Mazda 6 2.2 150 SE Nav
List price £23,395
Target Price £22,641
Strong performance yet low emissions are likely to attract plenty of attention
Skoda Superb 1.6 TDI 120 SE Technology
List price £23,000
Target Price £21,445
One of our favourite executive cars, the Superb is cavernous inside and good to drive
Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport 1.6 CDTI 110 Techline Nav
List price £21,220
Target Price £21,220
More interior space and equipment than the previous Insignia and a low price.
A staggering 2.6 million new cars were sold in the UK last year, but surprisingly, most of them weren’t bought by private individuals. Nope, more than half were registered to businesses for use by company car drivers.
With that in mind, we decided to gather together some of the biggest names in the company car world, including one of the newest: the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport. We’re testing it in super-clean and frugal 1.6-litre diesel form – perfect for keeping company car tax bills to a minimum.
In order to take class honours, it’ll have to outdo our current favourite sub-£25k executive car, the Skoda Superb, which also comes fitted with a fuel-sipping 1.6 diesel engine. But there’s another potential hurdle for the new Vauxhall, because the recently facelifted Mazda 6 costs only around a tenner a month more in company car tax, despite coming with a much more powerful 2.2-litre diesel engine.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
In the name of low CO2 emissions, the Vauxhall’s engine produces just 109bhp, which makes it the least powerful car here and consequently the slowest in a straight drag race. Peak pulling power doesn’t arrive until 1750rpm, so it also tends to feel lethargic at low revs.
The Skoda’s engine produces just 9bhp more, but that’s enough to beat the Vauxhall’s 0-60mph sprint time by more than a second. The fact that its engine is punchier low down helps the Skoda to feel more responsive around town. Mind you, the Vauxhall’s shorter gearing actually gives it the edge when accelerating from low speeds in the highest gears.
The Mazda is in a totally different league for performance; its 148bhp engine hauled it to 60mph a full five seconds faster than the Vauxhall managed. The engine’s peak pull actually arrives at higher revs than in the others, but with considerably more of it on hand, the Mazda never feels out of breath. It also revs far more smoothly than its rivals.
The Vauxhall’s engine stands out in other ways, though – namely, how quiet it is in this company. Don’t get us wrong: it’s no Audi A4, but it makes the least fuss when pushed hard and remains smooth. The Mazda’s engine is slightly noisier, but the Skoda has the gruffest engine here.
All three cars ride on 17in alloys, providing a level playing field for ride quality. The Vauxhall rounds off bumps best, managing to stay comfortable over broken asphalt and still neatly controlled over speed bumps and larger undulations. The Skoda has a similarly soft, long-wave gait at motorway speeds, but at lower speeds in towns it struggles more over broken surfaces and generates more suspension noise in the process. The Mazda, meanwhile, is definitely the firmest of our contenders no matter what speed you’re doing; you feel every little bump as it passes beneath the car.
Unfortunately, the Mazda’s firmness doesn’t translate into agile handling. When pushed hard through corners, its steering becomes disconcertingly vague and its front tyres are the fi rst to give up grip. True, the Vauxhall leans more through corners, but it grips harder and feels more stable, while its steering provides a better sense of connection with the front wheels. However, the Skoda is easily the most agile. It steers with the most precision, too, and hangs on the longest through corners at higher speeds.
The Skoda was also the quietest at a steady 70mph in our tests, although only by a fraction over the Mazda and Vauxhall. Put simply, none of our contenders is at all fractious on the motorway.
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