People needing space and the ability to go off-road – but who don’t like the idea of driving an SUV – have a new option: the Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer.
It’s based on Vauxhall’s recently revised Insignia Sports Tourer, but gets tougher exterior styling, a 20mm higher ride and a clever four-wheel-drive system. A two-wheel drive version will join the range later next year.
The engine choice is limited to either a 161- or 193bhp 2.0-litre diesel, but there are manual or automatic transmissions (193bhp is auto-only) and two trim levels, which both come with plenty of standard equipment.
What’s the 2014 Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer like to drive?
We drove the 161bhp diesel, which is likely to account for 90% of UK sales.
It’s a strong, flexible engine, pulling eagerly from low revs. That’s a good thing, too, because it becomes noisy when worked hard and there’s plenty of vibration transmitted through the pedals and steering wheel.
Although the diesel engine settles down on the motorway, too much road noise makes its way into the cabin – especially over coarse surfaces – and the manual gearbox is also notchy.
The six-speed automatic gearbox is better, allowing the diesel's considerable torque to do its job rather than changing down too early when accelerating.
The Country Tourer has the same steering as other Insignias, so things are a little vague at low speeds but the weight arrives consistently through high-speed corners.
Our test cars were fitted with standard 18-inch alloys. That set-up gives a firm but reasonably well-controlled ride that's rarely uncomfortable.
There’s plenty of traction both on- and off road thanks to the Tourer’s advanced four-wheel drive system, and despite being taller than the regular Insignia, body lean in bends isn’t too bad.
Vauxhall’s Flexride system comes as standard, and by selecting 'Sport' you're able to stiffen the suspension, weight up the steering and increase throttle response. Alternatively, selecting 'Tour' softens everything off for a more comfortable journey.
What’s the 2014 Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer like inside?
No different from any other Insignia Sports Tourer, which means while the boot is a good shape and size at 540 litres, it’s much shallower than rival estate', meaning it's less practical. The rear seats fold flat easily, though.
In the front, there’s wide range of wheel and seat adjustment for the driver and plenty of head- and legroom. The sports seats give plenty of support, too.
Although a couple of six footers will fit comfortably in the back of the Tourer, over-the-shoulder visibility is still an issue thanks to a small rear screen and thick rear pillars. Standard rear parking sensors should help this, though.
In fact, standard equipment is generous. Front and rear parking sensors, rear privacy glass, xenon lights, hill-start assist, climate control, a USB connection, a powered tailgate and alloy wheels come as standard on every version.
The previous Insignia’s dashboard used to be plastered with poorly labelled buttons, making it difficult to find the one you wanted at a glance. Nav models with satellite-navigation now get a large touch-screen interface, through which you also control the stereo and your phone.
It’s easy enough to move between the various menus. That said, you have to perform certain functions by dragging your finger across the screen; something that’s hard to do with any accuracy when you’re on the move.
Vauxhall clearly realises this, because it also provides voice control, a scroll knob and a laptop-style touchpad. However, while the voice control and scroll knob help, the touchpad is so fiddly that it’s effectively useless. Sadly, we didn’t get to try any cars with the standard infotainment system.
Should I buy one?
The Country Tourer is cheaper than its main rivals, gets plenty of equipment and offers decent off-roading ability.
Our favourite all-wheel-drive estate remains the Volkswagen Alltrack, though. The VW might be more expensive and less powerful, but in 2.0 TDI 140 form, it’s certainly powerful enough, manages similar fuel economy, sits in the same company car tax band and gets useful features such as sat-nav and a DAB radio as standard.
It also has a larger, more practical boot, a better quality cabin and will be worth more than the Vauxhall after three years.
That said, unless you really can't bear the thought of driving an SUV, we'd recommend the Mazda CX-5 2.2 SE-L AWD. It's almost as spacious, will cope just as well tricky surfaces, is better to drive and sits two company car tax bands lower than the VW and Vauxhall.
What Car? says...
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £25,349
Torque 258lb ft
Top speed 127mph
Fuel economy 50.4mpg
CO2 g/km 147g/km