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Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer long-term review

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60-second summary

What is it?
The Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer is the all-new version of the brand’s large estate

Key features
Bigger and more refined than before, significantly upgraded cabin, more safety features, better infotainment

Our view
The Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer is a welcome addition to the traditional estate sector for buyers who need a hard working load-lugger rather than a lifestyle SUV.

First report – December 2017

Vauxhall Insignia fuel economy
Fuel economy has been almost as good as claimed

Sometimes when it comes to serious load-lugging, nothing can do the job better than an estate. However, the trusty estate has lost ground in recent years to some of the larger SUVs that also deliver decent payloads and can comfortably seat five people.

Vauxhall believes it has a viable alternative. With its fleet heritage, the car maker performed respectably with Astra and Vectra in this sector, but for its all-new large family car offering the off-trend estate name has been discarded in favour of something more dynamic: the Insignia Sports Tourer.

The Car Expert is testing a model in high-end Elite Nav spec to assess the ownership experience over the next three months.

First impressions are positive. The car oozes quality from the neatly-defined exterior styling, complete with attractive door creases and a contour tracing chrome strip, to a first-class cabin with full leather trim, high-quality soft-touch plastics and clear instrumentation which together shows just how much the brand has upped its game in interior design.

While the car will be chosen for its voluminous rear space (an impressive 560 litres with the seats up, almost tripling to 1,665 litres with them down; 135 litres more than the old model), the real star is the small 1.6-litre turbo diesel engine which effortlessly punches above its weight to deliver 136hp. So far it has made light work of several long motorway journeys where cruising speed is effortlessly reached and maintained and around town, where power delivery is never found wanting even when pulling away when fully laden.

So far fuel economy, has been impressive with a running average of 52.6mpg and a best journey of 61.1mpg (a 320-mile motorway jaunt), against a claimed 62.8mpg. Not bad at all.

Second report – January 2018

Vauxhall Insignia long-term test car
The Insignia is guaranteed to stick out of most parking spaces

Our long-term Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer is designed to carry families and their gear in comfort as well as transporting hefty loads. We’ve found this super-sized estate does both exceptionally well, especially when called upon to swallow up bulky items with the back seats down to reveal a wide, deep and flat load bay.

To date, our cargo inventory has included a seven-foot Christmas tree, a large oval patio table, a mountain bike and random items of furniture. All have been easily accommodated and no item has so far proved too bulky to load and stow securely. Much of this is down to the low and wide loading point and high ceiling which is much higher than the car’s cleverly tapered profile makes it look.

In terms of comfort, estates can be something of a mixed bag because they are designed for load-lugging but invariably spent a lot of time being driven empty. This inevitably means compromises in the ride and handling package. However, we’ve found the Insignia to be comfortable to drive and be driven in, regardless of what’s being carried, with its relatively soft suspension setting making motorway journeys particularly comfy and ironing out most rough surfaces.

The real surprise, however, is the car’s agility. Although it is guaranteed to stick out of most parking spaces, reversing into them, or parallel parking, is effortless thanks to its tight turning circle, front and rear sensors and a reversing camera which doesn’t cry wolf at the first sign of an obvious obstacle.

The car is also equipped with all sorts of creature comforts from Apple CarPlay, a wi-fi hotspot, to an interactive App and Vauxhall’s OnStar telematics and safety system, which we’ll talk about next time.

Third report – February 2018

Vauxhall Insignia - Apple CarPlay
Curtis has been enjoying Apple CarPlay, although a faulty USB hub ruined his fun initially.

Our long-term Insignia Sport Tourer continues to impress by delivering excellent load-lugging functionality coupled with impressive fuel economy.

Since last month, our running average has improved marginally from 52.6mpg to 53.1mpg  – but more satisfying was the 66.1mpg the car returned on a 92-mile round trip. Granted most of those were motorway miles, driven at a steady speed with the car unladen, but it just shows how flexible our Insignia’s super frugal 1.6-litre diesel engine can be.

As the miles pile on, what’s really struck us is just how good the car’s environment is. Yes, the leather seats are supportive and comfy and there’s plenty of leg, head and shoulder room for all, but what is really impressing us is the rather excellent infotainment system which bundles DAB radio, smartphone access, streaming services and satnav all in one place; or IntelliLink as Vauxhall calls it.

