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On the automotive sector's venn diagram, the Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer is pretty damned nichey. Firstly, it's a Vauxhall. While recent post-PSA-purchase reports of Luton's imminent demise might be a trifle precipitate, the days when the Griffin dominated the UK's sales charts are now well and truly behind us.
Secondly it's a swallow-all estate, a format that has fallen well out of favour now that most families tend to buy chubby SUVs. And thirdly, it's a diesel, which depending on what news outlet you read either makes it a child-killing desert-creating chariot of Satan, or the correct and economical choice for a multi-tasking family vehicle.
In a nutshell, the surprisingly sleek and undeniably handsome car on my driveway is to mass mainstream appeal what tripe is to culinary fashionability. However, simply because it won't be snapped up in numbers to prompt the introduction of a second assembly line at Rüsselsheim doesn't mean it's unworthy of consideration.
This is the £28,435 Country model, flagship of the Insignia Tourer range and powered by FCA/GM's 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel engine, driving all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The sequentially blown powerplant develops 207bhp at 4000rpm and a very generous 354lb ft at just 1500rpm, enough for an entertainingly snappy 7.7-second dash to 62mph and a 142mph top speed. Combined economy and CO2 emission figures are a significantly less exciting 39.8mpg and 188g/km.
To call the Country a mere estate is to sell it rather short. The Country moniker means it's the elevated all-wheel-drive version aimed at the few sensible folk left in this country who need a modicum of muddy-road ability but don't feel the need to follow the lemmings and purchase a full-on mountain basher the size and weight of a modest two-up, two-down.
A 20mm increase in ride height coupled with GKN's compact and highly intelligent Twinster torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive set-up – plus the must-have plastic cladding signifiers – means the Country has both the hardware and the looks to tackle most of the off-road conditions most drivers will ever face.
Sitting atop the Tourer tree means kit levels are exceedingly generous, and to this we've added IntelliLux LED Matrix headlights (£1295), sports front seats (£1155), panoramic sunroof (£960), head-up display (£290) and a raft of driver assistance technologies, which we'll cover and test in more detail in the following reports. Total price is £35,685.
Now, depending on your perspective that's either ridiculously dear for a car with a griffin on its nose or it's rather good value when put it up against similarly specified sniffier rivals like the VW Passat Alltrack and Volvo V60 Cross Country (£36,090 and £36,580 respectively, before extras). And when comparing equivalent models, I also think it has the jump on the smaller Skoda Octavia Scout (£30,355) and the leftfield Subaru Outback (£34,995). The next six months will see if I'm right.
By Ben Whitworth
Logbook: Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer
Engine 1956cc 16v 4-cyl twin-turbo diesel, 207bhp @ 4000rpm, 354lb ft @ 3600rpm
Gearbox Eight-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Performance 7.7sec 0-62mph, 142mph, 188g/km CO2
As tested £35,685
Miles this month 2029
Our mpg 34.4
Official mpg 39.8
Extra costs £0
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