I’ve always quite appreciated my encounters with Vauxhall Insignias. You know what you are going to get – a big, competent saloon, or estate, that will transport you and a full complement of passengers in comfort, without fuss.
But, in the past, Insignias have been, rather forgettable. Good at their job, but not particularly remarkable, or notable.
So, I must admit that I was not getting too excited when I saw a Vauxhall Insignia GSi on my schedule for my appraisal. I expected more of the same. After all, Vauxhall had not yet had time to see much engineering, or product planning input from their new (Peugeot Citroen) French owners.
The GSi monicker has not been seen on a Vauxhall for some years. But, the very fact that the GSi badge has been resurrected for this model give an indication of the company’s ambitions for this model.
The Insignia Sport Tourer range offers an almost bewildering choice of models, starting at £20,850 on the road. But, my test car was the top-of-the-range GSi which costs £38,465.
Yes, that is a lot more than the entry model. But, this range-topper has a lot of kit to justify the price. And, that’s not just things like the usual trim upgrades, comfort enhancements and convenience options.
As I was studying the specifications, I must have raised at least one eyebrow when I discovered that the GSi comes with four-wheel-drive. As if to offer a chance for the extra traction to shine, my second day with the GSi was graced with a rare (this winter) fall of snow.
The addition of a four-wheel drive system signals the seriousness with which Vauxhall’s product planners and engineers are targeting this car to take on the best of its upmarket European rivals – like Audi quattros and BMW X Drives.
But, where Audi, or BMW, would then try to tempt you to spend more with a long list of desirable options, the Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer GSi comes with many of these extras as standard.
This included some equipment which also endeared the GSi to me on that cold snowy morning. Like the wonderful heated steering wheel and heated seats, notably not just in the front, but for the rear passengers as well.
More luxurious still, the front seats can also be cooled seats in the heat of summer. To keep the kids (or your fellow board members) happy, there’s a wifi hotspot, so that they can stay addicted to checking their social media (or maybe the FTSE), while you drive.
Or you can choose to listen to the Bose premium sound system. Apple Car Play and Android Auto are included in the Navi 8900 Intellilink system.
A special mention, also, for the excellent head-up display. But, two strange omissions for such a highly-equipped car are the lack of a reversing camera and the omission of adaptive cruise control. It is mentioned in the handbook, but wasn’t apparently fitted on this UK specification model.
As you would expect there is quite a bit of adjustment you can make to the Insignia’s driving modes. You can set more sports-orientated settings, including a sports setting for the four wheel drive system. The dampers, on the GSi’s 10mm lowered suspension, can also be quickly switched to standard, sport or touring settings.
So you can choose maximum comfort for that leisurely weekend drive to take granny to the coffee shop. Then, when she has been dropped off at her home, you can choose a more taut, responsive setting for the drive home!
So the GSi has the equipment to compete seriously with other executive sports tourers. But, does it have the style?
The Insignia GSi is an elegant car, with its long estate car body matched to a sweeping roof line. It has a classy and contemporary appearance. But, it blends in, rather than standing out in a crowd.
It’s a similar story inside with good sensible design and well-chosen materials adding to a pleasant ambience. The sports-style seats on this GSi make it feel quite special.
As you might expect with a sizeable car, there is good space front and rear. As the survivor of many attempts to shoehorn myself into cramped rear quarters, I would give the Insignia Sports Tourer a gold star for being pretty generous to rear seat passengers.
When you want to change duties from people-carrying to load-lugging, you’ll find the Insignia Sport Tourer is up to the job. The large load area is easily accessed by the large powered tailgate. It’s a very usable load area too, with no lip to lift loads up and over. During my time with the Insignia, I did a run to the recycling centre and we found it to be a very practical load carrier.
The Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer GSi is only available as a bi-turbo diesel, with the two-litre engine putting out a very respectable 210 bhp. Acceleration 0-62 mph is quoted at a quite rapid 7.5 seconds. More importantly for safe overtaking it picks up speed well once you get the turbochargers spinning.
The power is delivered by an eight-speed automatic transmission with a GKN e-Twinster differential actively distributing the torque between the front and rear wheels.
This is a car that is very much at home eating up the miles on the motorway and you do feel that you could just keep going along autoroute, autopiste and autostrade, if you fancy a drive across the continent. This is a relaxed and capable cruiser.
If, instead, you take to the B-roads you will find the Insignia Sports Tourer GSi to be well sorted and very capable. It doesn’t feel like a big estate car and will happily respond to a twisty section of road. Those of a sporty disposition, may well crave a little bit more feedback from the steering. That said, it feels positive and precise, inspiring confidence.
Indeed, my only real disappointment was the sound track. Where you might crave the rasp of a performance engine, the Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer GSi delivers creditable performance, but you are always aware that it is a diesel engine you hear under this bonnet.
The extensive development work, headed by Vauxhall’s performance car director and former race champion Volker Strycek, shines through. This Insignia is 160 kg lighter than its predecessor, which will undoubtedly help with its more nimble nature.
It’s fair to say that, after five days, the Vauxhall Insignia GSi had given me a whole new perspective on big Vauxhalls. This is a capable family car, business transport and load-lugger that eats up the miles, yet is a pleasure to drive. Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer GSI
Carbon dioxide emissions: 188 g/km
Combined fuel economy 39.8 mpg
Top speed: 143 mph
0-62: 7.5 secs
Power 210 bhp
Engine size 1956cc diesel
Boot capacity 560/1665 (back seats up/folded)