2013 Vauxhall Insignia review

* New Vauxhall Insignia driven in UK * CO2 emissions from 99g/km * On sale October, priced from 16,279...

2013 Vauxhall Insignia review

The Vauxhall Insignia has always been a great-looking family car, so it’s hardly surprising the styling changes for this revised car are subtle. Instead of fixing something that wasn’t broken, Vauxhall has put its main efforts into modernising the interior and lowering running costs.

You can now buy 118bhp and 138bhp Ecoflex diesel Insignias that emit just 99g/km of CO2, whereas the lowest-emitting version of the rival Ford Mondeo puts out 114g/km. Even the much newer Skoda Octavia can match the Insignia’s 99g/km figure only when it has a 1.6-litre diesel engine with just 103bhp.

Just as crucially, given that company car drivers are taxed on a proportion of their car’s value, Vauxhall has slashed prices. The 138bhp Ecoflex starts around £1400 below the equivalent version of the old 128bhp diesel, while the 118bhp version is available for around £1600 less.

Elsewhere in the range, there are two new turbocharged petrol engines that average over 40mpg: a 168bhp 1.6 and a 247bhp 2.0.

Every Insignia gets revised steering and suspension settings, while the list of standard equipment includes Bluetooth, a digital radio, USB and aux-in sockets, cruise control, and electric four-way lumbar adjustment on the driver’s seat.

What’s the 2013 Vauxhall Insignia like to drive?

We started with the new 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine, which is both reasonably smooth and happy to rev. The trouble is, its torque can overwhelm the front tyres when you accelerate, causing the steering wheel to squirm in your hands.

Our car wasn’t helped by the fact it was fitted with massive 20-inch wheels, which wanted to follow every groove in the road. This, combined with steering that’s rather numb around the straight-ahead position, made the Insignia feel nervous on the motorway.

We also tried the 120bhp and 138bhp diesels, both with 16-inch wheels, and these felt more stable and composed at motorway speeds.

Unfortunately, both diesel engines transmit a lot of vibration through the pedals and neither is especially quiet, either. The 138bhp version is that bit more flexible than the 120bhp, although you’ll find even more flexible engines in rivals such as the Skoda Octavia.

Finally, we tried the more powerful 161bhp 2.0-litre diesel. Its impressive mid-range pull ensures fewer gearchanges, but engine noise and vibration is still a problem and, like the petrol car we drove, the extra power can cause the front wheels to break traction.

Road noise further undermines refinement, entering the cabin over most surfaces, while the Insignia’s six-speed manual gearbox is as notchy as ever.

However, the ride is generally comfortable (at least with 16-inch wheels) and the Insignia doesn’t feel overly sloppy on B-roads, although it isn’t as agile as a Mondeo or Octavia.

What’s the 2013 Vauxhall Insignia like inside?

The Insignia’s dashboard used to be plastered with poorly labelled buttons, making it difficult to find the one you wanted at a glance. However, 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 this system’s various menus, so it’s a definite improvement. That said, you do 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, but 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.

Like the pre-face-lift car, this revised Insignia has a smart cabin that feels like it’s built to last. Unfortunately, the optional digital instruments reflect in the windscreen at night, and the front seats don’t offer enough back or leg support, so cramp can set in on a long drive.

Poor over-the-shoulder visibility is another concern – we’d definitely consider the optional blindspot warning system – and six-footers won’t be particularly comfortable in the back due to the Insignia’s swoopy roofline. You do get a large boot with a wide opening that makes it easy to load, however.

Should I buy one?

The vast majority of Insignias are sold as company cars, so of the four engines we’ve driven, it’s the 138bhp diesel that makes most sense. It’s only £250 more than the 120bhp version and achieves the same fuel efficiency and CO2 figures.

When combined with entry-level Design trim, it will cost a 40% taxpayer less than £1300 a year. That makes it more than £200 less than the cheapest 2.0-litre diesel Octavia and almost £250 less than the equivalent Mondeo.

Just bear in mind that the Octavia is better equipped, with electric rear windows, reversing sensors and dual-zone climate control all fitted as standard. If you spec the Insignia up to the same level, the price gap shrinks dramatically.

The new Insignia’s affordability does give it a USP against other key rivals, but the Octavia remains a much more appealing option because it’s roomier, quieter, better to drive and generally easier to live with.

What Car? says...


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Read full Vauxhall Insignia review >>

Specification 1.6i SIDI 170

Engine size 1.6-litre turbo petrol

Price from £22,764

Power 168bhp

Torque 192lb ft

0-62mph 9.2 seconds

Top speed 136mph

Fuel economy 46.3mpg

CO2 emissions 144g/km

Specification 2.0 CDTi 140 Ecoflex

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel

Price from £20,799

Power 138bhp

Torque 258lb ft

0-62mph 10.5 seconds

Top speed 127mph

Fuel economy 76.3mpg

CO2 emissions 99g/km