No-frills wagon is great value; nothing more, nothing less
Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer Design Nav 1.5 Turbo Ecotec 140
Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged petrol
Gearbox: 6-spd manual
Top speed: 129mph
CO2 emissions: 139g/km
The raison d’etre of Vauxhall’s new, larger Insignia Sports Tourer range is to beat its estate-car rivals in the value stakes, as well as carry more luggage than the likes of its Ford Mondeo Estate archrival. The no-frills Design Nav’s kit list is slimmed down its over those of its higher-priced stablemates, but it shares their smart styling and impressive storage space. Being a Nav, it also comes with an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with 3D satellite-navigation mapping, DAB radio, three USB ports, OnStar wifi hotspot tech and Bluetooth smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Our 1.5-litre petrol turbo test car costs from £19,480, which undercuts the VW Passat Estate by almost £4,000. Even the smaller Golf Estate costs about £1,000 more. The Sport Tourer produces 138bhp and 184lb ft of torque, with a claimed 47.1mpg and 136g/km CO2 emissions. From a practicality viewpoint, it can carry payloads of up to 593kg in its 560/1665-litre boot space and tow an 730kg unbraked trailer.
Sitting at the lower end of the range, the Design Nav has slightly stiffer four-link rear suspension, and electric folding rear seats and powered tailgate are optional; they’re fitted as standard in the more costly variants.
The cabin is much nicer and more competitive with rivals’ than that of the Insignia’s predecessor, boasting a clean dash and clutter-free centre console. The infotainment touchscreen isn’t a class-leader but it’s by far the most well equipped at this price level, and justifies the Design Nav’s £795 premium over the lesser Design.
Passengers travel in comfort, with its extended body allowing generous rear legroom. Headspace is also good, as the car’s roofline doesn’t taper down at the back.
The 1.5-litre engine is nippy and pulls well through its mid-range, but despite power coming in at a high 5,600rpm, it runs out of puff too soon, robbing it of character and placing it a poor second to Ford’s higher-revving petrol models.
A soft ride and standard-fit 17-inch five-spoke alloys means the Sports Tourer rolls and leans through corners, which feels unnerving on fast B-roads and “waffley” at urban speeds. Motorway behaviour is good, though, with steering that requires little correction when cruising plus standard-fit cruise control. It’s only a shame pronounced road noise interferes with the experience.
While the Sports Tourer Design Nav in 1.5-litre guise is far from the class leading, offering little excitement and lagging behind competitors for dynamic ability, it offers everything many buyers in this class want and need for much less money than rivals. Boot space, design and infotainment are far stronger than in the car’s predecessor, and in fact are among the best in the class. This will have huge appeal to a large portion of motorists looking for an affordable estate, to the extent that they will eclipse the Vauxhall’s other downfalls. Want a more engaging, enthusiastic and refined driving experience: you better start digging deeper as you turn to the Sports Tourer’s rivals.