Vauxhall is aiming to fight back against the likes of the Skoda Superb and premium brands BMW, Mercedes and Audi with this bigger, hi-tech Insignia, which will arrive in UK showrooms next summer.
Like its age-old rival the Ford Mondeo, the Insignia has seen its sales figures squeezed by the ever-increasing popularity of SUVs and the aggressive finance offers on cars like the 3 Series, C-Class and A4.
To counter this, Vauxhall is trying to make the Insignia (which still accounts for more than 12 percent of its sales) a more spacious and sophisticated offering.
The overall looks of the new car take significant cues from the Monza Concept that was first seen at the Frankfurt Motor Show back in 2013. The front end gets slim headlights and a more vertical grille that’s mounted lower than on the outgoing model. At the side is what Vauxhall calls a ‘sweepspear’ – in effect, a deep crease that starts low down near the sill and moves up just before the rearwheel arch – while the rear features split tail-lamps and an LED third brake light integrated at the top of the glass.
“New five door Insignia Grand Sport gets a longer wheelbase, but roofline is lower, giving coupe look”
The five-door version of the car, called the Insignia Grand Sport, gets a much longer wheelbase – increased by 92mm – although shortened overhangs mean that the car isn’t much longer overall. Its roofline does sit lower, though, giving it what Vauxhall hopes is a coupe-like look; this, combined with styling cues designed to make the Insignia appear wider, provides it with a more aggressive stance.
That growth in wheelbase is designed to make the Insignia’s rear cabin as spacious as a Superb’s, and more roomy than any of the premium executive models’. And while the roofline has been lowered, so has the seating position – to the point where Vauxhall claims there is actually more headroom in the rear seats than before.
“You sit in the driver’s seat of the new Insignia, whereas you sit o n the driving seat of the outgoing model; I think that’s a key difference,” Mark Adams, vice president of Opel/Vauxhall design, told.
“In fact, moving the driver’s hip point down allowed us to lower the roofline to give that coupe-like profile, and make a car that is barely any wider than the one it replaces look quite a bit wider to the eye.”
Boot capacity, meanwhile, is a decent 490 litres, rising to 1,450 litres with the split rear seats folded down. Those figures are some way shy of the Superb’s 625 litres and 1,760 litres, but slightly up on a 3 Series.
Despite the increase in size, the new Insignia is up to 175kg lighter than the car it replaces; this is because it switches to a platform that shares weight-saving principles with the latest Astra’s. As a result, Vauxhall claims that the revised engine line-up – unspecified as yet, but likely to comprise a mix of 1.5 and 2.0- litre turbocharged petrols and 1.6 and 2.0-litre turbodiesels – is able to deliver improved performance and fuel efficiency.
The standard transmission set-up will be front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual box, but Vauxhall will offer selected engines with four-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic. The more expensive combination is likely to be included as standard at launch with the range-topping Insignia – a 250bhp turbo petrol model.
Gearbox: Six-speed manual will feature on front-drive standard cars, but high-spec 4WD models get eight-speed auto
On the four-wheel-drive chassis, there is a pair of multi- plate clutches instead of a rear differential – a similar system in design to the Ford Focus RS’s, and one that allows the Insignia to be offered with torque vectoring. As well as feeding power to the wheel with the best traction in snow, the set-up will prioritise the outside rear wheel in corners to help the car to turn in more crisply.
“The Insignia’s dashboard gets a sorely needed workover, with a large infotainment screen replacing the plethora of buttons”
Inside, the Insignia’s dashboard gets a sorely needed workover, with a large infotainment screen replacing the plethora of buttons on the current facia. Adams added: ”We’ve focused on horizontal lines to make the dashboard look as wide as possible, and we’ve worked very hard on reducing the number of buttons, because I know we’ve been criticised for that.”
Driving: Horizontal lines have been implemented to declutter the console for a clean look
It houses Vauxhall’s latest IntelliLink software and On Star services, including an on-call concierge. Smartphone connectivity is incorporated, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Adams told: ”We’ve tried to keep functionality; it can be hard to stab the right bit of a touchscreen if you’re travelling on a poorly surfaced road. So we’ve designed in a small shelf in front of the display that will help you to steady your hand as you operate the screen. We think little touches like that can make a big difference.”
Infotainment: Latest IntelliLink display brings Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity
Easy to use: To ensure touchscreen is simple to operate on move, a shelf is fitted below for drivers to rest hand on
Other features fresh to the Insignia include a new generation of Vauxhall’s IntelliLux LED matrix lights, which can focus the beam when going around corners and provide up to 400 metres of illumination.
New safety kit includes rear cross traffic alert to help when reversing out of a space or driveway, plus adaptive cruise control. There will also be an estate version of the car, called the Insignia Grand Tourer.
It’s likely to arrive in UK dealers a couple of months after the hatchback, in late summer 2017. Adams told that the cars were designed alongside each other, allowing the team to fix key points of the side profiles and ensure they progressed smoothly through to both hatchback and estate rears.
Vauxhall is expected to announce full tech specs and prices for the Insignia Grand Sport – and to start taking first orders for the car – in January, Further down the line, the firm is likely to offer a jacked-up, off-road-style version, but it’s still unclear whether the high- performance edition that’s also on the way will carry the VXR badge.