Updated: January 6, 2015
The phrase Eurotrip hints heavily at some kind of a trip across Europe. Which is exactly what we are going to do, only on a smaller scale. We won't roam across the whole continent surely. We will do less. A single country. In Opel Insignia 2.0 CDTI ecoFlex estate edition.
The country of choice is Croatia, with eight days and 1,977 km traveled on pay-to-use highways, B roads, C roads, macadams, country lanes, twisty serpentines, seaside magistrales, coastal cities with the unblemished charm of Austro-Hungarian rule and Italian terracota rooftops. In later articles, we will follow up with some German and Italian experience. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's see what gives here.
Start the engine up
It clicks and clacks and clutters, a proper diesel. The 2.0-liter beast is not the most refined sound lab, and it has the typical rattle that you no longer hear in the Volkswagen Group family, with its common-rail offerings. Opel, or rather Vauxhall, should you happen to be from the UK and reading this article, Insignia retains the noise nostalgia of the 90s under its hood.
However, all similarities to old, sooty and lazy diesels of the past end there. True, I had the weakest unit in the range, with 120 HP and 300 Nm, with a slight overboost to 320 Nm, from 1,750 to 2,000 rpm. Fitted into a fairly large and heavy Insignia, it does away with any promise of instant speed and g-force accelerations. But it surprises with a quick throttle response and a vivacious rhythm of driving that bely the size and weight factors.
The six-speed manual gearbox is supple and fun to use, slick and quick. Compare this to Adam, where the changes were somewhat notchy. You have a lot of low-down pulling power, and the plenty of torque gives you enough to feel composed, relaxed and satisfied with your choice. The lack of wind comes to bear only when you floor it and the speed exceeds the 70-80 km/h mark, after which, the rattle intensifies and the sense of slow gently creeps in. But this gentle dose of lethargy remains linear up the speedometer curve, so your anger or disappointment stay put. Speaking of speed, it's time to hit the open roads.
Opel Insignia loves the 2,000 rpm line. It loves it so much that even with three adults on board, a bunch of suitcases, aircon, and a healthy speed of about 140-150 km/h, the engine revolutions hardly move. This makes for a quiet cruise, with the tire noise exceeding the engine bangs. The upside is a very low fuel consumption, amazingly so, in fact. But we will get to that.The downside? You don't have too much flexibility.
Long gear ratios help keep the fuel thirst down, but the same problem like the one we encountered with Opel Astra infects Insignia. Even though we're talking about a smaller 1.4-liter turbo-charged petrol with a six-speed automatic gearbox in a smaller car versus the Insignia offering, with its turbo, diesel, manual, 50% more torque, 20 horses less, and a higher kerb weight, the overall behavior when it comes to gear changes is similar.
Astra did not like the sixth below 85-90 km/h. Neither does Insignia with this 2.0 ecoFLEX unit. It rumbles and complains, and the conservative acceleration turns orthodox. You can't upshift too much. Compare this to the little Opel Corsa OPC, where you can merrily rocket in the sixth at 50-60 km/h, without any problems, something you would not expect from a sports car. But if you are worried your fuel bill will go up, don't.
No matter how wild, aggressive, throttle heavy, happy or trippy you might be, no matter what gear you're currently using, and it's probably lower than you'd want, and the noise makes you financially conscious, the waste of your diesel is minimal. I was quite aggressive with Insignia, and yet, it clocked just 6.3 liters average consumption. In a few cases during the eight-day ordeal, it went up to about 6.7 liters, never more than that. On the highway, on a single section of 430 km traveled with the said three adults, extra weight, speed, fresh and refrigerated air and such, in hot and humid conditions, the overall fuel economy was just 5.5 liters/100 km. This means a single driver with a gentle foot and no aircon can probably average about 4 liters on the highway, in the 90-110 km/h band. Amazing. And this be a bigass station wagon!
So yes, you might have to maintain the gears a while longer and press the foot a little farther down, but this won't matter much. Either way, you will enjoy a fairly smooth and composed ride, mostly devoid of engine noise, and limited to a generous but none too exciting helping of acceleration thrills. Officially, the 0-100 km/h figure is about 11.9 seconds. It does feel a little slow. Compare this, if you will, with Mercedes C 220. A big difference there. But that's fine. Because Opel Insignia barely drinks fuel.
Economy, of course, is not the only consideration on the open road. Good seats, and you won't feel too tired after several hours of driving. Good driving position and visibility, a pleasant if somewhat dark interior with a nice dash finish, cheap fabric and dull colors in the basic trim level. The steering wheel has the same characteristics like the one installed in Opel Astra, if with tad more feel. It's still somewhat artificial, but you do get more feedback from the 225/55 R 17 tires. However, Jetta and friends have a much better rudder.
Speed poses no challenge to Insignia. It's always calm and composed, no matter the speed. Even at 150 km/h, it carries well. It won't gain extra respect too quickly, but at least it does its speed run in a cultured, predictable manner, which starts the moment you upshift into the sixth. From thereon, it carries like a lady. A proper family cruiser, designed for long stretches with people, children, luggage, and other nuisances inside.
There is little body roll, no cabin buffeting and roll due to sidewinds. Sweeping curves come and go with delight, the car is well planted on the road, and you don't really feel its significant size and mass, even through tighter turns. You do have to downshift a little to maintain speed on the inclines. After a while, you can forget about the steering wheel and just focus on the road. The cockpit is comfortable, snug and sportier than it allows you to be, but then, you can have more powerful engines under the hood, and then it all makes sense. In fact, you sit kind of low, the gear lever is beckoning that you put your hand on it, and still, it's airy, and you have good visibility all around, and there's no problem with the car's dimensions in any way.
After a while though, you will get tired of spotless tarmac and endless speed, and you will want something more exciting, like a bunch of B roads and switchback lanes taking you to tiny jewels on the riviera, and other similar human engineering designs, which let you unleash the pretend driver that you think you are.