30 Jul 2014

Living With - Vauxhall Insignia Elite Nav TDCi 163

Mark Turner of Blacktop Media reviews his Vauxhall Insignia

I have to be honest - I didn’t take to the Vauxhall Insignia.

When it was revealed in 2008 I was indifferent at best. The shape was generic and the car was forgettable.

I recently saw a press release about one of the ‘new’ Insignia models which caught my eye. A rather naughty, provocative little number.

The wheels had grown in diameter and the old tweed jacket had been replaced with a sharp, Saville row suite.

My curiosity challenged me to look deeper.

The delivered car was an Insignia Elite Nav 2.0TDCi. It is a very handsome car. The elegant, flowing lines are adorned in thick, luxurious, black metallic paint, accentuated by the suave chrome window surrounds.

The Insignia had a plethora of toys, Bluetooth, navigation, leather, electric everything and the list goes on. It really is a well specified car.

Now, I’m not a fan of unnecessary electronic ‘aids’ and like most modern cars, unfortunately the Insignia has plenty.

Everything you want to use seems to need a physics degree to work out and the traction control and ESP make sure you don’t try and enjoy yourself. Fortunately, the Bluetooth is simple and works very well but the Touch-pad controller for the Touch R700 IntelliLink infotainment system is hopeless. It isn’t fluid and the display looks dated.

I’ve seen lots of integrated systems that look almost beautiful. The Insignia's isn’t one of those.

It was functional, but I couldn’t help thinking that in a couple of years it will look like an antique, a bit like those massive TV’s we all laugh at now.

The sat-nav is virtually pointless. It wore me down and I reverted to using my phone it was so dire.

While I’m kicking the old girl, the electrically adjusted seats need a swift kick.

When you turn off the ignition the plush leather drivers seat is supposed to quietly slide back just enough to make exiting the car easier. (I can honestly say I have never needed to slide my chair back to get out of a car. Clearly, the Insignias target audience do).

Upon entry, the chair returns to it’s previous position…….sometimes. In my experience 50% of the time it did what it was supposed to, the other 50% of the time it slid all the way back, trapping the legs of rear seat occupants, then just defiantly stayed there.

The maniacal drivers seat didn’t annoy me as much as I expected, mainly because I was busy playing ‘electronic handbrake roulette’. It’s quite a common game these days and can be played in most executive cars.

You stop and flick the handbrake button, then see what, if anything, happens. If you are lucky the handbrake engages, leaving you wondering if it will randomly release or you will have to burn the clutch out trying to pull off while the ridiculous, pointless, electronic handbrake reluctantly submits.

On the plus side, it drives well. It’s very comfortable, very well appointed, well put together and didn’t falter all weekend.

The cabin does a great impression of a luxury executive car. It’s distinguished, chic and somehow feels familiar, closing the gap between mid-range saloon cars and their revered luxury cousins.

The Insignia performs well, handles well and if I had a slight criticism about the driving dynamics, it would be aimed at the brakes. They are fine, but not great. After a spirited 10 minutes I pulled up at a junction to find the front brakes smoking. There was a hint of fade and vagueness when you put some heat in to them.

I would seriously consider an Insignia if I was a rep with a company car budget around the £25k mark. Mine would be in this exact spec and colour.

Then again, £25k is Mondeo Titanium X Business Edition territory. That’s a tough battle to win.