Long term test: Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 CDTi 160 EcoFlex Elite

Following his recent Real World Review and Real World Dream Barn, I’m delighted to say that Rob Griggs-Taylor has joined PetrolBlog as a resident blogger. I have of course just made up the term ‘resident blogger’, but I can’t exactly call him staff writer, as then I’d need to prepare a contract and pay him some hard cash. So resident blogger he is and in his first post under this new, made up title, he gives the lowdown on his Vauxhall Cavalier…I mean Vectra…sorry, Insignia. 

Over to you Rob…

As the newest member of the PetrolBlog team I thought I should introduce my long-term test car. And not for PetrolBlog the normal 12,000 mile (or even less) test. That’s not long term, We’ll be keeping this one much longer than that. Without further ado then, let me introduce the latest addition to the PetrolBlog fleet,

The inimitable Jeremy Clarkson once described the Vauxhall Vectra as “one of my least favourite cars in the world.” He went on to state that he hated it because he felt that “it had been designed in a coffee break by people who couldn’t care less about cars.” With this in mind, you can imagine how I felt when I was told that my next long-term car was going to be a Vauxhall to replace the Mondeo I was driving.

Usefully, Vauxhall had replaced the Vectra with the new Insignia and it was one of these that arrived at the office back in February 2010. ‘My’ car is a 5-door hatch in Elite trim level and with the 160PS CDTi ‘EcoFlex’ engine and six-speed manual gearbox. The only optional extras fitted are metallic paint and Bluetooth, both of which should be standard these days, but with the specification on this car it’s almost hard to know what else you could usefully add. Leather trim, dual climate control, DAB radio, satellite navigation, electric driver’s seat with memory, adaptable xenon headlights, front and rear parking sensors. It adds up to a very well equipped vehicle, with possibly only some kind of DVD system to keep the kids occupied in the back as a missing requirement.

So, the spec list looked good on paper, but Vauxhall interiors have been extremely poor over recent years and the exterior design has been a bit, well, origami.

On first sight the Insignia couldn’t be more different.

The exterior is much more curvaceous than the sharply angled Vectra, and could even be described as Reubenesque. The front has a huge grille and a surprisingly large Vauxhall badge. You begin to think that Vauxhall might be a bit proud of this car. The side profile is similar to that of the larger Jaguar XF, a point I really picked up on when my car was parked next to one in the car park. The rear is, for me, the only point that jars. How to best put it? This car has a fat arse. I guess that sums it up. Yes, there’s a capacious 520 litres in the boot but the small rear window and lights leave a lot of metal to fill in the gaps. and the large rear bumper doesn’t help the effect.

Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 CDTi 160 Ecoflex Elite rear
Does my bum look big in this?

Eighteen inch alloy wheels are appropriately sized for the body. The seventeen inch ones on more basic models leave the car looking a bit like those trainers with the wheels in the bottom.

My car is finished in a dark metallic blue colour which makes a pleasant change from the almost regulatory black or silver that most people choose these days. (Side note – what is it with colour charts these days? Four silvers, one grey, one black, five blues. One red, one white, one beige, one green. Whatever happened to orange, yellow, brown, purple? Come on Vauxhall – be a bit adventurous!)

Into the interior and things couldn’t be more different from the depressingly uninspiring Vectra. Nicely finished plastics, comfortable seats, wood trim, a curvy dashboard and, most tellingly, high quality switchgear. Deeply cowled chrome-ringed instruments with elegant markings sit behind a nicely designed (and leather trimmed) steering wheel upon the top two spokes of which sit the hifi and cruise control switches.

Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 CDTi 160 EcoFlex Elite centre consoleThe centre console is topped by a nine inch colour screen which can be toggled between the functions of satellite navigation and hifi display. Immediately below is a plethora of almost identical buttons to control most settings in the car with just a tiny slot to indicate that you can play CDs here. Below again are the knobs, buttons and display for the climate control system.

In front of the cutaway central armrest are two cup holders with a sliding cover, which is sadly not tall enough to fit drinks cans underneath, and the small button for the electronic handbrake. Inside the armrest is a power socket, USB port and 3.5mm jack socket for plugging in your MP3 player. Although the hifi is iPod compatible, and Vauxhall have confirmed that it is iPhone compatible, my iPhone always brings up a message suggesting incompatibility when plugged into the USB port.

Interior lighting is plentiful, with front and rear overhead lights, map lights, footwell lights and some nice ambient lighting that you don’t notice unless you’re looking for it at night.

All in all, the Insignia gives a good first impression.

Whilst the car was delivered in bright sunshine, sufficient snow fell in the afternoon to make the 11 mile drive home later in the day somewhat trying. The first thing to irritate was the little screen in between the speedo and rev counter which acts mainly as a thorough trip computer but can, and does, flash up various warnings with monotonous regularity when you’re getting used to the car.

“You MUST press the clutch in to start the engine”, “Press the brake pedal while releasing the handbrake” demanded the car as I tried to go through the normal acts of starting up and driving away. Forgetting to put my seatbelt on after reversing out of a parking space resulted in an irritating “bing…bing…bing…” noise until I stopped to put it on. Vauxhall clearly forgot to mention that my mum was included as a piece of standard equipment and was still teaching me to drive some *harrumph* years after passing my driving test.

