Living with a Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer SRi VX-Line Nav 2.0 [full review]
3 July 2019
In today’s car market where badge desirability still has a siren-like lure and most manufacturers seem focussed with hawk-eyed determination on ever-increasingly fomenting the public’s desire to rampantly gobble up crossovers and SUVs, an ‘estate’ car like the Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer needs to throw everything it’s got at living up to its etymology.
Things get off to a formidably positive start courtesy of the car’s styling, especially in SRi VX-Line guise as tested. Away from the potentially warm, fuzzy feeling from knowing that it was designed by a Brit, or the excitement of it taking inspiration from a concept car that Vauxhall unveiled several moons ago, what matters in the real world is that the Insignia Sports Tourer has a resolutely dynamic, purposeful, agile, rakish and classy appearance.
From the timelessly stylish, road-skimming grille that commendably balances aggression and sophistication, flanked by sleek headlights, and the blade-styled sides housing 20-inch bi-colour alloys and with chrome lines successfully running along the top, to the squat rear incorporating LED taillights with a double-wing signature, it’s a stunning car. The sportier VX-Line Styling Pack distinguishes it from other lesser trims, while Lava Red bestows it with added flamboyancy for less shy drivers out there. The Insignia Sports Tourer ticks the first box, then, and not just in pencil but with a chunky felt-tip pen.
Granted, SUVs have a perceived toughness and a more commanding driving position, but sitting closer to the centre of gravity and the road beneath one’s derriere, by 3cm compared to its predecessor in the Insignia Sports Tourer’s case, often heightens a car’s sense of engagement. Of course, this matters little if its seats are as comfortable as the stackable ones often found in a typical village hall, but the Vauxhall’s proved insanely comfortable. Nothing to do with M&S, but they are not just any seats.
A brief glimpse near their electric adjustment controls reveals a discretely-positioned AGR badge, which means they’ve been certified by Aktion Gesunder Rücken in Germany, a panel of independent doctors and ergonomics experts. The Insignia’s Ergonomic Active Front Sport Seats are indeed ridiculously supportive, making Vauxhall’s efforts towards and AGR’s praise of reduced back pain and tension tangibly plausible, along with the 60mm-extendable thigh cushion that taller drivers will really appreciate.
With a driver-focussed dashboard, excellent placement of controls and impressive levels of adjustability, mums and dads will find it a pleasure rather than a chore to pilot on far-flung family staycations, as indeed will business drivers facing long ad hoc journeys and commutes. The key fob had trouble being recognised through jeans and thick coat pockets, and the beefy A-pillars were found to restrict visibility on the move, though.
‘Nav’ featuring in the test car’s official mouthful of a name does indeed mean that sat nav isn’t included as standard across the Insignia range, with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay assuming the role unless specified. Vauxhall’s Multimedia Navi Pro system that encompasses DAB and also curiously AM/FM radio, plus Bluetooth, USB ports and all the other infotainment now expected in current cars is a pretty decent effort albeit sporting a cheerful rather than premium interface. Voice control worked impressively, and the 7-speaker audio system does a decent job, although the Bose upgrade is worth the extra.
Belying the handsome Sports Tourer’s sloping roofline, headroom is abundant front and rear unless the optional panoramic roof is specified, which makes it more cramped for the Freddie Flintoffs of the world, and rear legroom matches that of the SKODA Superb, which came as a pleasant surprise. Rather than nets, the car incorporates proper pockets on the seat-backs, which is another touch we welcome. Three ISOFIX child seat latches are fitted in the rear and although it’s not conclusive, various parents in forums and other sources have said that they can fit three actual seats side by side in the back of the Insignia Sports Tourer.
Family & business practicality
The materials used throughout the Vauxhall’s relatively minimalist cabin aren’t quite as plush as those served up by VAG group brands, with a handful of naff plastics on show and slight question-marks over long-term quality, but the heated, flat bottom, perforated leather-covered VX-Line steering wheel uncannily brought back memories of a week with an Audi A6 Ultra, as did the car’s engine and ride characteristics - which is a huge compliment. Outside and in, the Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer SRi VX-Line is a much more attractive proposition than the Ford Mondeo Estate in our book, is slightly ahead of Korean alternatives and does snap very closely indeed at the heels of the Passat load-lugger in overall interior terms.
Boot space of 560 litres as standard and 1,665 with the 40/20/40 rear seats folded down means the Insignia estate has increased its luggage capacity by 135 litres in comparison with the old model, while the boot floor is in itself 97mm longer, reflecting the car’s overall lengthening including its wheelbase. Sure, the VW Passat Estate provides 650 litres and its SKODA Superb Kombi sibling pips even that with 660 litres, but in the real-world, the Vauxhall’s 560 litres still look and feel massive. Although the Brit’s practical features can’t quite match the Czech’s ‘Simply Clever’ stuff, it comes agonisingly close including providing handy rails for securing otherwise errant items, and there’s no obstructive loading lip to navigate. The Insignia Sports Tourer has the interior box firmly ticked, too.
