Rob’s long term Insignia: the end

Resident guest blogger, Rob Griggs-Taylor is back on PetrolBlog with some final words on his now departed Vauxhall Insignia. Over to you, Rob.

The name Vectra became synonymous over its lifetime with the words ‘lame’ and ‘rubbish’. Despite being popular in terms of numbers sold it was universally panned by the motoring press both in written and audio visual mediums. Vauxhall apparently withdrew all their advertising from BBC publications after a critique par excellence by one well known motoring show, seemingly preferring to pretend that all was well instead of improving the product.

So it was no surprise that they dropped the name for their new car, which became the Vauxhall Insignia. Still, ‘Insignia’ was an unexpected choice of name especially for those of us old enough to remember 1980s mens grooming products of the same name. It’s a wonder sniff PETROL hasn’t indulged in some appropriate ‘Not An Advertisement‘ satire.

Early signs that the car might be a dramatic improvement on it’s ancestors came with recent iterations of the Astra which, although not quite class leading, were a far cry from the MK3 version which was (hopefully) the nadir of that range.

Driving

Vauxhall Insignia CDTi Elite Sat Nav Real World ReviewOver the 26,000 miles that I’ve driven our Insignia Elite CDTi 160 Nav it’s been a pleasant experience. The engine has been strong other than when off-boost as previously bemoaned, and a little breathless at the top end. In day-to-day driving it’s been a great experience with great chunks of torque available to breeze past slower vehicles in A-road overtaking.

On twisty roads the car was better than I expected, whilst feeling as if it wasn’t prepared to deign to enjoy the experience. It felt like a Jeeves – suave and useful but aloof. This may be what Vauxhall were aiming for but there’s a sense that it’s aimed at an older audience than, for example, the VXR model might be comfortable with. Especially in the metallic beige colour it wouldn’t look out of place being driven by a retired gentleman, preceding a caravan, and accessorised with two cushions on the parcel shelf.

On long journeys it was marred only by significant ambient noise, mainly from the tyres on the twenty inch rims. This was probably noticeable because of the quietness of the rest of the car. At 70mph in sixth gear the engine is turning over right at the base of the turbo band (around 1750rpm) which allows some overtaking moves to be completed without dropping a gear, wafting by on a wave crest of torque.

Standard fit traction control was a bit slow to react on fast starts although this meant the avoidance of the strangled power feel that some other cars give.

Ambience

Camping with the Vauxhall Insignia CDTi Elite NavThe car was clearly assembled with significantly more care than previous Vauxhalls with a high quality feel pervading. The switches, control stalks, steering wheel and gear knob were pleasant to the touch with no jarring edges. Even the lighting at night was elegant and restrained with only the large colour screen in the centre console a distraction. There is no facility to dim the screen separately from the rest of the dashboard lighting so if dimmed at night it was undecipherable in daylight and vice versa.

As an aside, the annual sat nav updates were offered at a frankly criminal £229 each year. As that price could buy you two or three aftermarket devices to accomplish the same task it’s hard to see how such a pricing model can be justified. It’s no surprise that sat nav as an option on the used market appears to have lost the lustre it had only a few years ago. Anyone buying a used car is unlikely to want to lash out such a lot of money to bring the maps up to date. At a tenth of that price it would be a no-brainer.

The leather seats were comfortable and the powerful seat heating function was an indescribable blessing over the winter. Take it from me, dropping your rear onto leather seats at sub zero temperatures is not a pleasant sensation.

Luggage space of 520 litres was most welcome with two boys who seem to have a requirement to carry most of their belongings around with them any time we went on a weekend away. And a wife who likes shopping.

Other stuff

The front tyres needed replacing at 14,000 miles and the replacement Continentals seemed to reduce the noise of the previous Bridgestones.

The second service was completed at 22,000 miles and this time the car was entrusted to Drive Vauxhall in Leamington Spa who returned it freshly washed and vacuumed which was appreciated.

The only failure experienced was the heated seat pad on the drivers seat as mentioned in the 20k report previously. Nothing else went wrong on the car at all – not even a bulb failure.

Verdict

Vauxhall Insignia Elite CDTi 160 Nav on PetrolBlogThe Insignia is a car to be admired but, at least in our household, not one to be loved. I waited a few weeks after parting with the car to evaluate my feelings and I don’t miss it particularly. You don’t gain any kind of emotional bond with it. In that respect my 2006 Mondeo had it beaten, but the Insignia is a car that Vauxhall can justifiably be proud of. It once and for all blots out the Vectra years and puts Vauxhall on a significantly more level footing with their competitors. It’s easy to see why some thought it should be badged as an Opel as it has a Germanic feel to it.

If you’ve bought an Insignia you’re unlikely to regret it but you may find yourself yearning for something with more emotional involvement.

Our pick

I would really like to try the four wheel drive 2.8 V6 VXR version in contrast to the powerful diesel. In a few years if petrol becomes more affordable it could be a great used buy as it’s the spiritual successor to the Ford Sierra XR4x4, a car that was incredibly competent in A to B runs across the twisties.

Of the diesel models the Elite 160PS CDTi is clearly the pick of the bunch. As far as we can see the only difference between the 130PS and 160PS engines is the engine management programming which is presumably why GM have made reprogramming it so difficult. At the time of writing there are no companies successfully able to modify the mapping of the car after the 2008 model year. You can buy ‘piggyback’ engine management (aka tuning boxes) but it’s not recommended as they often send fake signals to some of the car sensors to fool the factory management and this can have less than desirable long-term effects. It would seem that there’s no point in buying the 130PS version and hoping for a cheap power boost.

Radio in Vauxhall Insignia CDTi Elite NavThe Elite comes with so much equipment it’s almost embarrasing – dual climate control, heated leather electrically adjustable front seats, cruise control, xenon automatically adjustable headlights (it’s a ten second job to switch them to dip the other way for continental driving), alloys, a USB interface with Apple device compatibility and even a 3.5mm jack socket for non-Apple mp3 player connection. Depending on the exact spec you may find yourself with a DVD player, or a DAB radio in addition to the standard CD player.

Make sure you get the handbooks if you buy one – there’s a separate one just for the buttons on the centre console! It’s unlikely that you’ll ever discover all the available functionality without doing that distinctly un-male task and reading the manual. Sorry ’bout that.

You can follow Rob on twitter @robgt2.

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ABOUT AUTHOR
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.

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