► A new dawn for the Vauxhall Insignia
► Grand Sport stretches the wheelbase
► This time it’s going Skoda Superb hunting
It might not have impressed wholeheartedly from launch but bit by bit the old Vauxhall Insignia inconspicuously became a very decent car.
The trouble is, during that time customers in its natural market habitat were relentlessly plundered by more desirable crossovers and SUVs.
And that’s to say nothing of the Skoda Superb – a car that embodies nominative determinism in the large hatchback market, offering class-leading refinement, equipment and interior space.
Exactly – enter the bigger and better Insignia Grand Sport - Vauxhall’s new flagship model, boasting sleeker looks, improved passenger space and a level of luxury more normally seen in the segment above.
Talking of which, it’s not immediately obvious to which class this behemoth belongs. Traditionally the Insignia has been a similarly sized car to a BMW 3-Series, but at nearly five metres in length, the Grand Sport is closer to a 5-Series. In fact, it’s not much shorter than an Audi Q7.
Overall, while the car has grown substantially, the overhangs are shorter, so a serious amount of that length is contained between the wheels.
Well, for a start, the Insignia Grand Sport’s new dimensions are really quite easy on the eye, especially when equipped with 20-inch alloys like this test car. There’s something of the rakish Audi A7 in its sloping roof and elegantly stretched side profile.
More importantly, though, the extra millimetres manifest themselves in masses of interior space – rear legroom is generous and only tall passengers will get close to the roofline. While it doesn’t quite live up to its Czech nemesis in this respect, it is appreciably larger inside than the car it replaces.
Until you open the boot, that is, where the new car’s 490 litres means it is actually 40 down on the outgoing Insigna and quite a way off the Superb’s massive 625 litres. There’s a wagon on the way though, which should boost practicality.
Who cares? All my stuff is tiny and I don’t want a Superb…
Then step this way – because the Grand Sport builds on the old Insignia’s improved comfort and refinement, resulting in an impressively luxurious ride. The driving dynamics are still a way behind the Ford Mondeo and Mazda 6 but it’s more than composed and grippy enough for day-to-day-driving scenarios.
It’s enjoyed best on the motorway where the majority of its company car miles will be spent, whisking along with little road or wind noise and barely a whisper from this car’s impressively hushed 2.0-litre diesel engine. Interestingly Vauxhall doesn’t project that engine choice to be the biggest seller, despite its size suggesting it would be a knee-jerk choice.
That honour goes to the 1.5-litre petrol and 1.6-litre diesels, now badged up as Turbo and Turbo D, the former offering much the same power as our 168bhp lump and identical CO2 emissions at 136g/km. It’s also brand new, unlike our ageing derv design, and costs £2500 less.
Still, the 2.0-litre Turbo D is cheerful enough, with its 295lb ft of torque arriving in one go when the rev counter needle tips past 1750rpm. By 5000rpm it’s all out of ideas so the gear lever for the six-speed manual box requires a fair bit of stirring to keep the Grand Sport on boil.
Does it come with lots of equipment?
This particular Insignia Grand Sport is rammed with kit, as you’d expect, because it’s a top tier Elite Nav model. Cheaper and sportier versions are in abundance too, like the body-kitted SRi VX-Line Nav, a car named after a fistful of Scrabble tiles.
Wheel choice at this level is a bit complicated – you get 17-inchers on the 1.6-litre diesel, 20s on the 2.0-litre petrol and 18s for everything else (although this car has optional 20s) but there’s no mistaking the LED matrix headlights, eight-inch sat-nav screen and dual-zone climate control.
Inside there are leather seat facings, heated front and outer rear seats - and in the 2.0-litre petrol model, a Bose premium sound system. The interior is much nicer (and more Astra-cised) than before too, both in design and material quality.
The previous Insignia fulfilled the purpose of getting you from A to B in a well-equipped and reasonably comfortable manner, but at its core it was a car that you accepted, rather than wanted.
While the new Grand Sport doesn’t entirely bend the needle on the desirability meter, it’s certainly a much more likeable thing than the model it replaces – and more practical too.
Plus, if it’s anything like the last one, it’s only going to get better over the course of its model lifespan, and this time around Vauxhall has an even more solid base on which to build.