Insignia 4x4 lifestyle choice

As part of Vauxhall's plan to raise the profile of its entire range of cars, the company has been steadily shifting its various models further upmarket, writes Iain Dooley.

As part of Vauxhall's plan to raise the profile of its entire range of cars, the company has been steadily shifting its various models further upmarket, writes Iain Dooley. The mid-range Insignia is a good example; cabin ambience is there with German premium models.

The Sports Tourer version - estate to you and me - only serves to reinforce Vauxhall's new premium policy. Visually it eschews the traditional boxy estate car utility appearance. Sweeping curves replace the angular lines of its Vectra predecessor.

It's no secret that success in the desirable lifestyle end of the market is a long term aim, and with the introduction of all-wheel drive to regular Insignia Sports Tourer models, Vauxhall hopes to attract active types as well as those from the company car community.

All-wheel drive is often viewed as something reserved for high performance sports car, off-roaders and Audis. Keen to break this perception stranglehold, Vauxhall's decision is a brave one, but it hopes that such a move will prove attractive to drivers who tow or like to go off the beaten track a little once in a while.

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We're talking muddy paths, greasy slipways and the great British winter here and not full-on mud-plugging here. But even in this context, an all-wheel drive lifestyle estate car does sound appealing.

What we have here is a set-up offering safe, secure handling in all weathers, and one that's designed to take the worry out of towing.

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And for all the different trim levels and engine options available - predictably there are many when it comes to Vauxhall - there's one that is likely to stand out from the crowd: diesel. For sensible people this is where it gets interesting, as Vauxhall has coupled its Insignia Sports Tourer with all-wheel drive and a 158bhp diesel motor.

In diesel form the car just ducks under the magic 160g/km CO2 barrier at 159g/km with the six-speed manual gearbox. Factor in 47.1mpg on the combined cycle and you've got a pretty frugal and affordable car. Much of the credit for this must go the Insignia's adaptive all-wheel drive system. Under normal circumstances the car reverts to front-wheel drive, but as soon as a loss of grip is sensed it springs into action. Backing up its performance is an electronically controlled rear limited slip differential and Vauxhall's FlexRide adaptive suspension.

The final piece in this Insignia's electronic jigsaw is another standard-fit item: Trailer Stability Assist. In plain English what you get is stability control for when you've hitched up your trailer or caravan. The car senses something's attached once you connect everything up via the standard three-pin connector to the optional, approved tow hitch.

In fairness this Insignia variant is something of a niche player in the wider mainstream premium market. Most business driver will still go for the less expensive straight two-wheel drive model - you're looking at around a �1,750 premium for the all-wheel drive package.

However, anyone with lifestyle activity leanings should find that this Insignia offers an easier to live with experience than even the latest breed of compact SUVs.


Model: Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer 2.0 CDTi Exclusiv 160PS AWD, �24,505 on the road. On sale September

Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel unit developing 160PS

Transmission: Six-speed manual transmission as standard, driving the all four wheels

Performance: 0-60mph 9.8 seconds; top speed 130mph

Economy: 47.1mpg

CO2 Rating: 164g/km

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