|Long-term test: Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer 170 Tech Line Nav
||46.4mpg, 85% of official
||28 November 2017
- We ran the Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer for six months
- Read our Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer full review
- Read about the rest of our long-term fleet
The story so far...
Parkers is running the Insignia Sports Tourer in company-car friendly Techline form. It's big and bold - but is it any good?
Our Vauxhall Insignia: Price, dimensions and performance
|1. Welcome||2. Settling in||3. Tourer on tour|
|4. Up on blocks||5. Back to life, back to reality||6. Earning its keep|
|7. Play Misty for me||8. Snow trouble||9. Quality contrasts|
|10. Warning lights
||11. Company car perspective
||12. End-of-term report
With the brand now under the wing of the PSA Group, it's likely that the next-generation Insignia will be based on a big Peugeot or Citroen. So, if you like big GM cars, then this is your last chance to enjoy one that wears a Vauxhall badge.
The current model comes in Grand Sport – hatchback, Sports Tourer – estate and the recently introduced Country Tourer – a lifestyle estate with four-wheel drive option. We're testing the latest Sports Tourer over the next few months in order to see if it's as good as high-mileage company cars than its highly-regarded predecessor.
Vauxhall Insignia – significantly improved over the last one
The car that’s been delivered to me is the Sports Tourer Techline NAV, with the well-known and proven 2.0 CDTi 170hp diesel engine and six speed manual gearbox. Overall, it goes some way to address most of the outgoing (E1 model) Tourer's issues but we’ll look at those in a later report.
It’s a longer, wider and lower car, with a business-like stance over the pretty looking E1-generation predecessor. Before, it was classy and gentlemanly, but now it’s sharper and more new-money youthful, reflecting the rapidly changing dynamics of the family estate car class.
Well-equipped and thoughtful features
According to the manuafacturer's blurb, the Tech Line sits one down from top of the range Elite model. The model is pretty much a user-chooser, fleet-orientated car, even before sprinkling the options it comes well equipped whether you are a retail or business customer.
Tech Line additions include:
- Alloy wheels
- Climate control
- Cloth seat trim
- Parking sensors
- Sat Nav
All the usual abbreviations are there for driver safety – like ESP and ABS – not to mention other stuff such as auto wipers and lights. Vauxhall’s clever OnStar is standard across the range along with its Navi900 intellilink system operated via an 8.0-inch touchscreen.
A practical and entertaining package… so far
Some good practical items feature such as twin rear USB ports and a push button rear seat fold that reveals a cargo deck almost as flat as a billiard table (unlike the last model). It takes very little time to realise a lot of detail thought has gone into this model.
The car also comes with a handful of interesting optional extras of which I shall go into more detail in the next report. Only having the car a matter of a few days now I’m discovering the Insignia Sport Tourer to be an easy and pleasing car to live with.
Insignia stacks up well against the opposition
Vauxhall hopes the Insignia will notch up some sales in the more profit-orientated retail market. The worrying thing for me is that this area now features one time unaffordable premium marques vying for a similar slice of the action thanks to aggressive PCP deals.
Exotica like the Jaguar XE and BMW 3 Series are all fighting in the same ring if you don’t mind not having your name on the V5 document. Vauxhall have some work to do in winning over hearts and minds not to mention the company ownership changing causing question marks in potential customer thoughts.
But as for those all-important first impressions, they seem good. Cracking performance from that 2.0 diesel allied to super smooth cruising and sharp suited looks make me hope this one’s going to be a relaxing and enjoyable few months – we’ll soon find out.
Winter is upon us. Thankfully, the Insignia Sport Tourer Tech Line NAV is coming into its own as the weather takes a turn for the worse. We touched upon the selected optional extras in the last report and as things get colder the features become more appreciated.
Being the wrong side of 40 with the odd twinge of backache, the heated front seats are a god send. They switch on manually or automatically, feature three settings that go from 'ooh that’s nice' to a fully blown 'argh – my backsides on fire' and they work really well.
Not only are the heating elements fitted in the backrest to the point where they are half way up your back, there’s also an effective heated steering wheel too. Some say the latter is a gimmick but I’ll argue in its favour, try one for yourself and you’ll soon change your tune.
This is included in the Winter Pack one option. Cold hands, warm heart? Not anymore:
We also optionally specified the car with Vauxhalls LED matrix headlamps - £1010. Is this a gimmick? Well upon hearing about it just before the launch of the Astra where this new Vauxhall feature was first introduced, I did scoff and mutter. It works damn well on the Astra but has been vastly improved on the new Insignia.
