Car reviews - Opel - Insignia - range
Euro style, cabin spaciousness, up-market interior design, comfortable seats, big boot, competent dynamics
Room for improvement
Small-bump compliance, average steering
2 Aug 2012
THE flagship of the new Opel range in Australia, the Insignia, is the successor to a familiar mid-size Holden, the Vectra.
Bigger and more glamourous than the Vectra, which was manufactured in Australia by Holden for a time, the Euro-chic Insignia is an attempt by General Motors’ European arm to shake off its “sales rep” image on its home territory and take on a more aspiration aura.
In the UK, where it appears with Vauxhall badges, it is sold in so many variants that they take up a whole column of their own in the pricing table at the back of Autocar magazine.
Here, it is a much simpler choice: two body styles (sedan and Sports Tourer wagon), two 2.0-litre turbocharged engines (petrol and diesel) and two specification levels (standard and Select).
The harder choice is between the Insignia and its rivals, which include the Volkswagen Passat, Ford Mondeo and Mazda6, among others.
With prices starting just under $40,000 and reaching to almost $49,000, the Insignia is smack in the middle of the pack of mid-size cars that bridge the gap between the ordinary and the luxury.
The Insignia does nothing badly, but apart from its sleek silhouette and thunderbolt badge that will have people scratching their heads, it does not it stand out from the crowd in any significant way.
The positives include a spacious and well-appointed cabin with a wrap-around dash that is both contemporary and attractive, except for some plain hard plastic surfaces on the base model.
The seats are a highlight. The leather-swathed items of the Insignia Sports Tourer we sampled over a 100km stretch of the media drive program in the Hunter Valley felt cosseting the whole distance, with plenty of support under the thighs and a not-too-hard cushion.
Likewise, the rear seats are smoothly sculpted to provide a pleasant trip for up to three adults. Legroom is plentiful, although tall rear-seat passengers might wish for a little more headroom.
The cargo space in both the sedan and wagon is cavernous – bigger than the Commodore large car – and the Sports Tourer of course provides the flexibility of the wagon’s open spaces.
Dynamically, the Insignia is competent rather than special. Our main beef is the suspension compliance that is a touch firm, letting the driver feel a few too many small bumps in the road. More supple rivals such as the Passat do a better job of smoothing those undulations.
When pressed, however, the biggest Opel does an admirable job of dealing with bigger bumps and tight curves, gripping gamely.
The electric-assisted power steering is no match for true prestige cars from the likes of Audi and BMW, but it is thereabouts against more average front-drive family cars such as the Mazda6.
Due to the rather haphazard nature of the media drive day, in which we had to work our way through the whole range of Opel vehicles in a few hours, we missed out on driving the Insignia equipped with the 2.0T petrol engine, much to our regret.
That will have to wait until a full road test soon.
We did, however, have a stint in the diesel-equipped Sports Tourer, and came away with the impression that the Insignia can at least match most of its rivals in this regard.
Drivers are left in no doubt that this is a diesel – no whisper-quiet BMW diesel here – but with 350Nm of torque on tap, the Insignia 2.0D can give the Passat and Mondeo a run for their money in straight-line performance.
Buyers looking for a stirring drive need not apply, but those wanting sturdy, efficient transport with a German badge and comfy interior could do worse that wander down to their Opel dealer from September to take a look.
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