The Vectra estate majored on space but looked as sexy as a stack of bottle crates. The Insignia hatch and saloon have turned their backs on the functional nature of the old Vectra, and the new Sports Tourer does the same to such an extent that Vauxhall couldn’t bring itself to label it an estate. But if it’s now sexy, is it still useful?
Just how much less useful is the Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer, then?
Quite a lot less, in fact. The boxy old Vectra ran on a longer wheelbase than the saloon and hatch (it shared it with the oddball ‘business-class’ Signum) and could lug a capacious 1850 litres of load within its vertical walls. The curvy Sports Tourer? Just 1530 litres, easily beaten by the Ford Mondeo’s 1733, even though the Insignia is longer overall.
One thing it has that the Mondeo lacks is a secondary set of tail lights in the tailgate aperture. A gimmick? Well, it means you’ll be visible if parked up at night with the tailgate open, because the main lamps swing up with the door itself.
Okay, so it’s not as big. But it looks good…
Sure does. And, like the saloon and hatch, it manages to convey something of a premium character. The Sports Tourer looks classy inside and out, shading the Mondeo on sex appeal at the expense of accommodation. Still, at least the longer roofline means there’s decent headroom in the back.
And the finish is good in here too. Save for a few strategically hidden bits, surfaces please both eyes and fingertips, it feels solidly built, and the seats are generous and supportive. In fact the only black mark is the slightly mean spec: you pay £20k and have to wind up the back windows yourself. But in no other way does this car feel cheap.
I hear there’s a new engine too
Yep, this 1.6 turbo slots in-between the base 138bhp 1.8 petrol and 217bhp 2.0 turbo. And it’s a mixed bag. Quick and punchy, sure, but a bit gruff and unsubtle. Pull away from the lights and it comes over all boy-racer, impressing with its eagerness. But if you just want to edge gently away it doesn’t want to know: the throttle is too sensitive, and the shift from first to second is clumsy, so you’ll end up kangarooing gracelessly.
So it’s difficult to modulate but improves with speed. Up to a point, anyway, because it suddenly runs out of steam, which can take you by surprise when you’re overtaking and proves there really is no substitute for cubic inches.
Or more cylinders, if you’re after refinement. This four-pot is always a touch vocal, and sends shivers up your clutch leg too.
>> Click 'Next' below to read more of our Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer first drive
Does it handle?
Depends where you’re driving. Keep away from the Nurburgring (or twisty B-roads) and the Insignia impresses with its stability and flat attitude. The steering is unusually sharp and keen, so you tend to turn the wheel a little too much until you’re used to it – it’d be fine if the rim provided more feedback.
This is a big car so A-roads and motorways are its natural territory; it doesn’t perform the Mondeo’s magic shrinking trick. The Insignia rides firmly but controls its movements well enough that you barely notice, especially at motorway speeds. Overall, think Audi A4 rather than BMW 3-series. And yes, that’s to damn it with faint praise.
Vauxhall expects only 15% of Insignias to be sold as Sports Tourers. It matches the hatch and saloon for refinement and finish, and is decent – rather than outstanding – to drive. Whether the 1.6 turbo is the most suitable engine for the Insignia is another matter. We’d be more inclined to go for the 2.0 turbodiesel, which better suits its relaxed demeanour for £500 more.
A Mondeo holds more and is more fun but it’s a bit brash to look at, both inside and out, and the Insignia feels more hushed. Your choice, but personally the Mondeo’s mix of talents would suit me better. Why have such a big estate car and miss out on those final 180 litres?
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