Matrix LED option makes light work of night driving
Having developed its matrix lighting technology in recent years, Vauxhall has now introduced a 32-light system (16 on Astra) within the Insignia headlamp units. The additional LEDs in the headlamps give smoother transitions between lighting patterns. All said, the intensity and beam spread is awesome – without blinding others.
Driving along winding country lanes at night almost seems like day. The ever changing beam patterns as you corner or meet passing traffic cause passengers to make praiseworthy comment. I previously mentioned that the Insignia is a well thought out car, but when other occupants mention stuff I must be correct in my findings.
Big and wide but the technology helps you
Another really useful feature is Advanced Park Assist. This enables you to seek and search parallel or side bay parking spots when driving up to 18 mph. The infotainment screen flags up and chimes to advise of a suitable space and all the driver needs to do is follow the instructions using the gears and brake pedal – it works very well.
With the car being very long it’s an option I would strongly recommend – especially if you spend many hours in multi-story car parks. Out on the open road the car is agile, relaxing and its size is soon forgotten, but in a crowded town or city its size is noticeable if you have stepped up from something smaller.
Here is a run-down of the options fitted to the Tech Line Nav.
• Winter Pack One at £660: Heated screen, heated seats, heated steering wheel
• Driving Assistance Pack Four at £595: Electrically foldable door mirrors with puddle lights, Advanced park assist, Lane change assist with side blind spot alert, Rear-view camera, Rear cross traffic alert
• LED Matrix Headlamps at £1010
• Two coat Mineral Black metallic paint at £565
• Upgraded 8 inch colour display at £415: Incorporating virtual dials and extra audio, phone and sat-nav information
• On the road price off the peg: £24,080
• On the road price including options: £26,760
Lots of toys and space to play with them too
Despite the fact the car has come with the aforementioned extra bells and whistles the Sports Tourer, regardless of model chosen, comes favourably well equipped. All models feature OnStar, All round power windows, city braking, lane assist, cruise control, air conditioning or climate control as well as Android Auto / Apple CarPlay.
On the subject of numbers, the Vauxhall is one big, long estate car. It's 4869mm long - even longer than the Skoda Superb, Ford Mondeo or pretty much anything else in its class and literally makes my partner's Passat look tiny in comparison. As a result you’ll have no worries about interior legroom, a huge improvement over the last model.
Punchy performance, but as for being miserly, it's off the mark
My early findings are telling me the fuel consumption figures need to improve. It’s working out at just below 45mpg (53.3 official) but it did come fresh out of the box - I’d expect to see and improvement as the mileage increases and the tightness lessens. The gutsy and startlingly rapid performance on tap does go some way towards forgiving my initial economy worries.
We have a few long distance journeys coming up soon and I have no doubt it will perform its duties with aplomb.
So, in these early days what can I say about the Insignia Sports Tourer? It’s a joy to cruise home from work with, and rather like the strap line from a well-known commercial – its soft, strong and very, very long.
Current Mileage: 1,040
Current MPG: 44.7
Even though we had known about the annual Christmas family bash long in advance, nothing prepared us for what we were about to endure on the journey from leafy Sussex to Cheshire. It’s a long old shlep point to point and it was to be the Insignia’s first decent trek.
Just days before our journey, the TV news was buzzing with snow and frost related stories. Knowing the pub we would be gathering at for the meal was top notch, I jokingly mentioned to the other half that I would get there with tennis rackets tied to my feet if needs must.
It soon became apparent that the mini valet the car was treated to was a total waste of time and money. The heavens opened in Sussex, it poured down where most places north became covered in snow.
Onwards we forged, round the M25 and onto the M1.
Insigna shows its effortless cruising capability
Once we had cleared the Home Counties and Northamptonshire the Insignia bowled along on cruise control. Long distance work is what this motor is all about, and with the exception of a little more rear tyre noise than I would like, it’s utterly superb in the motorway environment.
The ergonomics, ease of use, the splendid climate control and rather snug yet supportive front seats hammer home just how well designed this car is inside and out.
We swapped seats at Leicester Forest and my partner took over the driving to our overnight stop just outside Stoke on Trent. Peeling away from the M1 at junction 24, it soon became obvious the weather was turning. Rain became sleet, became slush, became snow, and by the time we arrived at our destination the white stuff was coming down hard and settling on the floor.
Snow Difficulties For Insignia
Leaving the house the next morning for the rendezvous in neighbouring Cheshire, my big black car resembled a van shaped white lump. Some four or five inches of snow had fallen during the night and by now the temperature had dropped to bring some black ice.
