Britain’s leading best selling medium sized car is going to be even tougher for rivals to catch as the new super-slippery aerodynamic Vauxhall Insignia hits the road in October. And helping to keep it ahead of the field its prices have been cut by thousands of pounds below the previous versions.
The most aerodynamic D-segment car, which has consistently led its rivals in the UK, is not only restyled to improve looks and reduce drag as much as possible but inside it has been given a cosmetic and equipment upgrade and comes with new high efficiency engines and comprehensively revised suspension.
The result is a sharper looking, better handling, considerably quieter, more refined and fuel efficient range of Sports Tourer, Saloon and Hatchback models in eight trim levels and in showrooms from the end of September and in the New Year 2014 they will be joined by an all-wheel-drive Country Tourer.
The range also includes the latest 170mph Insignia VXR with 325ps engine for under £30,000. In fact, the new range starts at £16,279 which is £2,000 under the previous entry-level model and on a like-for-like basis the new comers can work out as much as £4,800 less with the most expensive £29,329.
The realigned prices together with the engineering and equipment enhancements have led Vauxhall to predict selling about 30,000 Insignias in a full year, the same as the previous generation but in a more price sensitive climate today.
Launched in 2008 and Car of the Year 2009, the Insignia has handsomely beaten its D-sector rivals and the UK is the biggest market for Insignia in Europe being in the country’s top ten in many months.
There are four new engines including a tax busting 99gkm 140ps turbodiesel alongside the familiar 120ps 2.0 CDTi, an all-new petrol 170ps 1.6 turbo and a new 250ps 2.0 petrol turbo while familiar diesels get further refinements. Inside the infotainment improvements see much bigger touchscreen with multi-function features, Bluetooth internet, 3D navigation as well as voice control and smartphone compatibility and later in 2013 it will be the first to go to owners with a downloadable phone-app which augments the traditional glovebox manual.
Externally, the new Insignia is recognised by its wrap around head and tail lights, brighter grille, rear chromed strip and new bumpers. Some of the grille changes accommodate enhanced cruise control features including active radar detection to reduce crashes, dynamic headlights and camera-based alerts for speed limits and an active front air shutter to aid warm up and reduce fuel consumption.
Apart from the new fascia and simplified controls, the interior gets new seats, door casings and upgraded materials.
A lot of effort has been put into refining the ride and handling while reducing the noise and vibrations without detracting from the steering sharpness and control.
Vauxhall expect the Insignia to continue to be a firm favourite with business drivers and the new low CO2 engines mean company car drivers using a 120ps 2.0 diesel Design model with start & stop will see a £992 BIK company car tax saving over three years compared to a leading rival and £1,118 over another challenger. Residual values have also been improved by £750 over the first generation Insignia.
Insignia product manager Ross Allison said they expected to build on the popularity of the first generation model through the lower tax and running costs of the new version and the lower list prices would be particularly attractive for retail buyers.
“The new prices put the Insignia within reach of many more owners and may encourage existing Astra owners to move up to the bigger Insignia while also convincing company car user-choosers to select it and save on their tax bills and free up more take-home income as well,” he said.
“The Insignia has done very well for us but the introduction of the Country Tourer with its all-wheel-drive and raised ground clearance will take us into a sector of the market we have not competed in before. While we have been fairly conservative and estimate about 600 sales in a year we can increase this if necessary.”
Vauxhall still anticipate about 85% of Insignia models will go into the company car market and be diesels, but it is also creating two models which will be available to retail buyers on leasing schemes with special equipment packages.
About three-quarters of sales will be the Hatchback and the Saloon and Sports Tourer will account for most of the remainder, while the Country Tourer and VXR will be even more exclusive.
Klaus Henn has been responsible for developing the new drivers handbook app for the Insignia and will develop the augmented reality technology for future Vauxhall and GM models.
“It means a driver no longer has to flick through the conventional paper handbook of, say 200 pages, but once the car is registered to the system it will tell them everything they need to know by simply pointing their smartphone at a part of the car and tapping on the phone-screen.
“This is just the start of the new augmented reality systems we are developing and in future there will be further apps and integrated services delivered to owners’ phones.”
The new generation Vauxhall Insignia is a much more refined model than the original Car of the Year winner launched in 2008.
Slipping inside, the cabin immediately impresses with its better quality materials and design improvements, the more sophisticated infotainment and driver displays.
At the international press launch we drove three new versions, the 99gkm 140ps 2.0 diesel, 170ps 1.6 petrol turbo, and 325ps VXR Sports Tourer and found all exceptionally smooth riding and unbelievably quiet on the road.
Diesel pick-up is strong but not as instant as the 1.6 T petrol unit and the steering felt lighter in this model as well. The sharper handling and very gutsy VXR Sports Tourer was a dynamic delight and the ride was much firmer as well. Robin Roberts Miles Better News Agency