Vauxhall’s mile-munching Insignia new pride of fleet

Facelifted Vauxhall Insignia provides a lot more appeal for less money combined with low emissions a

Facelifted Vauxhall Insignia provides a lot more appeal for less money combined with low emissions and high economy. - Credit: Vauxhall

The Vauxhall Insignia is a great hi-tech and comfortable travelling companion, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

When you are pounding the roads for hundreds of miles, day in, day out, you need a car that makes that daily grind easier and less stressful.

That's the market Vauxhall's Insignia is aimed at, with 80% business customers, with the new model having the talents to deliver.

Vauxhall calls it the new Insignia but, in reality, it is a mild facelift on the outside and a lot more technology inside. That's no bad thing because, originally launched nearly five years ago, the Insignia hatch, saloon and Tourer still look good as the models that took Vauxhall on its current styling road.

I've been driving one of the models that will prove so appealing to fleets and business-users – so it's going to be a diesel. The 170PS 1.6 and 250PS 2.0-litre turbo petrols are minor players against the 2.0-litre turbo diesel offered with outputs of 120, 140 and 163PS.

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In 120 and 140PS guise, here is an engine as lean and green as many city cars and superminis with CO2 emissions as low as 98g/km – which means company car drivers can save around £1,000 over three years in benefit-in-kind tax against key rivals – and an official 76mpg combined which helps keep fleet running costs down. No wonder Vauxhall sees the Insignia as a big part of its bid to be the UK's best-selling car-maker by 2016.

The 140PS ecoFLEX diesel has strong mid-range punch but with the six-speed gearbox having tall ratios to keep revs down and boost economy, along with stop-start, you need to change up at higher speeds and down earlier to stop the engine feeling flat.

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But with many Insignias munching motorway miles, an indicated 70mph is around 1,600rpm in sixth gear which makes it extremely quiet with engine and road noise well muted. Even with a lot of city work I was getting 55mpg with 60mpg most of the time.

And for those high-milers the Insignia is a very comfortable car. The ride is supple and compliant, soothing away the buzz and bumps of corrugated motorways. That said, the suspension is on the soft-side, even on the sportier SRi model, so can feel a little floaty at speed on undulating roads. The Insignia handles competently but is more cosseting cruiser than sharp-handling bruiser.

Front and rear-end styling has been refreshed and sharpened but, spend a lot of time on the road, and the bit you see most is the fascia and this is where Vauxhall has worked wonders with state-of-the-art smartphone-friendly technologies and functions. Gone is the bank of tiny, fiddly buttons on the centre console with infotainment and sat-nav now controlled via the screen itself, buttons on the steering wheel, voice control or a touchpad between the front seats you can write on. The voice control means you don't take your hands off the steering wheel or eyes off the road so improving road safety too. You can even pay an extra £400 for an 8in instrument cluster to display driver information.

You'll also appreciate upmarket trim materials, cohesive styling, supportive seats, front head rests that adjust for reach as well as height and a spacious cabin, although headroom in the back is a tight for tall passengers. The 530-litre is bigger than you expect but there is a slightly raised bracing member at the back but it takes a huge load of luggage. It grows to 1,463 litres with the rear seats flat but leaves a step from the boot floor.

Further good news is the Insignia is more for less with prices starting nearly £2,000 less than before which will appeal to retail buyers who don't like to haggle a sale and company drivers will pay tax on a lower list price.

Trim levels have been cut to eight – Design, Energy, Limited Edition, SRi, SRi VX-Line, SE, Tech Line and Elite with specific models aimed at retail and business drivers.

It is easy to sneer at 'commonplace' Vauxhalls but it's not difficult to see why the Insignia has proved such a fleet favourite.

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