Driving the Insignia Sports Tourer SRi VX-Line
On the road, the 170PS variant might not be a bahnstormer and doesn’t feel lightning-fast with an 8.6-seconds 62mph time, but 400Nm peak torque gives it a generous squeeze of grunt off the line, while the 2.0-litre turbo diesel powerplant dispatches its acceleration gracefully quietly. This is one of the aspects that make it such a superb long-distance machine, blending reasonable swiftness with muted refinement.
Like a pint-sipping friend who makes buying rounds of drinks seem more appealing, the Insignia is also so parsimonious and frugal that fuel forecourt stops will begin to feel strangely infrequent. One week and 350 miles later, the tank still showed as half full, which was remarkably impressive. Just bear in mind that it achieves this partly by mixing its drink with AdBlue, which will need topping up as part of the car’s servicing regime. Company car fleet managers and indeed some drivers may have their interest piqued by the Insignia boasting an active rather than passive tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS), which displays the four tyres’ pressures in real-time.
FlexRide fitted to the test car means it had normal, sport and tour modes to choose between and while the middle option unsurprisingly sharpened everything up it also proved a tad too brittle on 20” shoes for the UK’s pitifully lumpy-bumpy roads, whereas pressing the tour button was the perfect antidote, tweaking the car’s characteristics for maximum comfort and doing a ruddy good job of it. The car’s steering feel and handling agility are much of a muchness whichever mode is selected, but while it’s never memorably sharp, neither is it lamentable in any way, holding its head high. In fact, with a sheet draped over the dashboard and masking tape stuck over the steering wheel badge, the Insignia in this spec’ feels, with its characteristics bundled together, remarkably like an Audi A6 Ultra out there on the road, while its cited 41.5-45.6mpg WLTP economy banding is certainly achievable, heading towards 700 miles per tank.
A brilliant all-rounder
Foibles and gripes are few and far between, highlighting how strong an all-rounder the Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer SRi VX-Line Nav really is. The stop-start system is overenthusiastic, sometimes cutting out in slow-moving traffic queues, but it restarts quickly enough to not prove particularly worrisome. The 8-speed automatic gearbox fitted to the test car performs smoothly the majority of the time but tends to hang on to too high a gear at slow speeds, which can make the engine sound somewhat boomy, albeit distant. The digital speedometer moves jerkily, but this was negated by the fitment of a head-up display, and a gnat doing a tinkle would do a better job than the windscreen wiper washer jets. But that's it. It's otherwise a cracking car.
Families and high-mileage business drivers alike will feel reassured by the presence of a plethora of cameras, assists, alerts and other safety systems such as automatic city emergency braking courtesy of Driving Assistance Pack One, which is standard across the trim range. The test car also came with Driving Assistance Pack Three, including advanced park assist, a 360-degree panoramic camera plus rear cross traffic alert. The pedestrian and cyclist detection stuff works really well, displaying the appropriate symbol on the dashboard. Despite appearing to be as long as Rosie and Jim’s narrowboat, it’s a remarkably easy car to manoeuvre in general, though. Winter Pack Four meant a heated windscreen, steering wheel and front seats, while other options specified such as an inductive wireless charger for smartphones and the FlexOrganiser pack finished it off nicely, to the tune of £34,250 compared to its OTR starting price in SRi VX-Line Nav trim of £29,545. CO2 emissions are 150g/km while road tax, which is included in car leasing prices, is £530 for the first year and £145 for subsequent years.
Oddly enough, the new Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer is actually relatively cheaper than the model it replaces, while the SKODA Superb Estate Sportline Plus kicks off at £35,575 before options, the current Volkswagen Passat Estate 2.0 TDI 190PS DSG from £34,380, and its traditional nemesis the Ford Mondeo Estate from £27,970 in ST-Line 2.0 Duratorq 180PS PowerShift guise, positioning the Vauxhall as great value considering its generous standard specification.
In recent years, swathes of former estate and MPV drivers have been wooed by the perceived advantages of SUVs, while many of those sticking to their tangibly more practical load-luggers have been bombarded by media praise for Czech, German and Korean iterations. With all manner of brands’ models gracing our reviews, it takes a lot to seriously impress us and it was genuinely sad to bid farewell to the Sports Tourer SRi VX-Line. As an all-rounder that leaves no stone unturned and doesn’t disappoint in any area, the Insignia definitely lives up to its name – and then some.
Photographs: Richard Gabb, Oliver Hammond, Vauxhall Words: Oliver Hammond