Latest report: Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport 1.6 136hp SRi VX-Line Nav
24 November 2017
Author: Debbie Wood
|P11D price:|| £22,905|
|As tested:|| £26,565|
|Official consumption:|| 65.7mpg|
7th report - Sensory deprivation
By Guy Bird
You can learn a lot about a car in unusual weather, so the major snow in March was useful for that reason, if nothing else. Carmakers spend thousands of hours testing prototypes in extremely hot and cold locales because, the reasoning goes, if their cars can cope there, they'll be fine everywhere else. What about in less extreme, but more real-world conditions though?
First the good news: when the cold snap was extreme enough to warrant wearing seriously thick driving gloves, the Insignia's infotainment touchscreen didn't mind a bit. I was pleasantly surprised to find my gloved finger worked the sat-nav icon just fine, as long as I pressed the screen firmly and a fraction longer than usual.
Now the bad: when residual snow on the car's exterior started to melt and refreeze, something peculiar happened to our Insignia (several times over to different drivers). To take one example, we were static at the lights, minding our own business when the sensors started bleeping like crazy. I've had sensors go sensitive near bollards or parked cars when on the move - just like granitekitchen news reporter Sean Keywood's experience in the Renault Koleos - but in this case, the car wasn't even rolling, nor was anything or anyone near us.
Closer inspection of the front left sensor the next morning revealed ice partially covering the round sensor below the headlamp, which we believe could have slipped - or attracted sticky new snow - and resulted in the car's sensors thinking the vehicle was close to crashing into something. Since cleaning the ice, the bleeping freak-outs have mercifully stopped. So the moral of the story is that, beyond clearing snow from the windows so you can see, cleaning it off all your sensors, front and back, before driving is probably a good idea, too.
6th report - The hot button issue
By Guy Bird
Take a look at the accompanying photo to this test report. See anything remarkable? Just an air-conditioning knob, a few climate-related buttons and a digital display telling the passenger how hot the car's cabin is, or will get soon. So far, so normal, right? Wrong.
Unfortunately, there has been a worrying trend in new production cars of late, where the designers have sought to clean up the design of interiors by getting rid of almost all physical buttons and switches. Along the way, they've forgotten to do an ergonomics test to see whether the now mostly digital controls can be easily operated while on the move, or if they've actually gone too far and sacrificed solid function for superficial form. Our last Renault Megane was a good (or bad) example of this, where even a function as basic and everyday as the fan intensity up-down control was hidden deep within layers of touchscreen faff, and could only be increased or decreased by frantic and multiple presses of a 2D nature. This is long and needlessly complicated.
The Insignia's designers did not fall for such tomfoolery. Below the small, but decent colour infotainment screen, with mapping that can be pinched and moved, sits a sensible array of key physical buttons that make sure temperature can be taken care of immediately and directly. In the recent unseasonable cold weather that's seen major snow across the UK, this has been a real boon. The procedural order for me goes something like this: 1) get in swiftly and shut the door; 2) press heated seats buttons to full blast, as denoted by three red lights - a slight toasting only requires one light; 3) press separate front-and rear-screen heat buttons to demist or defrost; 4) adjust driver and passenger temperature levels individually with a turn of colour-coded knobs; 5) drive off. Simple and sorted.
5th report - Into the light
By Guy Bird
When it's dark and there are no more street lamps on either side of the road, you know you're in the 'deep countryside'. It's at this point you'll also understand just how good (or bad) your headlamps are. Our Insignia Grand Sport has optional Intellilux LED matrix headlamps, each of which houses 16 individual LED lights (32 in total) that replace the usual dipped and main beam functions. These are in the 'cut above' category. In conjunction with a front camera, they activate and deactivate based on what they can see ahead and by taking into account ambient light conditions, vehicle speed, steering angle and whether you've turned an indicator on.
The attention to detail is excellent. For instance, the system knows when the car is travelling under 34mph and senses street lighting - typically in urban areas - so it automatically keeps things in 'dipped beam' mode. It can also 'see' when it's on a dual carriageway or motorway and reduce light distribution on the right, minimising glare for oncoming drivers while lengthening the beam on the left side. This tech can even be adjusted quickly through the settings of the central touchscreen, to react in the opposite way if you are, say, on the train to continental Europe. Neat.
On my dark and extremely wet night's testing in deepest Essex, that manual change wasn't necessary. In auto mode, high-beam assist - where the high (or full) beam functions as the main driving light - comes on by itself above 31mph (and turns off below 22mph) but the 'assist' part, that works out which LEDs to light according to conditions, remains active, even when the car's switched off and on again. If you want to activate high-beam assist in other scenarios, a press of the extra button on the indicator stalk will do the job (a green 'A' with a beam icon illuminates between the driver dials to confirm). Matrix LEDs may be a shiny £1,295 extra, but if you do a lot of 'deep countryside driving' they could well be worth considering.