As an aside, the various bonging noises that occur do really grate. I am an adult and don’t need or want all this electronic mothering, so you will understand how delighted I was to discover a setting for the chime volume, and how [censored] off I was to find out that the options were ‘loud’ and ‘normal’. I have contacted Vauxhall and apparently there is no way to switch them off. Presumably if I signed multiple declarations indicating that I indemnify them from ever being sued in the event of my acting stupidly in some way they’d be able to find a software upgrade that would add ‘quiet’ and ‘off’ settings to the chime volume.

Driving in snow, and the resulting queues of traffic, made it hard to gain any useful driving impressions. ABS and wide low-profile tyres are not good things in snow, an electronic handbrake that requires pressing the brake pedal every time you want to release it is a royal pain, and trying to discover what all eight-hundred buttons on the centre console do while in stop start traffic was perhaps not the smartest thing to do. The sat nav was useful though. When I finally got fed up of the pedal/handbrake samba I worked out an alternative route across B-roads and was home with no further irritation.

This is a family car and will be used as such during my tenure.

So the final irritation was discovering that my eight year old son’s booster seat couldn’t be placed squarely in the rear seat without the seat belt socket being under it.

Will things get better as time goes on? Let’s find out…

Don’t forget you can follow Rob on twitter @robgt2.

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Gavin Big-Surname
The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. Has a rather unhealthy obsession with cars from the 80s and 90s, and is on a one-man mission to collect the cars nobody else wants. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.


  1. August 21, 2011

    I rented this car, I dont know why I did though. I wanted a Mercedes or Audi but “all” they had left was this so I thought fine, ill give it a go. Could possibly be a good choice right?


    This car cant even pull away in idle, it wants to stall when you drive it without putting your foot through the floor, its idle torque is that low..

    The parking brake demands you to press the food break to release. So, if im plannig to roll down hill (because rolling backwards is stopped by another piece of mothering that is getting into every car now), I would need to press the power, brake, clutch and handbreak for a quick getaway, or something like that anyway, I forget to try because I never use the dam thing (which also takes ages to actually engage, you can hear it go bzzzmmmmmm while it goes on)

    There is the bing bing seatbelt thing, we wanted to coast down the beach slowly, chilling out so I thought ill wait till it stops binging. And it did, and then it started two minutes later. Then it stopped and started again 2 minutes later every 30 seconds. What the hell? It even bings going in reverse. Hello?

    Then the engine cut out pulling away in second, moving about 5 mph. The bloody thing stalled mid road then did some strange engine restart procedure and then made a cracking buzzing noise for 10 seconds then cut out. Then I restarted it and it was fine? Come to think of it that might be a low gearing problem and me not expecting the low torgue and high gearing and the gearbox stuck between second and neutral? Anyway, I was not alone because the guy at the rental place stalled it too, but then again he couldnt figure out how to disengage the parking brake so perhaps its just me. Worst bit was though then it actually stalled during a three point turn on a busy road. Im not driving a 1.4l turbo petrol thank you very much, I expect low rpm diesel torques..

    If you do the strange thing of pulling away hard and going from second gear to fourth for the cruize you have another problem. Your engine anticipates your next gear and adjusts the engine speed to match this, so when you skip a gear your car gives a little jerk as the momentum is lost through the clutch. The way around this is to use the accellerator when downshifting haha…

    The boot wont shut unless you slam it, the boot is tiny anyway and I dont know where the space goes, the steering wheel is not grippy enough…

    Didnt look under the bonnet and I dont care either, its an engine and it sucks.

    Arr only had it two day so I cant wait to take it back and rent my usual A3

    • August 22, 2011

      Ouch. Hardly a glowing reference for he Insignia EcoFlex…

      I’m sure Rob will drop by soon with his own update. When are you giving it back?

    • November 21, 2011

      Sounds like you’ve suffered very similar initial impressions to my own. An update on my time with the car is coming soon.

    • August 4, 2014

      Folks the handbrake is not that bad,You need to find the bitting point, rev the engine and the handbrake releases automatically, ideal for hit starts, it also auto holds of a hill for 3 seconds so no handbrake needed, just keep your foot on the brake and when you go to out it in gear it holds so u jave plenty of time to find thw bitting point, took a few weeks to get used to but not that bad once you know how to work it.

  2. October 22, 2011
    Paul Ryan

    I have this car on hire (only one available i didt choose it). Its a thoroughly irritating car with the beeps / annoying electronic handbrake. It looks ok, but it has been very poorly thought out inside. The stereo is ok but i cant find the mp3 socket – the guide book says its under the facia – i cant lift up the handrest – aaarrggh ! I hate hill starts in this car (even slight ones) as it rolls a little each time and tries to stall the engine too often. I havent driven Vauxhalls in years – no intention of ever buying one !

    • October 22, 2011

      It has to be said, many of the hits to this page of the blog are from people who are having problems with the car, mostly focused on the interior/switchgear.