Using pretty much most of the optional Winter Pack features - such as the heated steering wheel, seats and screen - the car was ready for the off and toasty warm inside too. Watching other local drivers slithering around at jaunty angles was quite entertaining.
The missus and her mother by now were a little worried as to how we would even get the car up the 1:7 hill to the main road. At first, it wouldn’t but my plan of reversing 100 yards backwards to where the road levels out and taking a run at the bank did the trick – yay!
Good food, good company, good car
We had left in plenty of time, which was a good job as there were plenty of cars abandoned at unusual angles, where the owners had parked up and given up. We ploughed onwards with caution eventually arriving at the pub in rural Cheshire some 45 minutes early.
The small car park presented no worries whatsoever as I demonstrated the advanced park assist to the in-laws. There were plenty of “oohs and ahhs” as the on screen instructions and differing bleeps neatly found the perfect sized parking gap.
As expected, the food and company was superb. It was worth foraging our way there in some really awful weather and thankfully the journey back home was uneventful - we had been lucky going both ways. What helps also is the relaxing nature of the car itself.
Despite being of incredible length, it seems to shrink when on the move. It doesn’t feel heavy at the wheel and all the controls require little effort to use. Only in town at urban speeds where tight manoeuvres are required do you notice the bulk.
Now that some good old fashioned motorway tramping has been sampled, I can give a more informed quick like and dislike list:
Vauxhall Insignia's best features
- Well thought out clutter free dashboard
- Excellent seat comfort
- Motorway refinement is very good
- Silent engine when cruising at speed
- The power is there in any gear at any speed
- Every function and feature works efficiently
Mike Humble's mumbles and grumbles
- Rear tyre noise is quite pronounced on certain road surfaces
- Engine vibration at low revs and noise at high revs
- Fuel consumption when commuting is bettered by most rivals
- Seems very prone to misting up inside
- Glove box has very little space on offer
Current mileage: 1,850
Current MPG: 45.4mpg
The all latest-generation Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport and Sports Tourer mark the end of a significant chapter in the company’s history. With three different models to choose from, the Insignia is the last platform to be designed and developed under General Motors stewardship.
As with most of you reading this, Christmas means a time to relax and recharge the batteries. I for one fully agree, and in the last report I mentioned about visiting family up north.
Getting the ritual family visits out of the way just in time for the big fella sliding down the chimney, normally we just leave the phone off the hook, lock the doors and enjoy our own company.
The festive times just gone, however, have been memorable and interesting. Not because of anything planned but more because of the unexpected. Just a couple of days before breaking up from work I collapsed on the driveway, succumbing to what was subsequently diagnosed as a kidney stone.
Measuring an impressive 9mm - which isn’t far off the size of a Mint Imperial - my Christmas was spent in nearby Redhill hospital. I’m still awaiting surgery which is due very soon and only now am I in a position to be back in the saddle of the Insignia Sports Tourer.
While awaiting the permanent surgical solution I have been fitted with some temporary internal pipework. Among other side effects, some nagging lower back and abdominal pain makes driving rather uncomfortable.
Vauxhall Insignia's impressive comfort even more appreciated
Even though I was pretty impressed with the level of comfort on offer before, the variable heated seat has become a godsend to me. A tenuous link maybe, but I am not joking here. If it weren’t for the good level of lumbar adjustment and the way the seat rapidly heats right up to the middle of your back, it would still be parked up right now.
To look at, the seats are slightly plain looking but the scope of adjustment up front should suit every person and frame size. In fact my first solo run out to Essex just recently was undertaken without too much pain – until I got out that is.
Its only when you end up with some aches and pains do you fully appreciate a good chair. Even more so if you are a high mileage driver spending more than average time behind the wheel. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it once more, this is one heck of a comfortable car.
Some notable cost cutting here and there
Elements of cost cutting or weight saving are there to be noticed on the front seats however. Crank up the height adjustment for example and the bulk of the mechanisms that operate the chairs can be seen, owing to a lack of trim that would usually hide it.
That’s not a major issue, as you only notice it for the moment the door is open. But when my valeter chap asked if there was a piece of something missing when retreating with his vacuum cleaner, it made me realise it wasn’t just me being over picky.
On a good road there’s very little to fault in terms of refinement
For every downer, something else makes you appreciative. Put the Insignia a smooth road and the refinement is really very good. Helped no doubt by its thicker laminated side windows and a discreet extra door seal at the leading edge of the panel to combat wind noise.
Little by little the fuel consumption is improving with mileage and the gearshift quality has loosened up to the point now where I have no issues whatsoever – with the exception of the ugly and odd feeling gear lever.
Slowly getting back to normality, I have some ventures planned that are far afield. Once I am fully on the mend the Insignia will be right back to squadron motorway service once again – and I cannot wait.