4th report - Practicality plus style
By Guy Bird
The great thing about a well-designed large hatchback versus a conventional saloon is the practicality that comes with its style, and the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport is a great example. There's something grown up and business-like about a saloon, compared with a smaller hatchback, but all too often the compromise is a lack of functionality in the storage department. Furniture moves, family holidays or visits to the dump are tough with a vehicle that has a small rear aperture, even if the luggage space inside isn't that bad.
The Insignia Grand Sport's exterior looks smart and sporty, while carefully hiding a huge hatch that opens up to reveal a wide, tall and super-accessible 490 litres of luggage space with the rear seats up, and 1,450 litres with the second row folded. This capacity trumps the Audi A5 Sportback twice over (it has 480-980 litres). Even the Insignia's boot-opening mechanism is carefully considered. It's enabled by pressing the Griffin badge, which allows the hatch lip to shut flush with its surrounds.
Recently, I slid a tall wooden shelving unit straight into the Insignia without breaking sweat or, for that matter, having to push forward the front-row seats to accommodate it. Try that in a BMW 3 Series saloon. The BMW's 480-litre rear-seats-up boot space isn't bad, but access is poor and it's much harder to use any seats-down space.
Of course, you could consider a 3 Series Touring but that only offers five more litres of space than the Insignia with the seats up, at 495 litres, and 50 litres more with the seats down at 1,500, while costing a whole heap more. Or you could opt for a 3 Series GT, which has storage space in abundance at 520-1,600 litres, but looks like a 3 Series saloon that's eaten too many pies.
There are of course bigger-booted rivals - from Ford, VW and Skoda - but, for the first time in a long time, I'd argue that the Vauxhall Insignia is more stylish, and achieves the best balance of form and functionality.
3rd report - Hello handsome
By Guy Bird
Well I never. Vauxhall has gone and made a really good-looking car. In that most mature of markets, the large family saloon or hatchback segment, it's hard to create an impact, but the second-generation Insignia - now with the added moniker Grand Sport - feels on the money.
Key to the changes, as so often is the case with car design, are significant proportional alterations. It's longer by 67mm, wider by 7mm, lower by 75mm and has a stretched wheelbase 92mm longer. Compared with the Mk1 Insignia, these shifts create a greatly improved profile and stance. That's the maths bit. Visually, you really notice the differences when focusing around the rear three quarters of the car, where the side window graphic has been pulled backward - to a sharp point rather than a gentle curve - combined with a more sloping roof and rear window that now dominates what is a huge and practical rear hatch. In striking white, the Insignia has something of the Audi A5 Sportback and VW Passat CC about it, more four-door coupe than dull hatch. It's nice work, and we can thank a Brit called Mark Adams for it, despite the car's shared Opel and Buick connections.
Slimmer lights at front and back - partly enabled by new light technology - have also changed the face of the Insignia to 'chiselled and handsome' and the rear to 'taut and athletic'. Add some sharper creases - but not too many, and in slightly different places than the Mk1 - and it's a very pleasing exterior all round. Inside, this sophisticated approach continues with a wider and more coherent dashboard top, now one smooth piece from wing mirror to wing mirror. The central infotainment screen now nestles under its lip rather than being swollen by a bulging centre stack like before. The button count and space below the screen has been vastly reduced too, reflecting a screen that can now accommodate touch gestures such as swiping. The overall effect is of a smart automotive suit ready for business. I'm genuinely impressed.
2nd report - Under the bonnet
We're always taught to never judge a book by its cover and that first impressions are not always an accurate measure of what you're judging. And that's true for cars as well as people.
On the one hand, a short drive will tell you a lot about driving dynamics and how the car performs on the road, while fuel economy and comfort ratings require a much longer test to make a solid judgment.
I live in Lincolnshire, so as well as the almost guaranteed situation of being stuck behind a tractor at some point during the day, I'm also spoilt for winding and twisty country lanes, an ideal test bed for the Insignia Grand Sport.
Handling is one area where the old Insignia fell somewhat behind its rivals, but happily this new car has eradicated a lot of the previous criticisms. The car feels surefooted and agile in the corners, with plenty of grip on offer too.
