Vauxhall's grand designs
The second-generation version of Vauxhall's Insignia gains 'Grand Sport' badging in five-door form, along with smarter looks, a classier cabin, hi-tech features and an efficient engine range.
If, like many business buyers, you're browsing in the £20,000 to £30,000 bracket selecting a medium range Mondeo segment model or a compact executive saloon contender, it's a car you really can't afford to overlook.
If you perceive Vauxhall's Insignia as a middle-management mainstream company car, then the brand reckons it's time you had a re-think. The second-generation version of this model gets sleeker looks and a new 'Grand Sport' name for the five-door hatch bodystyle.
It's much lighter and more sophisticated than its predecessor, with a more spacious cabin, plus the option of 4WD and a new eight-speed auto gearbox.
Think of a feature you can get in a pricey compact German premium brand – LED matrix lighting, Lane Keep Assist, Head-up Display, cutting-edge media connectivity. All of it's on offer here, plus use of Vauxhall's brilliant OnStar concierge system. It's a strong package.
We've yet to drive this car but the prospects appear promising. As you'd expect, this Insignia Grand Sport gets a wide range of turbocharged engines and transmissions – there's a mix of 1.5 and 2.0-litre turbocharged petrols and 1.6 and 2.0-litre turbodiesels, plus buyers will be offered the option of a highly-efficient new eight-speed automatic transmission which Vauxhall says has class-leading shift quality.
The gear ratios have been extended and shifts smoother. To start with, the eight-speed auto transmission will only be available in combination with 4WD, an all-wheel traction system that for the first time in a 4x4 Vauxhall, works with torque vectoring for better cornering traction, enabling the Insignia Grand Sport to corner more precisely. The system reacts within a split second when the accelerator is pressed, keeping the car more stable and easier to control.
Across the Insignia Grand Sport range, the further improved FlexRide chassis will better complement this car's dynamic demeanour. It adapts the dampers, steering, throttle response and (on auto models) gear shift points, either independently or based on selectable 'Standard', 'Sport' or 'Tour' modes. Depending on the selected setting, steering and throttle response are more direct and the ESP anti-skid system intervenes earlier or later.
The new central 'Drive Mode Control' software is the heart and soul of the adaptive chassis. It continuously analyses the information provided by the sensors and settings and recognises your individual driving style.
Vauxhall reckons that this Insignia Grand Sport has 'the aura of a car from the premium, upper class' – you decide. It certainly looks a great deal smarter than its predecessor. There's only a hatch bodystyle available now, but expect a 'Grand Tourer' estate to follow.
The prominent grille and slim-line headlamps enhance the wide horizontal design of the front end and provide it with a bold appearance. The grille sits lower than on the outgoing model and further emphasises its solid stance. What Vauxhall calls a 'sweepspear' feature starts in the front door and gives the impression that this model is always ready to pounce, which is a nod to the athletic lightness of the Monza Concept car that inspired it.
More importantly, under the skin this design has shed up to 175kgs over its predecessor. Its roof is 29mm lower and its track has increased by 11mm. The overhangs have been reduced considerably and the wheelbase enlarged by 92mm. And the exemplary drag factor of 0.26 makes this car one of the most aerodynamic vehicles in its class.
The cabin has also taken a step up-market. The driver sits lower and is surrounded by clean lines, pleasant surfaces and impressive build quality, a highlight being the frameless touchscreen of the improved IntelliLink infotainment system.
The extended wheelbase gives passengers in the rear more space. There's a roomy 490-litre boot too.
We're still waiting for confirmation on pricing from Vauxhall but we can expect entry-level Insignia Grand Sport modes to start at under £25,000, with the other variants being sold in the £25,000 to £35,000.
That kind of pricing would offer a strong competitive against the German premium-badged compact executive models that Vauxhall would ideally like to target.
There's plenty of clever equipment features that should interest that target market. The 'IntelliLux LED matrix light' for example, which illuminates with 32 LED segments and integrates in this Insignia's smarter, slimmer headlamps. Other driver assistance systems include a Head-up-Display, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
Vauxhall is still one of the few manufacturers to offer seats certified the 'Campaign for Healthy Backs'. And, as for media connectivity, as you would expect the IntelliLink infotainment system is compatible with the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Insignia Grand Sport buyers also get Vauxhall OnStar, the brand's the ground-breaking connectivity and service assistant. This offers services ranging from Automatic Crash Response to Stolen Vehicle Assistance.
A new concierge service is available to Insignia Grand Sport customers, enabling passengers to ask OnStar advisors to select a hotel and proceed to room reservation. Furthermore, up to seven devices can be connected to the car's Wi-Fi Hotspot.
Around 85% of Insignia buyers go for a diesel – and you can see why. Well over 70mpg is possible from the 2.0 CDTi unit most Grand Sport buyers will choose.
As for residual values, these will depend on whether the industry recognises this Grand Sport model's shift up-market. Even if it does, the depreciation levels won't match those of premium German rivals. But then, you'll be paying less up-front in the first place, so it's swings and roundabouts.
You'll also need to know that Vauxhall includes a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty as standard, a package that can be extended up to five years and 100,000 miles at extra cost. A year's free breakdown cover is also provided, along with a six-year anti-corrosion guarantee. Plus you can opt for a service plan that lets you pay monthly to spread the cost of regular work to your car. As part of this, Vauxhall offers discounts on wear-and-tear items, such as brake pads and windscreen wipers.
Can this second generation Insignia really appeal beyond the medium range Mondeo segment? Will business buyers used to signing up for yet another BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 or Mercedes C-Class really be minded to consider it? The Griffin brand hopes so. What we can tell you from this first look is that if this car carried a premium German badge, those customers would buy into it without question. The quality and technology is that good.
But if course, it does bear a Vauxhall badge – which requires in turn a degree of open-mindedness on the part of potential buyers. That's asking a lot but it's difficult to see what else the brand could have done in pursuit of its objectives here. If you're buying in this sector and are amongst the few people untroubled by badge equity, you'll find plenty to like.
Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport
[2.0 Turbo D 170PS] 136g/km
[2.0 Turbo D 170PS] 0-62mph 8.2s / top speed 140mph
[2.0 Turbo D 170PS] (combined) 54.3 mpg
Front, side, driver's knee and full curtain airbags, ESP, ABS, Hill Start Assist
Length/Width/Height 489.7cms long, 186.3cms wide and 145.5cms high.