faces lots of competition – and not just from its own class.
A facelift in early 2021 gave the Insignia a midlife refresh and saw the ‘Grand Sport’ part of the name dropped. The model line-up was simplified and a tweaked range of engines and upgraded technology was introduced in an attempt to keep the Insignia competitive with rivals like the Ford Mondeo, Peugeot 508 and Skoda Superb.
Cars like the Insignia and the Mondeo have fallen out of favour in recent years, with buyers instead opting for more upmarket models like the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class. This has led sales of more mainstream large family cars to dwindle, with brands like Nissan, Renault and Citroen discontinuing their models in this segment altogether. Instead manufacturers have turned to crossovers and SUVs, with models like the Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga, SEAT Ateca and Skoda Karoq hoovering up customers.
Despite these changing trends, the latest Insignia is an accomplished car. It’s lighter than its predecessor and costs far less to buy than some rivals. For such a practical car, it’s certainly keenly priced and Vauxhall offers it with a decent choice of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines. However, the lack of a hybrid powertrain in the Insignia line-up is noticeable, with rivals such as the Mondeo, Passat, 508 and Superb all boasting a hybrid or plug-in hybrid engine option. While Vauxhall has yet to officially confirm, it’s thought the petrol/electric powertrain from the Grandland X PHEV will make it into the Insignia in the future.
Diesel engines have traditionally been popular in cars of this size and the entry-level 120bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder is very capable, officially managing over 60mpg when matched with a manual gearbox. However, it needs to be worked hard to make progress, with 0-62mph taking 10.7 seconds. The more powerful 172bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel is available from the SRi Nav trim level upwards, making it considerably more expensive to buy. It's also capable of over 60mpg, and offers better performance, taking 8.2 seconds to get from 0-62mph.
Vauxhall’s 2.0-litre engine is best suited to drivers who don’t have high annual mileages. Both engines are fitted with a nine-speed automatic gearbox, and the 197bhp version is only available from the SRi VX-Line Nav trim upwards, making it a costly proposition at nearly £35,000. Above this is the 227bhp engine, which is exclusive to the flagship GSi model. It gets an advanced four-wheel drive system and a long equipment list but pushes the starting price to over £40,000. Both versions of the petrol Insignia manage 0-62mph in around seven seconds, with claimed fuel economy of 30-37mpg.
Approaching the Insignia, it’s immediately apparent that this is a big car. It’s only 4cm shorter than the latest BMW 5 Series from the class above, and is a similar width as well. It’s also a very low car; Vauxhall has dropped the driving position by three centimetres compared to the outgoing Insignia.
The low-slung design gives it a direct sense of connection with the road, which is matched by the overall driving experience. The steering is nicely weighted and communicates what’s going at the wheels, the suspension firmness is well-judged and you get a strong sense that the lessons learned from the latest, sharp-handling Vauxhall Astra have been passed on to the larger Insignia. Among front-wheel-drive rivals, though, the latest Skoda Superb feels a little sharper to drive, while the rear-drive BMW 3 Series remains the handling champ.
The Insignia’s significant stature means interior space is excellent in general, with huge amounts of legroom – front and back – and a well-shaped boot. Rear headroom is a little tight thanks to that low profile, however, and while the Insignia may come close to matching the cavernous Skoda Superb for interior space, the Superb’s greater height means its back seats are more comfortable for taller adults.
Vauxhall now offers five trim levels with the Insignia, but even entry-level SE Nav cars come with LED headlights and high-beam assist, all-round parking sensors, cruise control, a leather steering wheel and a seven-inch infotainment touchscreen, complete with sat nav, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and DAB radio. Moving up through the range adds extras like a larger touchscreen, a Bose premium stereo system, a rear spoiler, automatic wipers and upgraded interior trim details; top-spec Ultimate Nav and sporty GSi Nav cars come with Intellilux LED Pixel headlights and leather seats.
The pre-facelift version of the Insignia achieved the full five stars in Euro NCAP’s independent safety assessments, helped by the standard fitment of lane-keeping assistance and an autonomous emergency braking system that works at urban speeds.