19 July 2012, under
Car / Travel; More Car / Travel articles...
Insignia - exterior
Insignia - interior
OPEL'S INSIGNIA IS MORE THAN YOU'D EXPECT
It rather shows how long the Opel Insignia has been around that I haven’t driven one in quite some time.
The replacement for the Vectra has without doubt revived appreciation for Opel’s ability to build good, and even desirable mid-sized cars. But in Ireland, for some reason, it was a slow burner.
In the last couple of years, though, it has been coming up in sales, not enough to challenge the mighty Avensis from Toyota, or Volkswagen’s current Passat, but getting closer to the latter.
And my recent outing in the 1.4 petrol version reminded me that Opel has had a place of honour in this segment going all the way back to the Rekords of the 1960s, subsequent Asconas, and even the various Vectra generations, often unfairly maligned in my view.
The current insignia is sold in both the US and China as a premium-end car, as the Regal under the Buick brand. And they don’t make them better for that brand, so the Insignia we get in our market is as high quality as you’d want.
It is well styled, a distinctive form in the car park against its competitors. Some tweaks to the front a rear ends can be expected in the coming year, but the overall body will remain unchanged and the upgraded engines introduced last year should keep it in the frame until the as yet unannounced next generation.
The inside of the Insignia shows an upmarket ethos in quality of fittings and materials. The strong details on dashboard and instruments area reflect an ambition to position the Insignia rather higher on the pecking order than its direct competitors, and there's an argument possible that the car could be considered alongside Audi, which has successfully been developed into the premium segment. Opel, though, aren't pricing it upwards.
It's a good roomy car. Luggage space is a tad above average for the segment, I thought. Occupants front and rear don't have to make any compromises to be comfortable, and a couple of long trips while I was in charge showed that it's a very useful vehicle for going the width of the country and back. Sounds are nicely damped too, and overall it is untiring.
The surprise was the engine in the review, although I suppose I shouldn't have been taken aback by the petrol unit, with a displacement of just 1.4 litres. All the major carmakers are now using turbocharged and direct injection technologies to squeeze power and economy from small units, and Opel is no exception.
So there was 140hp and 200Nm of torque spinning out from under the big bonnet, with a decent B rating for CO2 tax purposes. The equivalent of 50mpg is achievable, making this a credible alternative to diesel in a segment dominated by oilburners. The smooth and quiet advantages of petrol come without penalty unless you're a very high-mileage driver. This, though, is a hard sell to the largely fleets sector which is where cars of this size are bought.
The review car was the SC specification which as standard includes 17-inch wheels, an integrated sat-nav with a centre console multifunction fiddler, full climate control and cruise control. Obviously I had little time for that multifunction thingie, and I really don't like electric parking brake systems either. But the overall high quality sense of the car and its good specifications do make up for these. There's only one real crib, and that's the absence of Bluetooth phone connection as standard (especially when my wife's Picanto comes with it). Dump the console fiddler and give us this instead.
The entry price for Insignia is €25,495 and this SC version tips up to €27,295. A very accessible price for a car that largely gives more than expectation.
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