11 Jan: Vauxhall Insignia BiTurbo 4×4

On first impression, it would appear that Vauxhall have tried to pitch their top of the range Insignia into prestige car territory, up against other top Brits and Germans. And whilst it looks the part and carries the kit well, methinks they have tried too hard.

The Insignia SRi BiTurbo 4×4 has been loaded to the gunnels with goodies, but like a 2 lb box of Dairy Milk at Christmas, you can have too much of a good thing at one sitting. For sure it’s got good engines and gearboxes and it drives well with a nice feel to the steering for a big car, but the package should have been drawn together by a silk ribbon, not a length of baler twine.

For instance, the driver’s seat sits too high for my liking even at its lowest setting. This wasn’t a problem I experienced in a standard Insignia two years back, but I’ve put it down to the fact that the front seats in this model are electrically adjustable and heated. That means electric motors and wiring gubbins underneath, so maybe there is a limit to how far they can be lowered. If a car company has to raise the seats for whatever reason then they should allow extra adjustment in the steering wheel movement. They didn’t, so the driving position was not ideal, and that’s not acceptable in a car of this size.

Another thing that annoyed me was the optional 19 inch alloys. The 245/40 x 19 Pirelli Potenza RE050A rubber bands provided a lot of grip, but not a lot of comfort. On the Clydeside one night I ran over a German frog. I knew it was German, because it only had one ball. (Too subtle, eh?)

That run up the Clydeside in streaming wet rain also revealed another dislike – the ‘wobbly’ headlights. The road from Lanark to Hamilton through Kirkfieldbank and Crossford follows the line of the River Clyde. It’s full of sharp turns and hollows, blind brows and odd cambers. In fact, it can be a dose of fun when quiet, but not when it’s cold, wet and raining hard.

Oddly enough, I became a fan of swivelling headlights on Mull when I was driving the Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport-X, but I’ve gone off them again after that run at Christmas. Had it been a flat road I might have got away with it, but sitting there behind this broad sweep of bright light sweeping one way and then the other, up and down, with automatic dipping function being confused by the heavy rain, I actually felt queasy long before I got to Garrion Bridge.

Which leads me on to the thing that I really didn’t like most. The Bi-Xenon headlamps.  There is absolutely no need for such bright lights in this country where the speed limit is 70 mph. If I want to go for a drive in the country, then ‘normal’ headlights are fine, but if I want to go looking for Dorniers over Clydebank, then Bi-Xenons might be better. I got absolutely fed up with the number of oncoming drivers who flashed at me thinking I hadn’t dipped my headlamps. The worst of it is, there is no manual over-ride on this system.

I’m sure Vauxhall’s lights will comply with automotive lighting regulations, but I reckon they are reactive, whereas human intervention is pre-emptive, and that could make a difference.

And whilst in main moan mood, there was one other thing I didn’t like. It was a minor thing, but because of all my other concerns it niggled me more than it should. The 2 litre twin-turbo oil burner under the bonnet sounds like an old Hoover in a hallway. A car with this sort of performance deserves a better engine note!

Performance? The Insignia has it in buckets. 192 bhp doesn’t sound much and when just trickling along using the first, smaller turbo it feels quite smooth, but press the accelerator, engage the second turbo and you get the benefit of 400 Nm of torque propelling you along the nation’s highways and byways. Then press the ‘Sport’ button (I just love ‘Sport’ buttons) and the suspension tightens itself up and the big car thinks it’s a Corsa VXR.

And maybe the queasy feeling on that late night Clydeside run was partly my own fault. With the ‘Sport’ mode switched on and the tenacious grip from those Pirellis coupled with the four wheel drive system, I was probably going a bit too hard for my own internal wellbeing.

Otherwise there is a lot to like about the big Vauxhall. Rear passengers have limited leg room but the boot is huge and accessed through a big powered tailgate.

As for the cabin, it looked like a Currys open night for customers. The dash had a 7 inch colour screen with full SatNav functionality along with a multi-function console for radio, CD, MP3 use, plus an AUX-in and USB sockets. That was a 1200 quid option over the standard Insignia.

It also had the Tech Pack (£510) with front and rear parking sensors, and given the limited rearwards visibility through the rakish windows when parking, a welcome extra! That also included a mobile phone system with Bluetooth and a sexy wee shark fin aerial on the rear edge of the roof.

The test car also had the Front Camera System (£750) which a number of manufacturers are now adopting these days.  These cameras alert the driver to traffic signs, including speed limit signs, provides lane departure warnings, and decides if you’re getting too close to the car in front. It also advises if a forward collision is likely. Too clever by half!

And there’s more. It had the £1145 sports leather seat pack, a Tyre Pressure monitoring system (£110), full size (sensible!) spare wheel for £110, powered tailgate at £370 and one thing I could do without, the adaptive forward lighting at £890. All of these extras added £5,595 to the entry level price of £32,390.00.

So there’s a lot to like with the Insignia, including the SatNav system. What really tickled my chuckle muscles was the wee symbol for churches. I think it was supposed to represent an angel with a halo, but it looked more like a wee Lego man with a skipping rope. It always made me smile.

Do you know, by the time I was finished driving the Insignia I was just so frustrated. There is a great car here which I could really like, but couldn’t because Vauxhall have just tried too hard to make a good car better. It didn’t quite come off, but for smaller framed people who like comfort and a high seating position plus all of life’s little motoring luxuries, then it will do the business.

And with it’s VXR spoilers, sills and skirts it’s quite a handsome big rascal, just not for me.

  • Review Date: January 11, 2013
  • Price
  • Engine
  • Performance
  • Economy
  • CO2 emissions
  • Insurance Group