Vauxhall Insignia SRI

Somewhere amongst the gloom and doom of strife-torn global markets big car manufacturers are trying to make a living.

So while at first glance there has never been a worse time to launch a key model, when it comes to survival and success, there has never been a better one either.

Succeed now when times are hard and just think how you will do when the economy turns a corner.

No pressure Vauxhall, but the new Insignia has to be good. There’s an awful lot riding on it.

Old Vectra was a reliable workhorse, born of its day and relatively successful. But it was more mule than thoroughbred, more clock up the miles during the week and slinging it down the car wash at the weekend.

Insignia needs all of that and a whole lot more. It needs to be appealing; it needs to be coveted; it needs to be handwashed on the drive every Sunday morning with love and pride.

So GM has gone to extraordinary lengths to make this medium sized saloon special - and one glance at the bodywork tells you it is.

Vauxhall left it to a little man from Luton to come up with an eye-catcher and he and his team have done well.

They call it "sculptured artistry with technological precision". The rest of us are likely to say ooh, nice looking motor.

Firstly the proportions are perfect; so the overhangs are short, the wheels large, the bonnet long and sexy. The nose is bold, the sides set off by a deep sculpted feature called a blade.

The lights are attractive front and rear and when they are on form pretty patterns; the rear set have been given a fin to improve already class leading aerodynamics.

The Insignia hasn't been forged on the heavy metal factory floor, it has been designed with love and passion and in a hi-tech minimalist studio. Even the famous badge has gone trendy with a new 21st century look, the name Vauxhall engraved around the edges.

Inside it's the same. The cockpit is lovely. The dash has form and shape. It's a delight on the eye. It feels upmarket thanks to carefully chosen materials and the way the dash flows seamlessly into the doors while the instruments seem to float on a pool of light.

All this would be gloss and fluff if the Insignia didn't have the driving dynamics to back it. Thankfully it does and the first thing you notice is how solid it feels on the road.

There’s plenty of choice - saloon, hatchback and eventually an estate - but they all share the same verve for life whether powered by any of the four petrol and three diesel motors.

The SRI packs the 2.0 litre turbo that lies inside the VXR high performance range. By any standards it is fit and agile. In fact the power rushes in so quickly it can run away with you - even when running in "tour" mode. Press the sport button on the dash and the performance is startling - and so is the fuel consumption that drops to about 25 miles per gallon.

SRI also comes with tarmac sucking four wheel drive and it needs it to keep the performance in check. Insignia feels planted anyway, with 4x4 handling and road holding are pretty much peerless.

Insignia will have been on the drawing board long before the credit crunch had even been thought of proving that somewhere out there there’s an automotive God looking after GM’s fortunes.

But it wouldn’t do the struggling American parent company any harm to glance across the Pond to see how in Europe manufacturers can still make a worthy and popular car.

Car facts

Model: Vauxhall Insignia SRI

Engine: 2.0 litre turbo

Drivetrain: six speed manual

Power: 220hp

Top speed: 149mph

0-62mph: 7.3secs

Insurance group: 14

Miles per gallon (combined): 30.7

CO2 (g/km): 229

Price: £22,460.00