Car reviews - Opel - Insignia - Select sedan
Design, interior layout, performance, economy, handling, road-holding, practicality, comfort, accommodating interior
Room for improvement
Firm ride around town on 19-inch wheels, complicated centre console buttons, no standard audio streaming, complicated trip computer, rattly headrests, roof-line restricts rear door aperture
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23 Jan 2015
Price and equipment
There are two interesting ways of looking at the intriguing “new” Insignia.
Direct descendent of Holden’s lauded-then-laughed-at Camira, as well as the subsequent Vectra, it is a mainstream family car for beer money but in champagne couture.
Is there a more handsome rival to a Ford Mondeo, Hyundai i40, or Mazda6?
Conversely, being German and all that, you could see the Opel as a sub-prestige alternative to the chi-chi Audi A4, Peugeot 508, and Volvo S60.
Priced from $38,490 for the base Insignia 2.0T, we’re looking at the mid-range 2.0T Select, which adds goodies like big-screen sat-nav, Bi-Xenon headlights with a cornering function, LED running lights, 19-inch alloys on a lowered ‘sports’ chassis, vented front sports seats, extra leather trim, and racier pedals to the regular Insignia loot (leather heated buckets, cruise and dual-zone climate controls, auto on/off lights/wipers, alarm, Bluetooth phone/premium audio, and 17-inch alloys.
At $46K most direct rivals including the Accord Euro Luxury, Mondeo Titanium EcoBoost and Passat Highline undercut the Insignia, but none can match the Opel for oomph or stunning styling.
Lack of standard sunroof aside, we reckon the Opel’s value argument is strong. But can the Select cut it against an Audi A4?
With its flowing, swept back lines, lashings of glossy-on-matt plastics, metallic trim highlights, and symmetrical switchgear placement, the Insignia’s cabin walks the fine line between European flair and German practicality.
Being the seventh-generation model in this segment since 1970, Opel’s had decades to finesse the hard points – plenty of space for five adults, a faultless driving position, heaps of storage solutions, a massive boot, and excellent ventilation.
Indeed, if you’re familiar with a Commodore, the amount of room front and rear is comparable, on supportive seats (that are multi adjustable sports items up front in the Select), while the huge boot has the bonus of a split/folding rear seat-back.
Opel tell’s us there’s between 500 and 1015 litres of volume available as a result. All we can tell you is that a full-sized bicycle easily fits in (with the front wheel removed, of course).
But let’s go back to that dashboard for a wee bit.
On closer inspection, the plastics quality will leave your Passat-driving neighbour unimpressed (let alone the sceptical A4 owner sitting beside you). Despite all the lovely leather and slippery surfaces, everything is built down strictly to mainstream parameters.
Oh, but how nice does that smart steering wheel feel! And the analogue gauges look fantastic. They are certainly clear and concise enough, and come with an additional digital speedo.
We’re not fans of the fiddly layout of the overly complicated trip computer screen, though, nor its dated red font.
However this is nothing compared to the gob-smackingly fiddly and distracting centre console layout.
Counter-intuitive to use, there are too many confusing sub-menus to scroll through, requiring too much eyes-off-the-road concentration to ensure the sat-nav or audio/telephone selection is the right one. With only limited functionality, the voice control system wasn’t much help either.
And this is after a month of dealing with the similar set-up found in the Astra. It’s no deal breaker (though we’re not happy about the lack of Bluetooth audio streaming – if it exists we couldn’t find it even after weeks of driving an array of Opels).
Apparently a total rethink is on the way with the Insignia facelift due sometime next year (it is just about five years old abroad, after all). But it ought to leave the effective climate control system alone. That ain’t broke.
The rear is a whole lot more Skoda than Audi in its plastics selection, though again the basics are spot-on – comfy backrest, plenty of head/shoulder/leg/foot space, adequate under-thigh support, sufficient ventilation, and oddments pockets aplenty.
Just watch your head clambering inside. That swoopy roofline means a bit more bending is beneficial to avoiding a cranial bump.
Engine and transmission
To immediately eliminate any care about minor ergonomic and perceived plastics quality issues, insert Insignia key into ignition and turn.
Behind that friendly face is a fierce and fiery 2.0-litre turbo four-pot petrol engine, driving the front wheels via a conventional six-speed automatic.
With 162kW and 350Nm of power and torque respectively, no rival remotely near the Opel’s price has bigger bragging rights to bang on about (though of course the locally built Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon obviously do).