Current mileage: 2698
Current MPG: 46.2mpg
At last normality has resumed. After my Christmas nightmare, I am well and truly on the mend not to mention back in the saddle. With my energy levels getting better day after day, it’s been good to get out and about – on foot as well as by car.
As daft as it may sound, I have really missed steering around in what a friend of mine calls – the world’s longest car. Not to dwell too much on this, it certainly is a lengthy car. An advantage of this is never having to mess about sliding the seats back and forth.
Back to life and back to reality – in comfort
I recently had a pair of lofty chaps as back seat drivers just the other day, neither had complaints about leg or headroom. Once thing worthy of note is by adding some extra ballast in the back, the road noise improves and the ride quality shifts from good to excellent.
To counteract praise, the one thing I had noticed was just how dirty the front doors and rear bumper get when driving during miserable wet days. Black would normally not be my chosen shade for a car, for sure it looks smart when clean but soon shows the muck.
Dirty cars getting me into a flap
So I put in a call to Vauxhall asking about mud flaps and they came up trumps. Never shirking the chance to get my tools out, I offered to fit them myself. A couple of weeks later a huge polythene bag turned up containing some bits of plastic and a bag of fittings.
Owing to my aforementioned illness the bag decorated the utility room worktop for a while much to my partners delight. Well after some rare sunshine and a bout of energy I threw a dust cover onto the driveway and cracked open the toolbox.
Barely half an hour later, all four flaps were fitted without as much as a cuss or mutter. It’s made a huge difference and the car doesn’t look like it’s entered the Land Rover G4 trophy each time I pop to the shops in the rain – I think it looks better for it too.
Techline comes well-appointed but some features can annoy
Being the kind of person who just enjoys DAB as a rule when driving, I’ve been getting to grips with the Android Auto function. Google maps offers another Sat-Nav option and benefits from being updated on a daily basis too.
The infotainment and sat-nav, despite having a slightly out of date fonts here and there, still works really well while also having a decent sound quality. Voice activated commands seem to suffer from very little lost-in-translation problems.
Some things about the Insignia annoy me, the lane-departure warning system is an example. Every time you jump in the car and go it’s automatically switched on. Even now I still keep forget to switch it off until I feel an annoying automated tug on the steering wheel.
Sports Tourer still seems a rarity on the roads
Nothing has changed, I still think the Tourer looks far better than the hatchback – not that the latter is by any means ugly. Incredible as it may seem but in all of my time driving it I have just this week spotted my second other Sports Tourer when out and about.
Sitting in queueing traffic on the Surrey stretch of the M25, a flip chip silver SRi lurked in the outside lane. Drawing alongside to a gentle halt the driver looked across to my direction. I returned the glance and he raised a hand as if to gesticulate a cheery hello.
So there you have it, it’s not just Morris Minor or classic Volkswagen Beetle drivers. We Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer drivers do it too upon sighting each other. It’s a good job I-Spy books don’t feature it – it would take years for the certificate to be sent to me.
It’s not just any old car though – I have owned it before. Well okay then I’ll come clean, it’s been owned by me more than once before. Do I run the risk of seeming slightly insane when I tell you that my name has been printed on the V5 not once, not twice but four times?
It’s a long enough story that I shan’t bore you with the detail; suffice to say that I have bought a very nice Rover 75 that I have shared a long and interesting history with since 2011. Bought back off the previous jockey I’d sold it to, I was invited to purchase a small number of spare parts he had acquired as well.
There were only a handful of items to collect from his place in Hertfordshire. An oil filter, some touch-up pens/sprays, floor mats and a few other goods and chattels Rover related.
Not exactly pushing the Sports Tourer’s capacity to the limit I hear you say, but there were seven other little bits to include too.
- A set of 18-inch alloy wheels with tyres
- A complete front bumper
- A driver’s side door
- And a spare wing - you can clearly see where this is leading
Tea and Tetris for a Vauxhall Tardis
Arriving in Hertfordshire the kettle was tested for function, some idle banter put the world to rights in his kitchen, and then some folding stuff was counted out on his dinner table.
With another appointment in Essex later that afternoon, we retired to his garage and garden shed to load up the parts. At first it didn’t look promising; by the time the wheels were carefully placed into the load bay, my thoughts were telling me this could, and just might, turn into a two journey trip.
Horsham to Stevenage isn’t the end of the world but I was hell bent on doing it in one go if I could. After much shuffling, swearing and repositioning we chuckled at the fact we were actually playing a three dimensional, horizontal game of Tetris. Next came the cumbersome and heavy door.
