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Sat-nav, Bose sound system, dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, heated front and outer rear seats, LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning.
From the late '80s to the early 2000s, the GSi badge was affixed to some of Vauxhall's hottest performance models. Well, now it has returned, but not to denote fire-breathing speed machines.
Instead, Vauxhall says it aims to blend a driver-focused chassis and dynamic styling with performance "in line with today's CO2 requirements". This means the Insignia GSi, the first model to bear the reborn badge, doesn't get a bespoke high-performance engine, but instead has powertrains also available elsewhere in the range - a 260hp petrol, and a 210hp diesel. We drove the latter, installed in the Grand Sport hatchback - a Sports Tourer estate is also available.
Focused on cornering
Just because the engines are relatively modest, it doesn't mean Vauxhall's engineers have gone easy when it comes to the chassis. Instead, the GSi has lowered and stiffened suspension, as well as four-wheel drive with a torque-vectoring system, which allows more torque to be sent to the outside rear wheel when cornering, and adapts to changes in throttle position, steering angle and road surface.
Although the torque-vectoring system is available on other Insignias, it's been tweaked for the GSi with the intention of making the car more agile during performance driving. Also standard on the GSi is FlexRide adaptive damping, which allows the driver to choose between different driving modes; there's also upgraded software for the electronic power steering system.
You can feel the effect of the changes when cornering - there's a good amount of grip and the balance is neutral without a tendency towards understeer or oversteer. The car stays flat, so winding B-roads can be dealt with assuredly, although the steering, while reasonably weighty, doesn't convey much feel.
The engine provides a decent shove, although acceleration isn't particularly mind-blowing for a performance model - think quick, but not explosive and you'll be in the ballpark. The engine note isn't coarse and it's refined at speed. The eight-speed automatic gearbox is more impressive, shifting smoothly enough when you're in 'just get me home' mode and with enough responsiveness from the manual shift paddles to help maximise the fun during quick driving. It's when pressing on that the car feels most at home; take it for a motorway cruise and you'll soon discover the price you pay for that dynamic ability, as the ride is fairly firm.
The GSi's prices place it at the top of the Insignia range, which makes the interior a bit of a disappointment. Aside from a flat-bottomed steering wheel, aluminium pedals and some cheap-looking carbon-fibre-style plastic, there's not much to visually set it apart from the regular models.
The sports seats are an exception; however, these feel like a step too far. They're not that comfortable, and seem like they'd be more at home in a hardcore track car than in the GSi, given how many motorway miles most Insignia drivers would be expected to cover. There's an 8in touchscreen with sat-nav that features clear graphics, although some of the symbols used to denote the various menus aren't that intuitive and take some getting used to. There's also a useful head-up display that shows the car's speed and sat-nav instructions, although not the gear ratios, surprisingly. In common with the regular Insignia, there's lots of space inside for front and rear passengers - enough to seat five adults in comfort - and a good-sized boot with a wide-opening hatch that makes loading easy.
The BIK issue
Unfortunately, when we turn our attention to the GSi's running costs, we come across some serious problems. Fuel economy of 40.4mpg is significantly worse than its rivals, while CO2 emissions of 186g/km are colossal - 50g/km higher than a Skoda Superb with only 20hp less. That means the Insignia GSi sits in the top BIK tax band of 37% - five bands higher than the Skoda and the Insignia's traditional rival, the Ford Mondeo, in equivalent ST-Line Edition trim. Given Vauxhall's stated focus on making the GSi badge CO2 friendly, that's hard to accept and, bearing in mind the relatively mild performance benefits of the powertrain, the associated costs make the GSi difficult to recommend for fleet users.