First drive: Do the updates on the facelifted Vauxhall Insignia go far enough?

·6-min read

What is it?

Vauxhall Insignia
The Insignia’s design has been lightly revised


A decade ago at the staff car park of any large business, there’s a good chance the rows would be filled with diesel Ford Mondeos and Vauxhall Insignias. These really were the company cars of choice, famed for their long-distance prowess and relative affordability. But a lot’s changed in that time, and today the typical company car is far more likely to be a plug-in hybrid German executive car or an SUV of sorts.

It’s left models like the Mondeo and Insignia with a seemingly fractional audience – so much so that Ford recently announced its Mondeo would be discontinued in Europe next year. Despite this, though, Vauxhall is continuing with its Insignia, which is now just available as a large hatch. It’s now back as part of a mid-life update, but is there still life left in it?

What’s new?

Vauxhall Insignia
The front end of the Insignia has been given a light facelift


Like Vauxhall’s Astra, the Insignia sits in a rather unusual position, as these are models from the firm’s previous owners General Motors, rather than the current proprietors the PSA Group – or Stellantis, as it’s now known. It, therefore, means it can’t benefit from the same updates as other Vauxhalls.

That said, changes include a raft of new more efficient engines – which claim to sip up to 18 per cent less fuel than before – along with slight front-end design changes, which we’ll explore later. There are also some clever new Matrix LED headlights that provide impressive visibility at night, along with new safety assists.

What’s under the bonnet?

Vauxhall Insignia
The Insignia has been a mainstay of Vauxhall’s range for years


Though it’s the diesels that will continue to dominate in the Insignia – with a 120bhp 1.5-litre and 172bhp 2.0-litre available – our test car uses one of the model’s new petrol options instead.

Here, it’s a 2.0-litre unit that produces a healthy 197bhp and 350Nm of torque, with power being delivered to the front wheels via a new nine-speed automatic gearbox. The sprint to 60mph takes a relatively brisk 7.2 seconds and flat out it would reach a top speed of 146mph. In fact, it’s only two-tenths of a second slower than the four-wheel-drive GSI performance model.

The downside of going for a big petrol, though, is thirst, with Vauxhall claiming just 35mpg for the model – you could get almost twice that with the cheapest diesel – with CO2 emissions ranging from 167-188g/km.

What’s it like to drive?

The Insignia sits in fairly middling ground when it comes to the way it drives – not standing out in any particular area, but not with any real weakness, either.

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These are cars predominantly intended to slog up and down the motorway, and that’s where it’s at its best. That said, the big 20-inch wheels fitted to our sporty-looking SRI VX-Line test car meant the ride was quite firm.

It’s a shame this 2.0-litre petrol couldn’t be more efficient, though, as it’s very smooth and the nine-speed auto is a great asset. While petrol is a good match for the Insignia’s comfort and refinement, the diesels still make the most sense in a car like this.

How does it look?

Vauxhall Insignia
The front end of the Insignia features sharper headlights


Tweaks to the Insignia are pretty subtle to say the least. The front is the most noticeable change, with the model gaining new LED headlights that are slimmer than before – you will notice the daytime signature is now at the bottom of the light, rather than the top. The grille also gets some smart new chrome detailing.

Though the Insignia is hardly worthy of a catwalk, we reckon it’s a rather stylish thing, even with minimal tweaks. The large hatchback shape suits it well, and this ‘VX’ trim – a nod to Vauxhall’s old VXR performance division – looks particularly appealing. It’s a shame the even sleeker ‘Tourer’ estate model was discontinued a couple of years ago, though.

What’s it like inside?

Vauxhall Insignia
The interior of the Insignia is finished to a decent standard


Inside, the Insignia is pretty much the same as before. That means you get Vauxhall’s familiar eight-inch touchscreen and the traditional climate settings that haven’t changed for the best part of a decade. It’s really that point that lets the car down. Sure, everything you get is easy to see and use, but it’s all so bland and the quality is certainly no match for more premium offerings.

On the plus side, the Insignia scores pretty well in the practicality stakes. You get a good-sized 490-litre boot and there’s plenty of rear legroom, though the sleek sloping roofline might mean adults having to slouch a bit to get comfortable.

What’s the spec like?

Vauxhall Insignia
A central screen gives access to media and navigation functions


Stick to versions at the lower end of the spectrum and you get a lot of car for your money, with a starting price of £24,130 not being that much higher than family hatchbacks like the Volkswagen Golf. Standard equipment is also generous, including a seven-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and smartphone mirroring, dual-zone climate control and LED headlights.

Our mid-range VX-Line Nav model also came brimmed with kit, such as Matrix LED headlights, leather seats, keyless entry, a massaging driver’s seat and Bose sound system.

But with the price of our test car being almost £35,000, it’s almost impossible to recommend when you consider a BMW 3 Series or Audi A4 could be had for similar money.

Verdict

There’s plenty going for the Insignia – it looks good, represents decent value for money in lower trims and would make a practical family car. Its trouble, though, is that it’s quite forgettable, both when it comes to the way it drives and being inside.

The Insignia feels like a car that hasn’t really moved with the times – both when it comes to electrification and the increased want for more technology and quality. While still a very decent car in its own regard, this update does little to persuade anyone otherwise considering something more upmarket or a bit higher up.

  • Model: Vauxhall Insignia

  • Base price: £24,130

  • Model as tested: Vauxhall Insignia SRi VX-Line Nav 2.0 Petrol Auto

  • Price as tested: £34,980

  • Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol

  • Power: 197bhp

  • Torque: 350Nm

  • Max speed: 146mph

  • 0-60mph: 7.2 seconds

  • MPG: 33.1-37.7mpg

  • Emissions: 167-188g/km