Using various items such as the floor mats and some decorating sheets to pad the corners and protect the Insignia’s interior, by sheer amazement it all went in. Had the rear seatbacks not folded fully flat or had the car been a couple of inches narrower the task would not have been successfully completed. Even the tailgate closed without fouling the cargo – once again I was impressed.
Insignia Sports Tourer: Practically flat-floored
Fair enough, the typical owner or driver may not wish to transport a complete car inside another one – but it just goes to show how truly practical it is. The electronic folding system works so quickly that I timed it at just 0.6 of a second – as close to instant access to the cavernous load bay as reasonably possible.
A simple finger button either side of the boot (below) releases the locks and the spring tensioned backrests drop down. Nothing else is required, no faffing with the seat belts or head rests either. It has a 40:20:40 split fold ratio too, only the armrest portion that doubles up as a ski hatch is activated manually.
A lesser sized car would have baulked at the job for sure, once again the Sports Tourer didn’t let me down on a mission.
Next stop was Tilbury where my road haulage business friend found the load bay quite funny to witness - as did the two Bobbies in an Essex Police traffic car that drew alongside, both officers looking over and smiling.
Back where it all began
It was only when I arrived back home in leafy Horsham did I realise we’d come full circle. That day, I had completely circumnavigated the M25 – all 117 miles of it. A complete clockwise journey joining and coming back via the M23 had occurred without so much as a moment of queuing traffic either – it’s how I roll.
No sooner had I emptied the car I was given the task of clearing out the filing cabinets and shredding the best part of a decade’s worth of bank statements. This soon turned into a full blown spare room clear out. Yet again, despite an incredible amount of rubbish, the car did the job in one hit, with room to spare.
Oh, when is the good weather going to come back? Ever since Christmas it’s been cold, wet and more recently - snowing.
My Insignia Sports Tourer may have an optional winter pack, and that’s gone a long way to take the sting out of a really nasty cold snap, but it’s something our part of the world doesn’t normally encounter.
Now the evenings are slowly starting to get lighter for longer, the clever, albeit optional and expensive i-Lux LED matrix headlamps aren’t so relied upon. However, the cold and the wet is horrible, and a curious trait of the car had been a slightly annoying tendency to fog up inside at any given opportunity.
Being the fuel miserly person I am, driving around all the time with the air conditioning switched on when it’s minus-OMG outside goes against my penny wise northern nature.
For a while I had noticed the problem being more serious than just driving around in a long hollow metal rectangle with lots of glass.
Problems yes, but it didn’t dampen my spirits
Booked into a Vauxhall Viva Rocks for a weeks’ worth of testing, I asked the folk at Vauxhall if they could have the Insignia back to check it out. Going from an ocean liner of a car like the Sports Tourer into a coracle sized Viva was certainly interesting, but surprisingly enjoyable too.
An email soon came through saying the car would be ready for collection from the Luton technical centre. The misting up was traced to a small hole in a panel seal below the windscreen on the driver’s side. Put down to a defect during manufacture, Vauxhall did make a point of saying this was very much an isolated incident.
Quick and professional repair
Rain water had made its way through a little more than a pinprick hole, run down the interior bodywork behind the insulation and started to collect under the carpet. Fixing was a little more invasive than I thought, amounting to a partial strip out of the interior and complete renewal of the carpet on the offside.
All is now good, and I was pleased to note that there was no sign that a technician had filleted the interior trim. After completing well over 600 miles in the smaller car, I handed back the keys to the roller skate Viva and slid back into the vast cabin of the Insignia Sports Tourer - it was so good to be back in it once again.
I’ve joined the (frozen) jet set
The recent snow turned to a deep freeze pretty much straight after this and the optional winter pack has proved its worth once more. You can’t beat a heated screen and steering wheel, and the Insignia’s heated seats are so effective you can feel them working before you’ve even reversed off the driveway. I have never experienced such fast working items.
But the bad weather has brought things to my attention. The washer bottle is small compared to other cars. When the level warning lamp comes on it seems to take just under two litres to replenish. Secondly, it seems that the washer jets themselves aren’t heated and prone to freezing up – despite the winter pack.
Minor grumbles you may think, but I seem to spend more time than usual with the bonnet raised. On the plus side though, it’s a chance to check the fluids and I can report the car has used no oil whatsoever during my incumbency, and the engine and gearbox have both loosened up nicely.
Well it had been booked weeks ago, and I was looking forward to it with more glee than a child the night before Christmas.
I am, of course, referring to the Spring Steam Gala at Worcestershire’s brilliant Severn Valley Railway. Three days of steam trains with the stars of the show being powerful GWR and LNER locomotives.
