Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport hatchback - Engines, drive & performance
An engaging backroad experience coupled with quiet motorway cruising make the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport an impressively well rounded car
While SUV sales may be escalating, such cars sit far higher off the road than the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport. That means their manufacturers must counter the body lean brought about by a higher centre of gravity, and this tends to be done by fitting stiffer suspension. This, in turn, often leads to an unforgiving experience over potholes, drain covers and other such impediments.
The Insignia doesn’t have this problem, as it’s a low car, meaning the suspension doesn’t have to cope with much body lean – although it’ll display a little if you really throw it around corners. The net result is it’s excellent at absorbing imperfections in the road and also gives the Insignia an impressive amount of grip. There’s also good feel through the steering wheel and – crucially, given the mileage Insignia owners are likely to cover – it’s an excellent motorway companion, offering a near-silent cruising experience in terms of wind, road and engine noise. The Insignia’s manual gearbox isn’t as smooth as the Ford Mondeo’s, but at least it’s satisfyingly chunky to use.
The sense of driver engagement absent from the old Insignia is most certainly present in this new car. Like the smaller Vauxhall Astra, the Insignia is enjoyable to drive without being thrilling, and rivals like the Skoda Superb have a sharper feel.
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Those after the sportiest version of the Insignia Grand Sport are best served by the GSi Nav model. It comes with an ESP system with a newly developed 'Competition' mode that turns off the traction control and allows more slide angle before the car's stability systems rein it back in. The result is that the car has an agile, playful feel that the standard Insignia lacks, but there is still a huge amount of grip on offer. The GSi also has a lowered sports suspension setup and a twin-clutch diff on the rear axle, both of which make it more fun and adjustable on the limit. The GSi's performance Brembo brakes are also impressive.
Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport petrol engine
The cheapest engine available for the latest Insignia is an all-new 138bhp 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol. It’s smooth and quiet enough, while its 0-62mph time of 9.3 seconds looks reasonable on paper, but we feel it’s a little underpowered, lacking the requisite punch for easy motorway overtaking. Pay Vauxhall £300 more and it’ll up this engine’s power to 163bhp, which represents excellent value and is a call we advise that you make.
Alternatively, there's a 197bhp, 1.6-litre, turbocharged engine that takes a shade over 7 seconds to reach 62mph.
Once you reach the models in the range that offer this engine, the Grand Sport costs over £10,000 more than the cheapest Insignia. Factor in higher running costs and the most powerful engines are likely to be relatively niche choices. However, canny buyers with long memories and strong reserves of patience may find this model something of a ‘sleeper’ hit on the secondhand market in a few years’ time.
The entry-level 1.6-litre diesel engine produces 108bhp, and as with the 1.5-litre petrol, give Vauxhall a little more money (in this case £500) and power goes up to 134bhp. This is enough for 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds (compared to the 108bhp model’s 11.1 seconds), and while that isn’t a hugely impressive figure on paper, it doesn’t really feel a lot slower than the 1.5-litre petrol. There’s plenty of power available when you need to overtake, and steep grades on motorway slip roads are effortlessly handled.
It’s worth remembering, though, that the tall sixth gear has been designed to reduce engine revs when cruising at high speeds – helping to reduce fuel consumption as well as lessening engine noise. It’s not a gear for acceleration, though: overtaking slower traffic often requires dropping to fifth or fourth.
If you (or your fleet manager) can stretch to it, the 168bhp 2.0-litre diesel sits almost at the top of the engine range. This is only available in mid-spec SRi trim and above and costs around £1,000 more than an equivalent Insignia with the 134bhp 1.6-litre diesel. It has an 8.4-second 0-62mph time and with its strong reserves of power it leads to effortless overtaking and is bound to appeal to those who spend a lot of time on the motorway.
The Elite Nav and GSi Nav models are also available with a bi-turbo 207bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine which is mated to four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox. It can accelerate from 0-62mph in 7.4 seconds and is very surefooted.