The old Vauxhall Insignia improved over the course of its life, but by the end it was starting to show its age. Confused styling, too many buttons inside and an ageing shape meant that a refresh was long overdue.
The Grand Sport is the new hatchback incarnation of the Insignia, and it’s a handsome car. Its lower nose, droopier front end and grill and lower stance looks like the designs from a company trying to test the water in the market. It has sharp, well thought out edges and angles which look good from, well, every angle, and it certainly is one of the better looking and most striking hatchbacks out there. It’s hard not to turn your head when you see one – it’s actually 92mm longer than the previous version – which was already pretty lengthy. This one tops out at an impressive and dominating 4.9m.
It does feel its size too, as there’s a lot of extra interior space and it feels bigger, roomier and airier in the cab, especially in the once cramped back. That being said, Vauxhall have worked hard on the weight of the thing, and a clever use of materials have shaved nearly 60kg off the final figures.
In terms of power plant and engine development, I managed to test the new 1.5 petrol unit, which is a bulked up version of the engine we see in the 1.4 petrol Astra. With 138bhp, my test car seemed more refined than the optimistically named ‘whisper’ diesels that appear as if they come from a different era now. It’s nice to see a petrol engine that can return the mpg in a car of this size, and the weight loss will go a long way towards this, but it’s refined and delivers a vastly improved driving experience.
This leads us to the driving experience outright, which, let’s be honest, is made for munching up the motorway miles and turning monotony into something that’s comfortable, bearable and often, in the midst of the working day, vaguely productive. The best way of describing the driving sensation of the new Insignia is benign – it has a bias towards muffled, cocoon-like comfort that has to be applauded and there’s an impassiveness to the steering that is welcome at motorway speeds. Slower, the ride is firmer and harder than I would have liked on 18in wheels, but it could hardly be classed as uncomfortable and the interior padding takes the worst out of it, anyway.
If you’re interested, and going for the tested petrol version, at base spec you’ll be looking at sub 18k. It’s a lot of car for the money, and you can’t get a Skoda or Ford equivalent for the same money. Granted, once you’ve added the decent touchscreen, nav and potentially the best-selling 1.6 diesel, you’ll be looking at closer to the mid 20k’s, but it’s competitive and worthy of note in the review, as it does make the car an appealing prospect ahead of much of the competition. There are more powerful engines to explore, like a 2.0 diesel, and of course the upcoming GSI, but price wise that looks like it’s to start at a slightly more optimistic £33,375.
There’s been a clear and distinct effort from Vauxhall to make sure the Grand Sport is a step up. In an evermore confusing scenario at this level – with cars such as this falling out of favour somewhat – it’s nice to see Vauxhall having done a proficient job in a model that enables so many millions to do theirs up and down the motorways of the UK. ‘Flagship’ cars are not what they once were, but Vauxhall have made changes to the old Insignia here that are impossible not to spot and enjoy once you’re behind the wheel. I did, in fact, very much enjoyed my time with it.