The journey from Sussex up to the Midlands is a good three hours plus, depending on how many people try to act like lemmings on the M25. Inevitably, snow was forecast and I had a choice of vehicle to use on the 170 mile journey.
Do I take Land Rover's all new Range Rover Velar D240, or a big black front wheel drive estate car?
Fun on the Autobahn… well, the M25 and M40
On a steam theme, not meaning to rake over old coals (groan) once more I must state how good at cruising the Insignia Sports Tourer really is. Android auto enabled, seat heating on and a suitable speed on the cruise control and it’s job done. My midlife crisis mix of Kraftwerk, Genesis and Dire Straits shrunk the journey.
My determined effort to wean myself off the evil weed meant there was no stopping off at the services for a quick cough and drag. The result was a prompt arrival just before the rail extravaganza was due to start. After meeting up with a mate, and a whole day riding on trains and taking images of steam locomotives, it was time to return home.
The weather took a turn but the car didn’t
Departing at tea time, it got very cold and the blizzards came down. Things were fine on the M5 and M42, but by the time I was heading south on the M40, I started to wish the grille badge was a green oval rather than a silver griffin. My choice by now was irreversible, and once again I ploughed onwards without stopping - in some nasty snow.
Those clever matrix headlamps cut through the blizzard with searchlight efficiency, and some three hours later I was in the warmth of my house just in time for the snow to fall once again. The fuel consumption recorded there and back of just under 49mpg seemed reasonable, if not exactly class leading.
Engaging if not exciting
You can’t call the Insignia Sports Tourer an exciting car - or with its slightly thirsty nature, efficient - but it is kind of engaging. A superb cabin with good ergonomics and a comfortable driving position is enough for me to appreciate. I have always driven big cars, and this is up there with the best for comfort.
The smaller wheels with higher profile tyres give a cracking ride but the downside is vague steering. However, as it’s a huge estate car for family or fleet motorists, does razor sharp handling matter that much?
Choosing between adrenaline or admiration for its comfort and ease of use… I’ll take the latter every time.
'Interior trim can make all the difference'
No sooner had I returned home from spending time with steam trains in the Midlands, it was time to hit the motorway again. Being a regular visitor to the mighty National Exhibition Centre just outside Birmingham, it’s a journey I could literally drive blindfolded – though I wouldn’t recommend trying.
Attending the Classic Car Restoration Show, the Insignia once again made mincemeat of mileage. Traversing the tarmac between our two biggest cities is what it’s designed to do.
This is ideal, as living where we do in Sussex requires planning and patience; any lengthy journey north usually involves the fearsome M25.
Insignia inspires desire in driver and passengers alike
As you can imagine, a lot of cars grace our driveway. Whether it’s a hybrid or a Honda, a jalopy or a Jaguar, most are greeted by my partner with overwhelming apathy.
What has been noted right from the very start with the Insignia Sports Tourer is the enjoyment she experiences as a passenger, or when taking the wheel.
She will usually volunteer to take over if we take a rest stop or if I complain of feeling tired. Shared driving is also reduced stress, after all. Regardless of a commute to work or a long motorway trek, the Insignia has received consistent praise.
The return journey from the NEC was shared equally between us. Even though I have mentioned before about the less than class leading MPG around the town, show it a good motorway and the performance to economy balance is particularly impressive.
We averaged over 53mpg on that trip – almost 100% of the claimed combined economy - and for a massive 2.0 170hp estate car, that’s not bad.
Never mind the width, feel the quality
More recently, I volunteered to ferry some drivers to a truck dealership to collect some new vehicles. Five burly blokes inside the car found room to spare, and despite the payload I barely noticed any reduction in performance.
Not only that, the ride comfort becomes almost limousine smooth with a bit of extra weight.
Passengers do make comments regarding the fixtures and fittings, too. Those with a past experience of Vauxhall have remarked about how well it seems to be put together. Just as relevant are comparisons between the likes of a VW Passat and Insignia - there isn’t much between the two in terms of quality.
Vauxhall have upped their game in the last few years, and with the current Insignia you can really feel it. As with the Skoda Superb, you have to look beyond the badge to fully appreciate how well engineered volume sector cars have become. The buying public and fleet customers have never been so fussy, or had so much choice.
Park up your troubles
If anything could be changed it would be the interior colour. The details and subtle flourishes of the design are slightly lost in the fifty shades of grey and black.
I recently sat in a new Elite model that had an Oyster coloured two-tone interior with wood trim. It felt and looked so smart and airy, throwing the dark ambience of my own into sharp relief.
