Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer, motoring review: This brand's days as the middle-class car of choice are over

 

Price From £25,349 (£26,499 as tested)
Engine capacity 2-litre diesel
Power output (PS @ RPM) 163@4,000
Top speed (mph) 127
Fuel economy (mpg) 37.7
CO2 emissions (G/km) 199

Time was when a big Vauxhall estate was perfectly acceptable transport for the middle classes. I knew a teacher (when it was a relatively well-paid occupation) who had a Victor Estate (an "FE" type, if you know your old cars). It was stylish, almost fastback in its lines, and capable enough to take him and the family to their holiday cottage in Caernarvonshire, that is before the Sons of Glyndwr, a Welsh budget version of the IRA, burned it down.

Somewhat later, I had a job where I had use of a Vauxhall Cavalier estate, lucky old me, a smart piece of kit and, in its opulent GL trim, an item of intense lust out in rep-land. If you're impressed by this sort of thing, the Vauxhall estate car also enjoys some royal heritage; the Queen once ran a Cresta estate, an unregal 1950s jukebox on wheels, and the Prince of Wales had a little fleet of Omega estates a few years ago.

So, in its way, the Insignia "Country Tourer", albeit lumbered with a fairly pretentious name, is posh enough, or should be, for the country set. The version I tried out had the necessary "green welly" credentials: four-wheel drive by Haldex; a tailgate that closes itself at the touch of a button; heated (leather) steering wheel; and rain-sensitive wipers. It is good looking too, and the big alloys complement the muscular styling. I enjoyed driving it; the diesel engine had plenty of power and the steering was nicely weighted, adding to the sensation of solidity. As a "crossover" it is designed to appeal to both traditional estate-car drivers and SUV owners, though I suspect that the latter would miss the view from their Land Rovers and BMW X3s.

This Vauxhall's niche is also getting rather crowded; there are fine alternatives from the VW Group (Passat Alltrack, Skoda Octavia Scout), Volvo and, of course, various Audi "allroad" models. Somewhere along the line, Vauxhall as a brand came to stand for nothing in particular. In the 1960s they were fashionably styled and popular; in the 1980s actually desirable and aspirational; then, in the 1990s, it all drifted away. Maybe the naff Calibra was to blame. Maybe it was Gordon Brown, who insisted on being driven in an official one. Nowadays Vauxhalls are better than ever, but seemingly that just isn't good enough for the middle-classes.

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