      I’ll be keen to read an update from Rob at some point in the future…

      • November 21, 2011

        To open the centre console there’s a lock button on the front edge. If you put your hand flat on the top of the lid while sitting in the driver’s seat and curl your fingers back you’ll find the button. Press it in, lift the lid and you’ll find the USB and jack sockets in the rear aperture.

  3. January 1, 2012

    Hi if you go into config and there is no display phone settings does this mean I cant use bluetooth. The speakers and phone buttons are there its an hire car vauxhall insignia

    • January 2, 2012

      Hi Diane,
      It’s not something I can help with, but maybe an owner (Rob?) can help?
      Good luck.

      • January 5, 2012

        Hi Diane,

        You need to select Phone, then press the centre metal ring which will select the phone settings. If there’s no bluetooth menu item then the car is not fitted with the (apparently optional) equipment.

        Seems crazy to me that bluetooth should be an option.

  4. March 17, 2012

    Sorry guys but if you’re not smart enough to work out how to use the electric handbrake you should stick to driving something a little less sophisticated. You DON’T need to do anything to release the handbrake – just drive off! Yes it’s automatic. Hill starts? Thats automatic too. The footbrake stays on for 2 seconds when starting on a hill – just enough to press the clutch, engage gear and move off. You could always drive like a prat though and hold it on the clutch.

  5. November 7, 2012
    Chris MK

    I have just bought a 2009 2.0D SRI NAV hatchback and couldn’t be more pleased with the car, the electronic handbrake took all of 2 seconds to get used to, hill starts are so easy u just drive off with the electronic handbrake automatically releasing – just remember to put it on when u stop and leave it in gear.

    Pressing in the clutch to start the engine each time is a pain but u get into the habit of doing it.

    The messages that pop up on the dash can also be annoying but considering all the creature comforts of the car these are just small annoyances, the radio and MP3 are great, mine doesn’t have DAB unfortunately but it does have the USB socket and the 160BHP engine is silky smooth no problems there either, visibility is a little restrictive but u just have to adjust your driving style to account for the restrictive visibility but other then that if you are after a well equipped car I would recommend it.

  6. March 7, 2013

    From what i read here, it sounds like most of you have only just passed your driving test. If you enter a new car and not to sure how things work, how about the manual, ever thought about asking the salesman or dealership where collect the car. Not knowing how to open a center arm rest, oh please…

    I do think jeans,,, has this wound up, if the car is to tech for you or to far advanced, and you do not have the for sight to ask, please do not drive one and put other people on the road at risk while you play..

    I have driven many motors from cars to lorries and army wheels, and never did i pull away until i was satisfied i new what i was doing.

    I happen to own one of the insignia 2.0t, i find the clutch a little different from the norm, but not enough to slate the car, after a few miles you find the comfort zone of it, all cars have their ways, as all of us have our ways.
    I dare say that you do not go along your way and slate every one who walks differently to you.

  7. July 14, 2013

    I have to add this, I have been a company car driver for many years and had the dubious pleasure of driving many different cars from many manufactures. My last car was an Audi A3 SE nice car powerful and classy looks looks, I now own an Insignia 2.0 160 ecoflex SE and there is no comparison the Insignia is a much better car! It does not have bluetooth and yes this is an option but with Audi you will find that wheels are an option, my so called (expensive) mid range Audi came with nothing, half the buttons when pressed say “no function” and although powerful the drive was not great, it was so hard it damn near loosened your filings on some roads. So if you want a sporty looking expensive no options car go for an Audi, if however you want a car packed with extras, reliable, classy with great looks go for the Insignia. One more point Insignia’s depreciate faster than anything I know so buy a 3 year old car for half the RRP you will feel pretty smug when you look at your bank balance every month!

  8. August 28, 2013

    i have the insignia ecoflex (techline)
    i find myself turning off the stop/start everytime i jump in now. of course they must have tested it but i seriously think it’s going to mess the engine up starting so much. int he UK you don’t get very far before you’ve to stop! what is the research on this? are there cars still going strong that have been stop//starting for say 5years or more?

    apart from that it’s a good car. i like the handbrake (flick switch) and the auto off when you pull away, saves me doing it! the hill assist also

  9. February 25, 2014

    Hi, glad to see some positive comments. I have just bought a 2010 sri model which I pick up on Sunday. I was beginning to regret it after the first few posts! Mine is the 130bhp model. Has anybody found any problems with the lower power model? It seemed to be ok on the test drive.

  10. August 9, 2014

    I’ve had an Audi A6 2l d.. ive got an insignia 2l d elite. To which,Both being automatics. Both are nice cars,Both with push botton handbrakes, Both drive very nichly. The insignia being great value,without a shadow of adout, (Looks/comfort/styling/gagets, Which they both have.But the Audi being somewhat more expensive, in every way.

  11. October 16, 2015
    Davy H

    Folks, I have bought a 2012 Insignia Ecoflex SE manual estate and would like to turn the stop/start feature off. I do lots of short journeys at the beginning of the day and find it annoying. I keep forgetting to press the button inside the car everytime I start it up again as it resets to on when you switch the engine off. I was wondering if there was an over ride that you could do to turn it off permanently?


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