Only one issue can be reported this time. A warning lamp came on along with a message to service the parking brake the other evening. After a restart, the message cleared - so I will keep an eye open for a repeat occurrence. Should it happen again I shall be sampling my local dealer’s excellent coffee once more.
In the last report, I made a mention of the one-off warning lamp illuminating advising me of an issue with the electronic handbrake. As mentioned, after a re-boot it didn’t happen again… until the other day.
Just as my life was officially put back on track after the all clear from the hospital following a recent illness, the car decided it needed its own bit of care and attention. After paying for the hospital car park I fired up black Bess and the lamp and chime came on again.
Last time I just shut off the ignition, waited a moment and switched on. This seemed to work once again, but no sooner had I shifted into reverse to back out of the space it did it again. This time the fault was persistent and seemingly here to stay.
I dropped the other half back home then drove to Crawley - where my nearest retailer resides - and wandered into the service reception. Explaining my troubles, I was initially told the car couldn’t get looked at before the following week, but then things changed.
Wiring fault is quickly diagnosed
The service advisor then returned to the desk and asked if the car could be left with them with a view to investigating the following day. Arranging the missus to come and collect me, I left the car in the hands of Go Vauxhall Crawley and awaited a phone call.
The timing of the problem was not good. Firstly, I wouldn’t be able to collect the car on the following day if ready, as I would be in Birmingham. Secondly, the in-laws were driving down and staying over for the weekend and we were planning on a trip down to Kent.
Repaired and returned with a clean bill of health… literally!
Somewhere northbound on the M40 the following day, Daniel from Go Vauxhall called to tell me everything was good again. He asked me if I still planned to collect the car early doors Saturday morning. 'Yes' was my reply, even though in my mind this was a logistical pain.
It turned out they had a driver spare to run the car over to my house in Horsham, and could save me running about early Saturday. Needless to say I was pretty impressed with this, especially when I arrived home late evening to find it washed and vacuumed too.
The handbrake issue came from a minor wiring problem that the manufacturer knows about. They undertook a software update while it was there and a service recall modification to the wiring. All is now good with the car and total confidence is restored.
Problems with e-handbrakes aren’t exclusive only to Vauxhall
For sure a duff electronic handbrake is a real pain and to some a potential worry, but other manufacturers suffer similar woes with these modern parking brakes. I recall running a Golf as a company car and that went back three times in a year with similar glitches.
Bearing in mind the current Insignia is a new car from the tyres upwards, I’ll restrain myself from being too critical. Our long term tests not only provide advice from real-world experience to help you with car purchasing decisions, they also give the manufacturers valuable feedback - be it good or otherwise.
For a completely new design over the last model, the new Insignia seems to be better than average when it comes to teething troubles. Engineers can test and simulate until they are blue in the face, but real world driving is where it really counts.
The call that I had been dreading finally came through just the other day. Just as I settle in and bond with the big Sig, those killjoy rotters at Vauxhall have advised me of the collection date – they want it back and it’s not far away either.
To be fair, we’ve actually eked an extra month out of the Insignia Sports Tourer – seven months rather than six. It’s been generally very well behaved in this period, a couple of minor issues as you will have read, but both speedily rectified.
No problem or load too big
After a long hard think, I reckon we have thrown the Sports Tourer into every scenario possible for a five seater, 2.0-litre, cargo eater. Be it ram-packed with spare car parts, colleagues, close family members, you name it, nothing has been too much for the Techline to tackle.
As the return date looms ever closer you would think it’s me who is starting to feel sad – but no. The person who is going to miss it the most is my other half – the company user chooser, Volkswagen Passat-driving, long suffering missus.
Surprise comments and praise from a fussy company car driver
I’ve mentioned before about how she enjoys the drive, the ride, the performance and the technology. For the record it was mentioned to me just a few days back that if this car was the five door Grand Sport model, she’d choose one over the Passat – I was stunned!
Like the proverbial wart – this one grows on you. A quick test drive round the block with a salesman wittering in your lug ‘ole never does any car real justice. Spend a few months with one, however, and you can end up treating it like one of the family.
A four-wheeled Saint Bernard of cars
Only recently, the Sports Tourer got me out of a sticky situation. While doing some work on an old Rover of mine, grafting away with its wireless on in the background, I killed the battery stone dead. After much searching I couldn’t find the battery charger.
Jump leads to the rescue – if the Insignia was a dog I would have patted it on the head and given it a biscuit. As the miles pile on, the economy slowly but surely improves, after 7,000+ miles a figure of 46.4mpg is the current rate of thirst.
