- Classy look
- Good value
- Comfortable interior
- Not sporty
- Dated infotainment system
In our 2017 Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport review, Ben Griffin looks into whether the affordable family car has what it takes to do battle with the Ford Mondeo and its German competitors.
The small family saloon market is a toughie, so when Vauxhall replaced the Insignia it made some drastic changes that make it harder to classify. Because if you can't beat 'em, change the rules.
For starters, the length and wheelbase has grown by 50mm and 92mm, respectively, making it in the region of the gigantic Skoda Superb, which is really just a VW Passat but for less money.
There is no saloon option, but the Sport Tourer hatchback has saloony elements. For those who need more space, there is the Sport Tourer estate, while those who get muddy from time to time can opt for the forthcoming Country Tourer crossover.
You can choose between a 1.6-litre turbo diesel with 109 or 134bhp. Then there is a 2.0-litre diesel with 168bhp and two 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrols with either 138 or 163bhp.
Our press car was fitted with the 2.0-lite petrol, which outputs a potent 256bhp and 295lb/ft of torque, and 4x4 all-wheel drive, making it less likely to get stuck in a field.
In terms of its rivals, technically it competes with the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Ford Mondeo, Skoda Superb, Jaguar XE, VW Passat and Alfa Romeo Giulia but as we said its individual sizing makes it an original proposition.
We were given an Emerald Green Insignia Grand Sport Elite Nav 2.0 Turbo 4x4 for our week-long test drive. Here's our road test verdict, including the running costs, performance and handling.
2017 Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport: Design?
At the heart of the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport is the E2 modular platform, which has helped shed up to 175kg in weight overall depending on the engine – an impressive amount given the size increase.
The new Insignia Grand Sport is also a considerably prettier car to look at to the point where you can forget it's a Vauxhall. There is a hint of Mercedes and Mazda about the design, which helps it look more expensive.
A simple, confident aesthetic makes the Vauxhall stand out in a time when most of its competitors are going for increasingly large front grilles that end up making a car look like a fish.
Meanwhile improving space for the rear passengers was a requirement that Vauxhall achieved without preventing the roof line from looking all swoopy and neat.
Vauxhall has worked hard to improve the Insignia Grand Sport's interior, too. By dropping the front seat hip point by 30mm, the dashboard appears more imposing and the seating positon becomes more involving.
Then there is the severe de-cluttering of buttons. Physical buttons remain in place for the more essential functions, but the 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment display (7.0-inch in the non Nav models) picks up most of the slack.
Some of the switchgear is a little lacklustre in the quality department, but overall the cabin is on a par with the new Ford Mondeo and nothing rattles or creaks as you drive along. It is not a million miles away from some of its German rivals.
The infotainment system can be a bit unintuitive to use and looks dated, which ruins the premium illusion somewhat, but the navigation directions did prove accurate and you can adjust the very capable Bose sound system to taste (the default is really, really bassy).
The addition of a 4G WiFi hotspot, which allows you and other passengers to connect to the web on the go, is another plus. Little extras such as this and new safety systems (including autonomous emergency braking) help the Vauxhall stay relevant.
2017 Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport: Practicality?
There has been a loss of 10 litres of boot space to help make way for improved rear leg room, but the 490-litre space is still impressive although it lags behind the Mondeo 525 litres and the Passat's 585 litres.
You also get medium-sized door bins and a centre armrest where you can rest your arm and store even more stuff. As for the rear seats, you can fold the down in a 60:40 split-folding arrangement so it is easier to load long items and keep one or two passengers in comfort.
Rear head room is acceptable for the lower six-foot club and rear leg room is good unless your front passenger is related to a giraffe. Anyone who sits in the middle seat will have to deal with the protruding centre armrest and transmission tunnel, though.
2017 Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport: Handling & performance?
There is a rather unexciting edge to the way the Insignia Grand Sport drives. It should be anything but boring given the 256bhp output and the fact it has 'Sport' in the name, but it's more of a comfortable cruiser.
