New Vauxhall Insignia is so much more for much less

Changes to new Vauxhall Insignia are more than skin-deep with new engines, revised suspension, a mor

Changes to new Vauxhall Insignia are more than skin-deep with new engines, revised suspension, a more user-friendly dashboard and lower pricing. - Credit: Vauxhallt

Vauxhall has revitalised its Insignia... and slashed the pricing, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

From the outside you might think Vauxhall has not done a lot to improve its new Insignia but climb inside and drive it and the benefits are immediately obvious.

The Insignia is a big player for Vauxhall – its biggest market is the UK where it leads its sector outselling the Ford Mondeo – so it is looking to build on that success.

Launched five years ago and Car of the Year in 2009, the Insignia launched Vauxhall's new family look which is still stylish so the designers have sharpened the face and tweaked the rear to make the car look wider, lower and more expansive with a new grille and headlights at the front and new lights and a wide chrome bar at the back while the Vauxhall 'wing' design cue is even more evident.

It's also the most slippery car in its car with body design touches to make it more aerodynamic which helps economy, emissions and wind noise.

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With 80% of Insignias fleet sales, many covering huge distances, the engineers and marketing team have focused on key issues and raising the appeal to company car drivers… and private buyers also benefit.

Some of the biggest changes are reserved for improving the interior ambience, not that the Insignia was lacking in the quality and aesthetics departments, but let's start with one of the biggest grumbles. The fascia has been redesigned – gone is that console with its array of small, fiddly buttons to be replaced by more intuitive controls. The models at launch were fitted with the bigger 8in touchscreen infotainment display in the centre console which can also be operated via controls on the steering wheel, voice control or a mouse-style, fingerpad controller between the front seats. A selection of apps, downloadable via iPhone, will be available early next year. Not content with just one screen, the optional upgraded instruments cluster features another 8in colour screen which displays the speedo in analogue or digital form as well as a host of other functions including smartphone, audio or navigation.

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The big news under the bonnet is four new engines – 170PS 1.6-litre and 250PS 2.0-litre SIDI turbo petrol engines and new 120 and 140PS ecoFlex versions of the 2.0-litre turbo diesel which joins the 163PS unit and 195PS BiTurbo.

The petrol units have a good blend of economy and performance which will appeal to keen drivers for whom ultimate economy isn't the priority. In real-world driving the 1.6-litre unit gives little away to the 2.0-litre with a willingness to rev freely and brisk enough to make good progress if you keep the engine on the boil with the six-speed manual gearbox. If you don't want to be so hands-on a six-speed automatic is optional.

The stars are the new ecoFlex 2.0-litre diesels which both come in at 99g/km good for the environment and company car drivers' wallets and they will pay less tax.

We drove the 140PS version, expected to be the most popular, which benefits from stronger pull, picking up cleanly and eagerly from low revs and delivering useful mid-range punch. The new engines not only boast low emissions and high economy but are quiet and refined cruisers although they get noisy if worked hard.

As part of the aerodynamic tweaks the ecoFlex 120 and 140PS 2.0-litre turbo diesels have an active front air shutter in the grille which cuts drag by up to 8% and, because, it opens only when cooling is needed, the engine warms up faster so reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

If you cover high mileage you want something comfortable to cruise in. The Insignia is now even more accomplished with tweaks to the dampers, roll-bars and steering to improve the ride and reduce NVH (noise, vibration and harshness). The new Insignia is noticeably smoother and quieter on poor roads and on good surfaces just glides along but the electronic power steering, while making city driving and parking a doddle, lacks feels at speed. Despite the extra comfort, the Insignia still handles confidently and competently – just what the high-mileage drivers want.

The really good news is Vauxhall has realigned its pricing – that's cut them to you and me – with entry models nearly £2,000 les s while top-spec models are up to £4,825 cheaper. It means there will no longer be the big discounts, so improving residual values and personal contract purchase (PCP) rates, and combined with lower emissions which determine the benefit-in-kind tax rate on the price of the car that's a double whammy for business users.

The Insignia is important for Vauxhall with the original launching its new family design. Now the new model is driving down the cost of ownership and for a fleet-dominated model that is going to have a huge impact.

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