When a hitherto mid-market car manufacturer tells you that their new launch is going to be ‘class-leading’, ‘game-changing’ and ‘upscale’ in their press release, it’s usually met by a collective shrug of the shoulders and a ‘what else is new?’ from the motoring press.
But when we saw the accompanying pictures of the new Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport in our office ahead of its unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show in March, there was a collective intake of breath. This is a fantastic looking car – a giant leap forward in terms of appearance and every bit as good looking as a Mercedes C-Class or Jaguar XE.
Inspired by Vauxhall’s Monza Concept the new Insignia is largely unchanged in length compared to its predecessor, but it’s 175kg lighter, 29mm lower, 11mm wider and almost 10cm longer in the cabin.
The result is a powerful-looking, prowler of a saloon car with a road presence to rival that of cars above its traditional D-segment station.
Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport SRi Nav 1.6
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, diesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 131mph
0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
CO2 emissions: 114g/km
Vauxhall have come up trumps with the interior design as well. High-gloss plastics, clean lines, pleasant surfaces which succeed in delivering a feeling of spaciousness. The cockpit controls curve subtly toward the driver – like Saabs of old – and the seats are comfortable with material quality another step forward on the old car.
Rear legroom is excellent, although – despite the measurements – the rear bench feels narrower than what you get in a Ford Mondeo, something confirmed when we were unable to use the middle seat with two car seats either side as we normally do in our Blue Oval daily driver.
Our test car in mid-range SRi trim is astonishingly well equipped. There are almost £5,000 of options including head-up display, IntelliLux LED Matrix headlights, an eight-inch colour instrument display (the speedo and mileometer) and wireless phone charger.
As standard though, the bang for your buck is impressive: Navi 900 IntelliLink system with eight-inch display, electronic stability programme (ESP), anti-lock braking system (ABS), driving assistance pack, automatic lighting control, sports front seats, sports pedals, dual-zone electronic climate control, ambient LED lighting in front doors, Twin rear USB sockets and the auto-dimming rear-view mirror don’t even constitute half the list on the spec sheet.
Like most Vauxhalls for the last few years the Insignia Grand Sport comes with a ‘sport’ button. In this case it’s accompanied by a neat graphic on the infotainment screen which explains what happens when you press it. In sport mode the suspension tightens up, as does the steering, while the throttle becomes more responsive. The corresponding graphic shows the coils, steering and throttle turn red. In touring mode, the suspension softens for comfort and the ECU tunes the throttle for economy and in normal you see a combination of the two.
The turbocharged 1.6-litre, 134bhp diesel engine under our test car’s aluminium bonnet is a refined and responsive unit. There’s a more powerful 2.0-litre diesel in the range, but with a sub-ten second nought to 60 and 236lb/ft torque and a combined 65.7 miles per gallon figure this lump of metal strikes the fine balance between power and economy required for a class-leading rep mobile.
Which is what this is: A motorway mile muncher, and a very good one at that.
Upscale? Compared with the outgoing car, definitely. Class-leading and game-changing? Too soon to tell. But we look forward to finding out more in months two and three of our long-term test.