Vauxhall has done a thorough job of improving its Insignia Sports Tourer estate. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Families now have a wealth of choice at their disposal when choosing a new car, but the estate models that used to be a default choice shouldn't be overlooked. Vauxhall's second generation Insignia Sports Tourer has the quality, the looks and the practicality to prove a great addition to the household.
Many predicted that MPVs and 4x4s would be the death of the estate car. There's no doubt that they dragged it into an alleyway and roughed it up a bit, but they failed to finish the job and the estate has come out fighting. With a smaller section of the market to compete over, the top estate products got their acts together. They're now more keenly differentiated from the saloons and hatchbacks that spawned them with sleeker styling and more innovative and practical load areas.
If you'd written the estate off as an outmoded product, now might be the time to give the modern take on the genre another chance and there's no better place to start than Vauxhall's much improved second generation Insignia Sports Tourer. There's a revised engine range, major styling changes and even the promise of an SUV-inspired fashionable 4WD 'Country Tourer' model at the top of the line-up.
On the move, this Insignia Sports Tourer feels like the bigger car it's now become, the suspension floating you over broken surfaces that would have troubled and impeded the previous model. Importantly, this second generation model is around 200kg lighter than its predecessor and that really shows when cornering at speed, where there's less body roll than before and generally, a much higher level of agility. As for engines, well most buyers will continue to want the 170PS 2.0 CDTi diesel, also available in 210PS biturbo form. There are also 110PS and 136PS versions of Vauxhall's 1.6-litre CDTi diesel. Engine-wise, you'll find much more that's really different if you turn your attention to petrol power, with all three units on offer being pretty new. Small capacity turbocharged engines that use unleaded are very much in vogue at present and the 1.5-litre unit supplied here should suit that trend, offered with either 140 or 165PS. There's also a 200PS 1.6-litre Direct Injection turbo petrol unit.
Further up the range sits a potent 260PS 2.0-litre petrol Turbo model that showcases both of what are arguably the two most significant engineering developments introduced with this second generation Insignia. One is the super-slick 8-speed auto gearbox that's optional on lesser models. The other is a sophisticated new intelligent all-wheel drive system that uses a state-of-the-art rear torque vectoring system for greater cornering traction and sharper turn-in.
Design and Build
Style is a significant weapon in the estate car's armoury. In the war against chunky compact 4x4s and frumpy MPVs, the sleek, road-hugging lines of a well-conceived estate can have a major impact on its fortunes. The Insignia Sports Tourer definitely looks the part. So what's changed on this second generation version? Well, at nearly 5m long, it's 73mm longer than the MK1 model an is a lot more spacious inside thanks to a 92mm increase in wheelbase length. The overall boot loading length has grown to over two metres, too, which has resulted in an enlarged total capacity of 1,665-litres with the rear seats down - 110-litres up on the outgoing model. However, the 560-litre capacity with the seats in place is no better than before.
The seats themselves can be ordered with a 40:20:40 folding mechanism, while an electric tailgate with foot gesture opening is also available. Vauxhall has also made loading easier with a lower load lip. Up front, there's an enormous improvement over what was served up by the previous Insignia. Fit and finish is almost a match for the premium brands and in the instrument binnacle, most models get a smart and configurable 4.2-inch colour screen, plus there's a sophisticated Intellilink screen on the dash that can be up to 8-inches in size.
Market and Model
There's a £1,500 model-for-model premium to pay if you want the extra luggage space of the Sports Tourer estate variant rather than the Grand Sport five-door hatch. This station wagon bodystyle is also available in raised 4x4 'Country Tourer' guise if you want an alternative to an SUV. Despite the fact that this Insignia Sports Tourer has been pushed up-market, prices have been kept very competitive - and indeed have been sharpened so that they more accurately fit the latest 'BIK' 'Benefit-in-Kind' categories. In fact from launch, Vauxhall claimed that some versions of this MK2 model Insignia Sports TourerSport were up to £1,500 less expensive than their direct first generation predecessors. To be specific, we're talking about a range priced in the £21,000 to £39,000 bracket. At the bottom end at least, those really are very affordable figures for a car of this size.
Let's take a look at a few specifics on the model line-up. Automatic transmission is an option across the range for around £1,700 - it's the brand's latest 8-speed auto 'box. Bear in mind that to get the 2.0-litre CDTi diesel most buyers will probably choose, you're looking at pricing starting from just under £22,000. Four-wheel drive is limited to the top 210PS 2.0-litre biturbo diesel and to the 260PS 2.0-litre Turbo petrol model, both derivatives only available with auto transmission and models that could easily command a list price tag of around £32,000 if you added in a few well-chosen extras.
Cost of Ownership
Around 85% of Insignia buyers go for a diesel - and you can see why. Well over 61mpg is possible from the 1.6 CDTi 136PS unit most Sports Tourer buyers will choose. That falls to 53.3mpg if you go for the 2.0-litre diesel. As for residual values, well these will depend on whether the industry recognises this Sports Tourer 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. CO2 figures are very competitive, the 136PS 1.6-litre diesel capable of 119g/km of CO2. The base 1.5-litre petrol variant manages 47.1mpg and 136g/km.
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.
The estate car's task has never been a tougher one with the sector of the market it once had to itself now swarming with compact 4x4 and MPV rivals. The solution, as employed by Vauxhall with this much improved Insignia Sports Tourer, is to concentrate on sleek styling, a polished driving experience and a premium feel.
The car is certainly a desirable product. The question is whether enough people will desire it over the numerous alternatives available to the family with this kind of money to spend. If you're after a genuine all-rounder that's comfortable and entertaining on the road, has a decent carrying capacity and looks that can turn heads, it should make a sound choice.