GM’s official numbers only tell half the story though, for it feels considerably livelier than the 7.8-second 0-100km/h sprint time suggests.
Plant your foot and there’s virtually no lag as the lively Insignia leaps into action, and will rev effortlessly to the 6500rpm limiter, quickly building up speed as the car rides on a wave of torque.
Just as impressive is how surprisingly punchy yet creamy smooth the Opel feels once you’re up to highway velocities, responding immediately to pedal inputs for instant overtaking acceleration.
This 2.0T goes as slickly as its million-dollar style suggests. At 100km/h the hushed powerplant is barely ticking over 1750rpm. Slippery aerodynamics help out.
As one of GM’s better six-speed auto applications, the ‘box holds on to the gears in manual mode, so there’s no auto change-up. Tellingly, though, there is no auto ‘sport’ mode.
So you won’t be shocked to learn that our fuel consumption figures varied from about 8.5L/100km on the highway to 13.5 in an inner-city/urban/performance-ascertaining run – which is about what you might expect from a car this size.
But beware that the brakes – which possess no problem hauling the midsized Opel up – can feel a bit too sensitive and grabby in heavier stop-go traffic situations. Some modulation of the pedal pressure might be required.
Ride and handling
The combination of Opel’s lowered sports chassis, fat tyres (245/40R19) and subtle traction tuning means that the front wheels rarely break into a spin on take-off, unless the driver is being particularly ham-fisted or the surface is slippery, or both. This is a clean getaway machine.
That same wide footprint probably also helps in the Insignia tracking with surety and precision around our twisty, rough-edged mountain course, even though some minor steering kickback became evident.
Over loose gravel roads the Opel feels a little less composed, with a tendency to wander a bit as speeds rise, but the stability systems do allow for a bit of controlled tail-wagging before gently pulling things back into line if the roads zigzag.
What the Insignia lacks is natural helm feel to go with the direct steering reactions, missing the handling interactivity and subtlety of the Mondeo or Passat. Light around town with a reasonably tight turning circle, it does load up nicely as the pace increases, and always seems firmly planted.
Of some concern is the suspension’s firmness and lack of wheel travel – but, again, you can point a finger at the honed suspension and those big beautiful 19-inch alloys that accessorise like a set of Valentino’s finest.
Oh, yes, and being German and low-profile tyred, there’s plenty of road noise intrusion over certain coarse bitumen roads.
Overall then, despite the spirited performance, the Insignia is agile, secure, controlled, but a little stiff and stilted. A fine GT, this is no sports sedan.
Safety and servicing
Five-star Euro NCAP crash-test ratings are expected nowadays, and the Opel delivers.
Opel offers $349 capped pricing to help overcome fears of expensive servicing, while the warranty period is for three years or 100,000km.
While it makes for an arresting alternative to the likes of an Accord Euro, Mondeo, Passat, Mazda6, Subaru Liberty, Peugeot 508, and Skoda Superb, there’s also something here for prestige buyers seeking something different, dashing, and daring.
While the Insignia Select 2.0T sedan isn’t as lush inside as an Audi A4, dynamic as a BMW 3 Series, or as rounded as a Mercedes C-Class, it is arguably more striking, and compelling value.
Devilishly handsome and deficient in no main areas, this is one of Opel’s most welcome arrivals.
1. Ford MC Mondeo Titanium EcoBoost:, From $44,990 plus on-roads, Blessed with dynamic sophistication unparalleled in this class, the turbo dual-clutch Titanium makes for a terrifically enjoyable and safe family buy, despite its age.
Volkswagen Passat 118TSI: , From $38,990 plus on-roads, Tick the options boxes to match Insignia and the Passat’s price rockets it surpasses the Opel for refinement and steering, but not performance or style.
, 3. Honda Accord Euro Luxury:, From $40,140 plus on-roads , Another ageing star, the Euro is easily Honda’s finest, mixing precision and quality in a slick and accommodating package, though keener drivers may feel underwhelmed.
Make and model:
Opel Insignia Select 2.0T sedan, Engine type:
2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo petrol, Layout:
162kW @ 5300rpm, Torque:
350Nm @ 2000-4000rpm, Transmission:
6-speed auto, 0-100km:
7.8s, Fuel consumption:
8.8L/100km, CO2 rating:
L/W/H/WB 4830/2084/1498/2737mm, Weight:
1793kg (tare mass), Suspension:
MacPherson struts/multi-links , Steering:
Electric rack and pinion, Price: From $45,490
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