Vauxhall GM Insignia

GM's got gizmos you never knew you needed

The Vauxhall Vectra is dead, killed by worrisome associations with mediocrity and dullness. In its place comes a new car with a new name: Insignia. It's a slightly cheesy name, too close for comfort to the doomed Consignia branding that tried to make the Royal Mail something it isn't, but it's attached to a promising-looking car.

General Motors Europe hopes the Insignia might be spoken of in at least part of the same breath as an Audi or a BMW. The new car's launch, biased in presentation towards the German Opel branding rather than British Vauxhall, talked of "sculptural artistry with German precision", but the UK marketing won't go there. The Insignia's premium-level aspirations will do it no harm, though.

Are they justified? The body styling, masterminded by British designer Mark Adams, is smooth in profile but crisp in detail, with a dramatic scooping-out of the flanks and a near-fastback tail. This crisp curviness continues inside, with various aluminium-look highlights continuing the shape of that flank sculpting. But some of the surfaces aren't quite "premium", being too hard and shiny, and a fairly basic version I tried had a horrid, clunky handbrake and poor trim fit. Others were better (and had electric parking brakes): perhaps we can put it down to the rogue car's early build.

GM is very proud of the Insignia's technological gizmology. The most obvious is the option of the "Opel eye" or, here, "Vauxhall eye". It scans the road ahead and if it sees a speed-limit sign, a no-overtaking sign or a sign denoting the end of either type of zone, it reproduces that sign on a display between the two main dials. Clever, yes?

As a bit of electronic showing-off, perhaps. But is it useful to be nannied in this way? We humans each have two eyes entirely capable of reading the signs and we don't need a car to do it for us, especially at the cost of a hefty, intrusive lump of plastic cowling stuck below the interior mirror. This is one of those "things you didn't know you needed" inventions. The same goes for the audible warning that you have strayed from your lane, as used by other car makers. If you're wandering that much, you shouldn't be driving.

Better by far is the adaptive forward lighting system, which gives up to nine variations of headlight beam depending on speed, weather, terrain and proximity to other traffic. And you can make mirror-images of the beam patterns via the car's computer menu for when you drive in foreign lands.

Then there's the FlexRide system, which lets you choose between tour, standard and sport for the way the Insignia steers, reacts to bumps, points through corners and responds to the accelerator. The instrument graphics even change from white to red in sport mode, no doubt to reflect your new mood. Also, you can tailor each mode to your liking if, for example, you prefer a softer accelerator response to go with your crisp steering. If you choose one of the two turbo petrol engines, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder with 220bhp or a 260bhp, 2.8-litre V6, you can have "adaptive 4x4" which varies the drive between front and rear axles.

It works well, making the Insignia interact better with the driver than any Vectra did but, perversely, I enjoyed the front-wheel-drive version of the 2.0 turbo the most for its lighter-footed feel. This engine, smooth and responsive, renders the thirsty V6 all but redundant, and it's this Insignia rather than the slightly grumbly, 2.0-litre diesels (in three power options all with the same 154g/km CO2 rating) that makes the best job of trumping Ford's equivalent Mondeo. There's also a non-turbo 1.8-litre petrol engine.

The Insignia is a good-looking, well-specified car that's pleasing if not exactly inspirational to drive, but rear passengers will not be pleased if the front seats have optional electric adjustment because they'll have nowhere to put their feet. That's one detail the designers missed.

The Rivals

Citroën C5 2.2 HDI: from £19,895

There's a German influence in this otherwise very French car. Comfortable and effortlessly rapid with this 175bhp, twin-turbo diesel engine.

Ford Mondeo 2.5T: from £21,645

Hardly a popular choice, given the five-cylinder, 220bhp petrol turbo's relative thirst, but it's the most enjoyable car to drive.

Renault Laguna 2.0T: from £18,740

The engine is well known in Méganes; here it's in 170bhp form and matched only to automatic transmission. Dull outside, rather pleasant inside.

Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

    Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

    £70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all