Road test: Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport SRi Nav 2.0 (170hp) Turbo D BlueInjection

  • Larger Insignia Grand Sport has more passenger space, smaller boot
  • Handling, ride and performance are up to class-leading standards
  • Masses of equipment for your money

The launch of the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport comes at a crossroads for its maker. On one hand, the market for large saloons and hatchbacks is under a two-pronged attack from a raft of crossovers and premium-badged rivals. And on the other hand, there's much discussion about Vauxhall's future, following the announcement of PSA's takeover.

So, the new cars needs to be good. Not only, that, but the Insignia Grand Sport needs to compete effectively against its old enemy, the Ford Mondeo, as well as the Skoda Superb, Mazda 6 and Volkswagen Passat. Tall order, then.

We're driving the 2.0 SRi version in 170hp diesel form to find out if Vauxhall has succeeded in these aims.

What's it like inside?

The immediate impression is that the new car is roomier, most obviously in the rear. This isn't the case in the boot, as capacity is down 40 litres to a 490-litre capacity. However, it's better-shaped than the old car.

The interior feels airy – and for the driver, the newly de-cluttered dashboard is more appealing than before. Vitally, there are still proper switches for important things like the air-conditioning and stereo.

Overall, the Insignia’s cabin looks upmarket, especially with the SRi's model's larger digital display behind the wheel. The rev counter and fuel gauge are physical instruments but the speedometer is a customisable graphic version with a large numerical display.

How is it for the driver?

The driving position is highly adjustable seat and steering wheel can be tailored for drivers of all shapes. Despite the width of the cabin, the armrests are appreciably close to the driver.

Smartphone integration is made easy with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which is standard on all models, while the tech-fest continues with Vauxhall’s OnStar virtual concierge service and an on-board Wi-Fi hotspot for up to seven devices likely to be standard across the bulk of the range.

The front seats are large and cossetting and can be set really low down – great for tall drivers, and also improving rear passenger vision, making the cabin feel large and airy wherever you’re sat.

What's it like to drive?

Your first impressions are dominated by a sense of refinement. Engine noise from the 2.0-litre diesel at least is admirably hushed, although it gets a touch vocal at the top of the rev range. There’s a bit of wind rustle on the motorway but on the whole the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport is a quiet and relaxing place to spend a long journey.

The steering is quite light and doesn’t offer much in the way of feedback, but the car feels planted on the whole and there’s plenty of grip from the front and rear wheels.

Thanks to a longer wheelbase than the previous car, the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport boasts better ride comfort than before, even on the large 20-inch wheels of our test car. We reckon the 18-inch option will be seriously smooth, and also a bit quieter on the move.

Bearing in mind the size of the car and the quality of the ride, body control is impressive. You can induce quite a bit of lean in a fast corner but it doesn’t lurch around or dive badly under braking.

This top-of-the-line diesel - a 2.0-litre unit with 170hp carried over from the last car – performs impressively, especially in the mid-range. It offers punchy acceleration across the board. There’s a bit of a delay at low revs and little value in stretching it beyond 4,500rpm, so you need to work the gearbox to keep the engine in this fairly narrow operating range.

Equipment

This SRi Nav is very well equipped. It comes in at £21,715, and as yet Vauxhall has to announce any finance deals.

Stand-out equipment includes:

  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Intellilink Navi 900 multimedia system with 8.0-inch touchscreen and sat-nav
  • OnStar Personal Assistant – the system can now recommend and book a hotel for you, and also send directions to a parking space to the sat-nav

There are also a few options on this model that bump up the price: that electronic screen in the middle of the instruments is an extra £415, while the perforated black leather seat facings are an extra £1,155. Fancy those excellent Intellilux LED matrix headlights? Be prepared to shell out a further £1,010 for the privelege. 

Verdict

Overall, the new Insignia Grand Sport is a hugely impressive effort. It hasn't reinvented the wheel, but then again, it doesn't need to – it's composed on the motorway, is bigger inside, is well equipped and good value in terms of straight list price.

It looks like Britain's hardest working car is now pretty much near the top of the class – a viable alternative to the Ford Mondeo or Skoda Superb. Will it steal sales away from the premium opposition? Probably not, which is a shame – they're missing out on a great value alternative.

Click here for the full review of the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport