Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer: Do you really need an SUV?
The rise of SUVs means that large family estate cars like Vauxhall's Insignia Country Tourer are becoming an endangered species. It shouldn't, says William Scholes
THIS is probably no surprise, but I look forward to some test cars more than others, writes William Scholes.
Naturally, something like a Bentley or Maserati is easy to get excited about. But if you’re interested in cars at all, vehicles from the other end of the price scale can be just as keenly anticipated.
For example, a Suzuki Swift Sport is soon heading this way for an extended test, and I like the idea of trying one of the new Dacia Dusters on our roads.
And, needless to say, anything is a better prospect than a car hailing from the Volkswagen Group, for the simple reason that Volkswagen, Skoda, Seat and Audi have not sent cars to Northern Ireland for testing for two years.
So it was with some eagerness that I awaited the arrival of a Vauxhall on my driveway.
Regular readers may well remember that ‘eager anticipation’ and ‘Vauxhall’ were not always words that sat in the same sentences in my reviews.
But Vauxhall has dramatically upped its game of late, or at least since the original Mokka comprehensively redefined awfulness.
The current Astra is a really good car and the Grandland X is a fine family SUV; even the updated Mokka X is no longer dreadful.
On this most recent occasion, expectations were particularly high because the Vauxhall in question was the estate version of the Insignia - and if I’m a sucker for anything, it’s a large wagon. The Mazda 6 is an immensely likeable car, for example.
But big family estate cars are in the midst of an existential crisis. SUVs aren’t just having their breakfast, but their lunch, dinner, supper and the entire contents of their larder and freezer.
That makes cars like the Insignia estate - Vauxhall calls the body style ‘Sports Tourer’ - something of an endangered species.
How many customers who once wouldn’t have thought twice about buying an Insignia estate are now having their heads turned by SUVs like the Vauxhall’s own Grandland?
But they really ought to try the Insignia Tourer before making up their minds and rushing into the arms of an SUV. Not only is it a lovely looking thing, but it is also a highly accomplished family car.
Big family estate cars are in the midst of an existential crisis. SUVs aren’t just having their breakfast, but their lunch, dinner, supper and the entire contents of their larder and freezer
‘My’ Insignia arrived in ‘soft-roader’ Country Tourer guise, complete with four-wheel-drive, a smattering of purposeful-looking black plastic cladding for the off-road effect, and a slick eight-speed automatic gearbox paired with a 207bhp twin-turbo diesel. It was the works.
In addition, the car had some of the more expensive options fitted, including Vauxhall’s adaptive LED headlamps and some excellent sports seats, which is why it tipped the price scales just shy of £34k.
You don’t need to spend that much, though. Insignia Sports Tourer prices start at £20,850, while the more upmarket Country Tourer cars start at £26,500.
All share the same basic ingredients which make the Insignia such a fine proposition, including those fine looks, a large, spacious cabin, a big, sensibly-shaped boot, decent equipment and strong value-for-money.
Being Vauxhall, there is a dizzying range of trim and engine options. There is, as they say, something for everyone.
The most powerful diesel, as tested, with all-wheel-drive and eight-speed auto, made for a superb combination.
It isn’t what one would call sporty - it lacks the tactility and immediacy of response of its Mazda 6 rival - but it handles neatly, with seemingly endless grip and eager turn-in.
Vauxhall clearly worked harder on making the Insignia a quick, refined and comfortable family car, a role it fulfils with aplomb.
There is an almost contemporary Volvo feel - praise, indeed - to the way the Insignia flows down the road - mature composure is probably a good description. It is particularly good at loping along motorways and A-roads.
The twin-turbo diesel fairly wooshes it along, too, and the eight-speed auto gearbox was a smooth operator.
Country Tourer cars ride 25mm higher than regular Sports Tourer models. They also have adaptive dampers as part of Vauxhall’s ‘FlexRide’ system. This allows the driver to select modes with various levels of suspension firmness, though I soon stopped playing with this and tended to leave it in ‘Sport’ mode.
The generous accommodation reflects the fact that this is a long and wide car, measuring 5 metres bumper-to-bumper and almost 1.9m between the door mirrors. These days, the Insignia is the same size as BMW 5 Series, and it feels like a lot of car for the money
The quality of the interior is a big step up from the last Insignia. It might not be as good as the Audi or BMW you could buy for similar money - though you’ll not get as strong a drivetrain or equipment package in the German cars at this price - but it is a match for Volkswagen and Mazda.
I found the dashboard and switchgear to be clearly laid out and robust feeling, and the low-slung driving position was first class.
And even with the driver’s seat set to accommodate my 6ft-plus frame in full lounging mode, there was still acres of legroom for back seat passengers.
The boot is a jumbo-sized 1,665 litres if you fold the back seats flat - or an ample 560 litres if you don’t - and accessed via a powered tailgate.
Rather neatly, there is a switch on the driver’s door which allows you to choose whether you want it to open fully or part-way - useful in car parks and garages.
The generous accommodation reflects the fact that this is a long and wide car, measuring 5 metres bumper-to-bumper and almost 1.9m between the door mirrors. These days, the Insignia is the same size as BMW 5 Series, and it feels like a lot of car for the money.
I really enjoyed my time with the Insignia Country Tourer. It is a car I could imagine putting my own money into, and certainly one I can heartily recommend.
It was also a reminder that SUVs - even the good ones - are not as quiet and refined or as pleasant to drive as a traditional family hatchback, saloon or estate.
The demand for SUVs is insatiable. But I will gladly salute anyone with the contrariness and good sense to choose a family estate car instead, particularly one as admirable as the Vauxhall Insignia.
My time with the Insignia was a reminder that SUVs - even the good ones - are not as quiet and refined or as pleasant to drive as a traditional family hatchback, saloon or estate
AT A GLANCE
Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer 2.0 210PS Turbo D AWD
Price: £29,425. As tested £33,945. Options included leather-trimmed sports seats £1,155, adaptive LED headlamps £1,295, ‘brilliant red’ paint £285, heated steering wheel and windscreen £400, power tailgate and keyless entry and start £680, head-up display £290, 8-inch digital dashboard display £415
Engine and transmission: 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel twin-turbo, eight-speed automatic gearbox, all-wheel-drive; 207bhp, 354lb.ft
Performance: Top speed 142mph, 0-0mph in 7.7 seconds
Fuel consumption and CO2: 39.2mpg (combined), 34.6mpg (real world), 188g/km
Car tax: £830 in first year, then £140 annually
Benefit in kind: 37 per cent
Euro Ncap safety rating: Five stars (93/85/78/69), 2017