Spending some quality time – it really is a great car
So after just a short of seven months and more than 7,000 miles, have there been any other issues or expenses we haven't already mentioned here? Nope – nothing, just fuel and screen wash, it’s not needed the dust caps on the tyres removing or requested a drop of oil.
So there we have it – another uneventful report on my huge estate car friend. We do have one more long haul planned for the Insignia Sports Tourer days before it returns to Luton. It’s going to be its longest journey yet – fingers crossed!
By Mike Humble
So that’s it then. After almost seven enjoyable months, the Insignia 2.0 CDTi 170 Sports Tourer Techline goes back to its manufacturer. Even though it’s not been uneventful, I must admit that I’m rather sad to see it go – as is the other half.
Though I’ve said before, the Insignia doesn’t blow your mind with desire nor does it make you feel all Fangio behind the wheel. But it’s not about the aforementioned, it’s all about how a car slots into your life and performs with its tasks.
Insignia Sports Tourer: the best Vauxhall yet?
The new Insignia is arguably the best current Vauxhall model in the brochure. The Astra is a fine vehicle but for me I think the new Insignia represents a zenith in the company's attempt to hold its head high in the volume sector.
The level of standard equipment is superb, as is the level of technology. Driver comfort and, in 2.0 diesel guise, its performance are equally impressive. Sadly it lags behind in areas such as emissions and fuel economy - even then, it’s not that bad.
Insignia 2.0 BlueInjection: incredible touring economy
I mention the economy, but its below average on-paper figures only come to the fore when commuting or running around the doors. Show it an open motorway and it not only beats but smashes the quoted combined economy data – Horsham to Darlington almost nudged 60mpg.
It was on this journey we both discussed the car at length and collected every bee, fly and midgie along the way. My other half more than once commented about how sad she was to be seeing car leave us, having enjoyed it almost as much as I have myself.
When getting there matters more than frugality, the performance is spot on. It doesn’t so much as pull from its boots at low to mid revs… more like it tears out tree stumps. The recently-introduced 210hp Biturbo model is available too – but you really don’t need it.
There's power right round to the limiter, too, but your ears are reminded of the fuel type when you press hard. There’s just a little too much vibration at low revs too, again, a reminder that this engine is based on a mature design.
Not very exciting but oh-so easy to live with
As a big estate car, those worries aren’t major issues. The typical driver isn’t going to use every available revolution all of the time, or drive like they are going for a quarter mile record at Santa Pod. As a family or company hack, the Sports Tourer is a fine motor.
There’s a colossal amount of interior space, the boot floor is wide and flat, the rear seats fold electrically, and the ergonomics have been thought out for ease of use in mind. Overall the Insignia is a very easy and enjoyable car to live with.
Back seat drivers getting an earful
Concerns? Road noise in the back can get very intrusive compared with most other rivals, though Vauxhall says it is working on a solution. For most of the time it’s okay, but concrete motorways hum and rough tarmac roars – sometimes almost deafeningly.
That said, when the surface is good high speed cruising is what this car is all about. A very high overdrive top means the engine is inaudible when sitting at the legal maximum. Excellent door seals means wind noise is commendably low too.
Vauxhall Insignia: people like the styling
It's well-styled in my, er, humble opinion. A good number of folk have commented on its good looks and crisp styling – not to mention the incredible length. My word it is a long car too, but on the flip side it doesn’t actually feel that long or cumbersome to drive neither.
User-friendliness comes in the form of well-placed cup holders, deep door pockets that are neon illuminated and a sprinkle of trinket cubby holes for loose change and sweets. The glovebox though is rubbish thanks to the fuse box – just enough room for the handbook and a bag of mints.
Hasn’t been without problems, but cured without fuss
The car has spent a few days off the road too, which has been a bit annoying but relatively painless. Our local dealer on each occasion has been attentive, courteous and understanding.
Listening intently as I have waited around made me notice how good they really were. I have more dealership experience than average thanks to being a former salesman, parts manager and mechanic.
Here is where the war is fought, Vauxhall need to shape up their outlets. Some are top class where others are rather poor when it comes to customer satisfaction.
The Parkers verdict: Is the Insignia worth considering?
So is the Insignia Sports Tourer a car to recommend? I say yes. Comfortable, fast, frugal, spacious, stylish, well equipped and damn good value for money – it’s been a good fit for me as every aforementioned factor appears on my wish list.
Far from perfect, but rather like a family pet, it grows on you after a bit of time and you sure as heck miss it when it’s gone. Vauxhall may be going through some reshaping at the moment, but I reckon they will come out of the other side a bit leaner and fighting fit.
By Mike Humble