Common with many new cars, our Vauxhall Insignia features the brilliant Apple CarPlay (and Android Auto for non-Apple mobiles), which replicates selected apps from an iPhone on its eight-inch tablet-style screen.

Once hooked up, this means you can chop and change between Spotify, BBC iPlayer Radio and your favourite podcasts. Furthermore, Google Maps can be accessed if you prefer its interface and functionality to the car’s satnav system; which I do. And text messages can be read by an amusingly robotic voice and responded to via Siri safely whilst on the move.

However, the system did have a perplexing glitch. Each time we plugged in the iPhone, the system would fire up and then hang. If we jiggled the lead around it would work for a while before failing again.

On one particularly long journey, we used the satnav to find the nearest Vauxhall dealer. A helpful sales executive confirmed it was a known problem with the USB hub. The car subsequently returned briefly to Vauxhall, the faulty hub was replaced and it has been performing perfectly ever since.

The car’s list of useable tech continues with Vauxhall’s impressive Onstar connectivity system and a dedicated My Vauxhall app which we’ll report on next month.

Fourth report – March 2018

After four busy months on The Car Expert fleet, it’s the end of the road for our Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer.

Vauxhall’s always performed well in the estate sector with hard working, if not terribly refined, load-luggers built for high mileage company car drivers. However, things have moved on and the brand has been forced to up its game to offer something better suited to more demanding buyers looking for a wagon with a German badge.

Well, the good news is that Vauxhall has upped its game for the latest-generation Insignia wagon which debuted in 2017. It might have the Griffin badge on its grille, but this car was engineered and built in Germany by Opel for the needs of ultra-demanding German drivers. It shows.

If you’re in the market for an estate with over-generous levels of usable space and haven’t driven a Vauxhall for a while, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the Insignia. Outside the car is undeniably stylish, cleverly utilising a chrome strip to give a sleek profile. While the interior in Elite trim is smart and upmarket with smooth surfaces and excellent visibility.

Add to this creature comforts such as heated front seats which come on automatically when it’s cold and at a temperature it judges to be the most appropriate for the conditions; a much appreciated warm welcome when the Beast from the East sent temperatures plummeting to record lows in March. In a welcome touch of inclusivity, there are even heated seats in the rear which were greatly appreciated on a 5am run to Heathrow Airport to drop off some long-haul passengers dressed for warmer climates.

During the extended cold spell, we also appreciated the integrated heater element in the front windscreen, which quickly thawed the heaviest of frosts, and the heated steering wheel; something I had previously dismissed as a gimmick until faced with starting high mileage journeys in sub-zero temperatures.

There’s a lot more to like from the all-inclusive infotainment system to the excellent head-up display which for just an additional £290 is an absolute must-have optional extra. We also liked the app that allows you to keep an eye on tyre pressure and fuel levels, open the doors and sound the horn and flash the lights; great if you can’t quite remember where you parked in a large car park.

After 8,128 miles we remain fans of the economic but plucky 136hp 1.6-litre diesel engine, which never ceased to punch above its weight. It delivered some outstanding fuel economy with an overall average of 53.5mpg and an all-time best of 66.1mpg.

Over the months we’ve found the ride and refinement to be good with even the noisiest stretches of the M25 failing to intrude too much. The six-speed manual transmission proved to be more than adequate although an automatic box would be more suited to the car upmarket aspirations.

The estate market might be smaller than it was back in the days before the proliferation of SUVs but it is no less competitive with fewer brands chasing bigger market shares. For car buyers with regular load lugging requirements there is no substitute for an estate and with an on the road price of £26,320 the Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer makes a convincing and classy case for itself.

Model tested: Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer Elite Nav 1.6CDTi (136hp)
Price: £26,320 (on-road, no additional options); £30,995 (as tested)
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo diesel, 136hp
Transmission: six-speed manual
Fuel economy: 62.8mpg (claimed, combined cycle), 53.5mpg (as tested)
CO2 emissions: 119g/km
Road tax: £160 (first year), £140 (subsequent years)
Insurance: Group 16E

The latest from The Car Expert

Curtis Hutchinson
Curtis Hutchinson
Curtis Hutchinson is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers and has been a senior motoring journalist for over 25 years. He has written extensively about the automotive industry as editor of both Company Car and Motor Trader where he won the coveted Newspress Business Publication of the Year Award. His work also appears in Fleet World and Fleet World International. In 2016 he was part of the founding team behind the relaunched London Motor Show.