The perceived decline in demand for large cars over the past decade hasn’t done much to harm the UK success of the Vauxhall Insignia. Luton counts the 4.9m-long exec as one of its successes – which is why it has unveiled this new version, now called the Insignia Grand Sport. First deliveries are planned for June. Prices, some revised downwards by as much as £1500 to fit new benefit-in-kind tax categories, start at £17,115 for the 1.5-litre Design model and peak at £29,210 for the Elite 2.0, which comes with an eight-speed automatic, an exceptionally deep specification and full-time four-wheel drive. There are two petrol and two diesel engines on offer, with six power levels, starting with the 108bhp 1.6 diesel that delivers the range’s headline CO2 figure of 105g/km.
Changes start with new proportions and a new look. The Grand Sport has coupe-like styling reminiscent of the company’s 2013 Monza concept. It’s a 55mm-longer body (now 4897mm overall), with a 92mm-longer wheelbase that allows more rear leg, head, shoulder and hip room. The more graceful shape results from a lower scuttle, a longer bonnet (aluminium now), a more vertical grille, narrower headlights, the longer wheelbase and sculpted body sides. Wheels vary in diameter from 17in to 20in depending on specification, but all models have the same spring and damper rates.
Like the current Astra, the Insignia delivers a startling weight saving: up to 175kg, model for model, of which 60kg comes from the body alone. The car is also impressively aerodynamic and has a low drag factor of just 0.26. The cabin is similarly impressive: it is simple, drawing inspiration from the clean surfaces of the exterior. Best of all is an enhanced aura of quality.
On the road, the new Grand Sport is the same relaxed, easy-cruising car as its predecessor, but better. Our test car – a mid-spec Tech Line manual retailing at £23,910 (with £3900 worth of accessories that included £1010,32-element adaptive headlights, a £705 glass sunroof and £555 two-coat metallic paint) – had the more powerful of two 1.5-litre petrol versions, packing l63bhp for a claimed 0-60mph time of 8.4sec and a 138niph top speed.
The 1.5 manual cruises on a relaxed gearing (2500rpm at 70mph in top) but still has strong top-gear acceleration. The six-speed manual gearbox is sweet-shifting, but once the engine is turning beyond 3000rpm, the car gains speed in high gears without effort or noise. The model tested here is rated at a combined 47.1mpg and 136g/ km of CO2. It promises day-to-day consumption of around 40mpg, which should give an easy cruising range of more than 460 miles. The long wheelbase and wide track make this a very stable car with excellent directional stability.
The 17in wheels on the car we tried were good at damping higher-frequency surface disturbances, although bigger wheels with classier rubber might sharpen the steering, which is competent but not amazing. But they might also increase road noise, which is already no better than average. Overall ride comfort is better than before: flat and quiet over bumps, with decent damper control that promotes good grip and near-neutral handling in fast corners.
Brakes are powerful and easy to modulate. The new Insignia Grand Sport looks a very thorough job. Vauxhall has given this replacement a whole raft of worthwhile changes that improve the looks, space, handling, economy and com fort. And some prices are actually lower. In short, Vauxhall’s biggest hatch looks a better proposition than ever.