Let’s be honest: who actively wants an Insignia? The fact that around 80% are sold to fleets speaks volumes about the current model’s desirability. Brits have blindly become obsessed with premium badges, leaving the mainstream choices – however good they may be – lagging in their wake. Germany trumps Griffin every time.
Could the new 2017 Insignia reverse this trend? It’s surely an impossible ask, yet our early drive in a prototype suggests it’s not a forlorn cause. The newcomer sports an all-new platform (dubbed Epsilon 2), an array of new technology and, most importantly, a massive growth spurt. They’ve taken a leaf from the Skoda Superb’s manual, stretching the Insignia by 55mm in total (and a whopping 92mm in the wheelbase) and widening it by 7mm. This is a b-i-g car, 4.9m long. They’ve even named it the Grand Sport in deference to its super-sized dimensions. And, no, Bugatti did not have a hand in its development.
Climb aboard and you’ll immediately appreciate the space. You won’t reach the passenger door from the 30mm lower driver’s seat – and rear passengers’ knees won’t trouble the backrests in front, either. You can only pick between the hatchback and estate now, though (Insignia notchback RIP).
So, the space of a Skoda, the drive of a BMW? Steady on, it’s not total revolution in Luton. But the new Vauxhall does have a trick or two up its sleeve. Despite being bigger, weight actually reduces – by up to 175kg – to the benefit of economy, emissions and enjoyment. It steers, rides and goes with some zest, and will keep a Mondeo/Passat honest. The new 1.5-litre turbo petrol we tested (the most downsized available) is a zippy thing, with enough twang (184lb ft) to keep up cross-country or at a cruise.
Annoyingly, in these camouflaged prototypes the one thing we can’t assess is its style, though a peep under the cabin covers suggests the inside will be a neater version of the Astra.
Problem is, will all these rational qualities appeal to buyers of 3-series, Passat and A4? If they realised they could get an A6-sized package for the price of an A3, they might think twice.
Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport
Engine: 1.5-litre, no other figures yet
Torque: 184lb ft
Transmission: front- or all-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Top speed: n/a
On sale: June 2017
Trumps rivals for space – but whither style?