Vauxhall Insignia - which version should you buy?

  • Vauxhall’s large family hatchback examined
  • Enormous choice of trim and engines
  • We find out which version makes the most sense

Launched as a replacement to the Vectra in 2008, the Vauxhall Insignia has become a common sight on UK roads. Last year it comfortably surpassed rivals such as the Ford Mondeo, Skoda Superb and Mazda 6 in terms of units sold, coming second in its segment only to the BMW 3 Series.

New for 2015 was a low-emission 1.6-litre ‘Whisper’ diesel engine aimed at fleet buyers. Together with Vauxhall’s fuel-saving EcoFLEX technology, the Insignia is seen as an attractive company car proposition and goes some way to explaining the 43 percent increase seen in Insignia fleet registrations last year.

Popular as it may be, there’s a vast and highly confusing variations of spec on the Insignia. Thirteen trim levels and eight engines mean choosing the model you want could be an arduous task. To make things a little easier, we’ve worked our way through the range and found out which models make the most sense.

Sports Tourer

If you need a little extra space, Vauxhall also makes an estate version of the Insignia – the Sports Tourer – for a premium of around £1,300. With the rear seats in place, the Sports Tourer’s boot space is up 10 litres on the hatchback at 540 litres. Fold them down and there’s 60 extra litres in the estate, total capacity coming in at 1,530 litres. Engine and trim wise, the Sports Tourer is largely the same as the hatchback.

Vauxhall Insignia specification

Vauxhall lists 13 different trim levels for the Insignia, so in order to make things a little easier, we’ve condensed them into four key levels: Design, SE, Tech Line and Elite.

Picking the trim level

Design is the Insignia’s base specification, yet you still get quite a lot of kit thrown in. This includes:

  • LED daytime running lights
  • Cruise control
  • DAB radio with Bluetooth phone connectivity and a 4.2-inch colour monitor
  • Climate control
  • Electrically adjustable/heated door mirrors
  • Steering column adjustment for reach and rake and a leather-covered steering wheel

Moving up to the SE trim level and, in addition to the Design trim specification, you get:

  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • Electric rear windows
  • Rain-sensitive windscreen wipers
  • Automatic headlights
  • Anti-dazzle rear-view mirror

The Tech Line trim is predominantly aimed at company car drivers, only being available for cash or on a business deal. Included in the spec is:

  • Sat-nav
  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • Automatic lighting with tunnel detection
  • Rain-sensitive windscreen wipers
  • Electrically operated rear windows
  • Anti-dazzle rear-view mirror

 The Elite spec is one of the top-level trims, and includes additional features such as:

  • Vauxhall OnStar (in-car Wi-Fi, vehicle diagnostics, calls for assistance if the vehicle is involved in an accident)
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • High-beam assist (high beam automatically dips when traffic comes the other way)
  • Rain-sensitive windscreen wipers

Engines

Engine choice is one of the Insignia’s strongest suits. There are two diesels and three petrols on offer, plus another high-powered version of the latter available only on the VXR model. Every engine, bar the 1.4-litre petrol and all EcoFLEX variants, come with the option of an automatic gearbox.

Company car drivers will almost certainly be attracted to Vauxhall’s EcoFLEX engine technology, available on the Insignia’s turbodiesel units – the 136hp 1.6-litre and 170hp 2.0-litre. The former in particular emits just 99g/km of CO2, resulting in zero road tax and a competitive 17 percent Benefit-in-Kind (BIK) rating. A quoted 74.3mpg on the combined cycle is impressive, though bear in mind that real world figures will be considerably less.

If the lower-powered option isn’t punchy enough for you, the 170hp 2.0-litre variant has a BIK rating starting from 22 percent with road tax coming in at £30 a year. Both engines are also available in standard form, though emissions and fuel economy figures are inferior to ecoFLEX models.  

Petrol wise, Vauxhall has catered for customers at both ends of the scale, with a low-emission 1.4-litre turbo and a gas-guzzling 250hp 2.0-litre unit. The smaller of the two engines is good for 0-62mph in 10.9 seconds, while fuel economy is still at a respectable 53.3mpg on the combined cycle. Opt for the more powerful 2.0-litre (only available on VX-Line models), and while fuel economy plummets to 39.2mpg, 0-62mph is timed at 7.5 seconds – 1.9 seconds quicker than the 2.0-litre diesel. 

An entry-level 1.8-litre petrol is also available on the Insignia hatchback, although with inferior performance and £210 a year road tax, we’d avoid this engine if you can.  

A point worth noting is that a number of the efficiency figures quoted above, are trim dependant. For example, the 1.6-litre EcoFLEX diesel is free to tax and delivers 74.3mpg in Design, SE, Tech Line and SRi spec. Yet, go for any other trim level, and economy will drop to 72.4mpg, while road tax will increase to £20 after the first year. This is especially relevant if you regularly frequent London’s Congestion Charge zone, where only zero-road-tax vehicles are exempt from the toll.

Insignia VXR

VXR edition Insignias are the most powerful in the range, and come with a 325hp 2.8-litre turbocharged V6 and four-wheel drive. Starting from £30,734 for the hatchback, the VXR benefits from a swathe of standard kit including sat-nav, 19-inch alloys, rain-sensitive wipers, a limited-slip differential and an eight-inch digital instrument display exclusive to the model.

Verdict

Despite having such a baffling selection of trim and engine options, the Vauxhall Insignia remains a well-priced, comfortable large hatchback or estate option.

Engine wise, we’d opt for the 136hp 1.6-litre EcoFLEX diesel unit. It’s quiet, smooth and punchy while boasting exceptional efficiency figures. Make sure you twin it with one of the lower trim levels though, as fuel consumption and emissions increase markedly on higher-spec models. Our pick would be the SE trim, priced at £21,674 with the 1.6-litre EcoFLEX diesel engine. Electric rear windows, rain-sensitive wipers and automatic headlights all come as standard, while useful optional extras such as a rear-view camera, dual-zone climate control and blind spot alert can be added.  

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