Bury your foot and the eight-speed automatic changes gear smoothly and without fuss, but it contributes to very linear power delivery that is fast on paper (0-60mph in 6.9 second) but rather boring in practice.
The engine noise is hardly likely to make you bother going fast either, but at least you have the poke to overtake and pull into a busy roundabout, especially with four-wheel drive. We never felt the inclination to see how close it can get to 155mph (nor the runway, for that matter).
Though the suspension can make more of a meal of bumps than the A4, even with the adjustable 'FlexiRide system' set to its softer 'Touring' setting, it smooths out enough imperfections to make it comfortable.
The Insignia Grand Sport is actually rather good at cornering, too, and the weight reduction helps it come across as agile. The steering is somewhat light and vague, but neither rarely hinder making fast progress.
Factor in an impressively quiet cabin and it is clear the Insignia Grand Sport is most at home on long motorway drives, something business reps and other typical Vauxhall owners will really appreciate.
Being the family car underdog and rather pretty, we had high hopes it would be somewhat exciting. The truth is that it does A to B in a lacklustre way. But then some of its German rivals have that problem too.
2017 Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport: Running costs and price?
There is such a vast array of models available that you would have grown a beard by the time we finished listing them all. What matters is that the bog-standard Design spec is generous.
Electric front and rear windows, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, 7.0-inch infotainment display, multi-function steering wheel, air-conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry and start and automatic lights make it easily bearable.
But then it is worth upgrading to navigation for convenience, at which point you can go for the Design Nav option. Above that is SRi, which adds 17-inch alloys, rear USB sockets, dual-zone climate control, auto wipers, spoiler, tinted rear windows and front fog lights.
Our top of the range Elite Nav had fetching LED headlights, leather seats, Bose stereo, front and rear parking sensors, tilt and lumbar adjustment, torque vectoring, 20-inch five twin-spoke alloys, leather steering wheel, heated seats and DAB digital radio as standard.
It is the only trim level available for the 256bhp petrol engine, so that makes the buying decision even easier if you want as much performance as you can get.
Extras added to our test car to make it even more comfortable include the noise-reducing laminated side windows (£220), the highly useful head-up display (£290), two-coat metallic paint (£555) and sports-style front seats for a more snug fit (£1,155). Total price: £32,315.
As for petrol usage, the 2.0-litre petrol offers up to 32.8mpg combined although we struggled to get our average much above 25mpg, even on three-laned roads at 70mph. CO2, meanwhile, comes in at 197g/km so it will cost you a fair amount to tax.
The more frugal diesels promise up to 70.6mpg, but are more likely to top out around 45 to 50mpg if you really put the effort in. Even with weight-saving, the engines have a big car to lug around.
Depreciation will probably be an issue, too, although this could be countered with a particularly good deal at the dealers and the fact it is relatively cheap to begin with.
2017 Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport: Should I buy one, then?
It was never going to be easy to build a car capable of competing with its premium-priced rivals, especially with the Vauxhall badge up front, but the Insignia Grand Sport manages to get comfortably close.
Like the new Astra, the Insignia Grand Sport marks a really positive step-up in quality. The look is graceful and understated, while the price is extremely reasonable and the interior much more inviting.
Okay, so the A4 is more luxurious and refined, while the Mondeo has sharper handling, as does the 3 Series. There are also some unsavoury remnants of its predecessor still present that mar the experience such as the handling, which is anything but sporty.
But if your main requirement is a car that soaks up the miles without making a song and dance about it, the Insignia Grand Sport is worth a look.
- 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
- 256bhp (260PS) at 5,300rpm
- 295lb/ft (400Nm) at 2,500-4,000rpm
- 0-60mph in 6.9 seconds (top speed 155mph)
- 197g/km of CO2
- 32.8mpg (combined)
- From £27,710 (£32,315 tested)