Drive down any given motorway for five minutes, and we guarantee that you’ll see at least one version of the Vauxhall Insignia. A combination of keen pricing, low running costs and decent levels of kit mean it’s a firm favourite with company car drivers.
Still, times change, and after nine years, it’s most definitely ready for replacement. That’s where the Insignia Grand Sport comes in, a car that takes the familiar formula and adds even more interior space, more equipment and is somehow even cheaper to buy, with the range costing from just £17,115.
But the big question is whether it has more to offer than acres of space for a bargain basement price. The old Insignia’s diesel engines were gruff and it was never particularly great to drive. So, here we’re trying the new entry-level 1.6-litre diesel model to find out if those issues have been rectified.
What's the 2017 Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport like to drive?
There may be new engines available elsewhere in the range, but this little diesel engine is carried over from the old Insignia. While that set alarm bells ringing with us, we needn’t have worried. Although you can tell it’s a diesel from outside, the motor is impressively hushed from behind the wheel.
At idle and under acceleration there is some clatter, but it’s largely well muted, while at a cruise you barely hear it at all. That’s not entirely down to improved sound deadening, though; even on the smallest 17in wheels, road roar is surprisingly noticeable at all times. At motorway speeds, this becomes an irritatingly constant drone.
Those worried that 108bhp isn’t enough in such a big car may be surprised. Sure, it’s not outright fast, but there’s more than enough poke to get you up to 70mph by the end of most slip roads. It’s also impressively flexible, providing a decent amount of power from very low revs. That said, we suspect that those who regularly carry four passengers might be better off with one of the more powerful engines.
What’s even more important, given the amount of Insignias that will go to company car drivers, is the amount of CO2 that's emitted from the car's exhaust. Unlike the Skoda Superb and Ford Mondeo, which both have the option of sub-100g/km diesels, the best the Insignia can manage is 105g/km.
Even so, it’s still incredibly tempting for business users thanks to keen pricing – an Insignia is around £4000 cheaper than the equivalent Mondeo diesel with the gap to the Skoda Superb proving even more. That helps to keep benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax payments low.
You do get the feeling that corners were cut to get that astonishing purchase price, though, especially if you try to go round one with any verve. Turn in, and despite having shed some weight, the Insignia still corners like a big, heavy car. After you’ve turned the wheel, there’s a noticeable delay before the body leans over and it starts to turn.
You’d think that soft suspension coupled to relatively tiny 17in wheels would be a recipe for a comfy ride, but that isn’t quite the case. On smooth roads with crests and compressions, it has a relaxed, floaty feel. But throw in some craggy surfaces and the ride quickly deteriorates with the car fidgeting noticeably and thumping over sudden obstacles such as potholes.
What's the 2017 Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport like inside?
The interior is a fairly nice place environment in which to be. Soft touch plastic has been strategically placed so the areas you touch regularly feel sufficiently plush. Yes, there are some scratchy surfaces, but we’d argue that it’s no worse than a Mondeo, if a little bit behind the Skoda Superb for perceived quality.
The standard seats are nicely supportive and proved comfortable on a 50-mile trip. Disappointingly, though, entry-level Design-trim models don’t get adjustable lumbar support and can’t even have it as an option - you’ll have to step up to SRi or above for that.
All of the major controls are easy to find, and we’re pleased to see separate heater controls instead of having to delve into the car's infotainment system to change the temperature. Speaking of infotainment, the standard touchscreen on models without sat-nav is 7.0in, while on sat-nav models this grows to 8.0in.
The onscreen icons are large and easy to hit and the menus are easy enough to figure out. It also scores by having both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring as standard, allowing you to control certain phone functions through the infotainment screen.
While there’s plenty of room up front, the back seats are a bit of a mixed bag. We doubt anyone will be complaining about the amount of leg room, because even our six-feet-tall testers found their knees nowhere near the back of the front seat. More of a problem is head room: the roof curves down at the back of the car, so taller people may find their head uncomfortably close to the roof.
Move to the boot, though, and it’s easily big enough for a couple of bags of golf clubs or large pushchair. Usefully, there isn’t too much of a load lip that should making putting heavy items inside the boot nice and easy.
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