Body roll is also kept nicely in check and although the steering is too light for my liking, overall, the Insignia Grand Sport is a well-rounded and versatile car to drive, proving to be easy to manoeuvre and park in the city, as well as nimble at higher speeds. The 136hp and 320Nm of torque from the 1.6-litre diesel offers enough oomph to help a dash at the lights look respectable and the car feels quicker than the ten-second 0-62mph time suggests. The six-speed manual is also well matched to the engine, and provides slick and light gear changes.
Engine refinement is a definite plus point here, and engine and wind noise is kept to a minimum inside the cabin. As we mentioned in a previous report, the Insignia Grand Sport is at its best on the motorway; however, after just 600 miles, Vauxhall's flagship mdoel has proven to be much more than a long-
With not even four figures on the clock, it would be unfair to pass any judgment on the fuel economy at this stage. The engine needs time to warm up, of course, so we'll explore the frugality of the Vauxhall in a later report.
Our average consumption: n/a
1st report - Welcome
Vauxhall started making cars in 1903 and I think most of us, at some point, have either owned or run one. The brand is so deeply entrenched into UK motoring that it's nearly impossible to imagine our roads without them.
The Insignia Grand Sport is a car that has some very big shoes to fill and equally large expectations, which not only introduces a new name for the firm's flagship model, but also ushers in the start of a new chapter in which Vauxhall takes a step towards premium desirability.
My parents' car for many years was the first generation Insignia, and so the news that we would be running the second incarnation for six months was music to my ears.
For starters, our test car comes with the popular 1.6-litre diesel, which offers some compelling running costs. Headline figures include a combined fuel economy of 65.7mpg, according to the NEDC cycle, and CO2 emissions of 114g/km, meaning a 24% BIK band for the current tax year.
At home on the motorway, the Insignia Grand Sport is a very comfortable cruiser and this is where it'll be spending a great deal of its time during our custodianship. Happily, road and wind noise is also kept to a minimum, while the benchmark 0-62mph sprint takes officially just over ten seconds.
With 136hp and 320Nm of torque, the car feels pretty quick when you put your foot down, while a weight loss of up to 175kg has helped keep it feeling agile in the corners, although we're yet to test it's full abilities in this area.
Despite getting a significant price cut over the previous generation, the new Insignia Grand Sport doesn't feel like a cheap car - far from it. Interior quality in this latest model has seen a big lift, while its significant growth spurt - the new car is now 55mm longer and 7mm wider - means there's more space inside, especially noticable for rear legroom.
Our new long-termer comes in the mid-range SRi VX-Line Nav trim which, as the name suggests, adds sportier, striking design touches. The main additions include a visible exhaust pipe, and sports-style front and rear bumpers and side sills. Inside also features a flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Standard equipment is a bit of a head-scratcher: most of the essentials like sat-nav and air-con are included, but an automatic tailgate, adaptive cruise control, and rear parking sensors are noticeably absent, while luxuries like a heated steering wheel are surprisingly listed.
The good news, though, is that options are really cheap, so you can soon spec an Insignia to be comparable with rivals for very little cost.
Our Insignia Grand Sport comes with just over £3,600 worth of options. The most expensive is the Intellilux Matrix LED headlights that automatically adapt to the road ahead using the front camera system. Each headlight features 16 individual lights and illuminates a separate part of the road to suit traffic and road conditions. They can also trigger automatic high beam if needed, a key safety feature when driving at night, and feature automatic headlight levelling.
Also included in the options list is the Winter Pack 4 that includes heated seats and a heated windscreen, ideal now the Christmas period is approaching, for £410. Wireless charging is also thrown in for £160, which we're looking forward to thoroughly testing. Meanwhile, the Driver Assistance Pack 4 incorporates advanced park assist, lane-changing assistance with blind-spot monitoring, a rear-view camera and rear-cross traffic alert, very good value for money at just £595.
One other option we would thoroughly recommend, even at this early stage, having only driven the car for its first 100 miles, is the heads-up display - it offers good quality and all the essential information in the driver's line of sight. Sure, it's not the most technically advanced system, nor does it offer the crispest graphics, but for £290 it's an absolute bargain.
So the new Insignia Grand Sport is more practical, cheaper and takes a big step forward for quality - we're looking forward to finding out if Vauxhall's new hatchback maintains this good first impression after six months of ownership.
Our average consumption: n/a
Standard equipment: 17in alloy wheels, sat-nav, Apple CarPlay, keyless entry and start, Vauxhall OnStar, Bluetooth, 8in touchscreen system, heated steering wheel, air-con.
Options: Heads-up display (£290), Driving Assistance Pack 4 (£595), wireless charging (£160), Winter Pack 4 (£410), Intellilux LED headlamps (£1,010), 8in colour instrument display (£415), tri-coat premium paint (£725).