Updated: February 14, 2015
Several days ago, we had the extra long and beautiful Eurotrip article. And while we did review Opel Insignia, that's Vauxhall for you Brits and colonists, we did not really review the car. We focused on the road and driving conditions and how well the car blended into the environment. Now, we shall rectify this.
To wit, here's a proper car review, which mostly ignores how red sunsets are in certain parts of the world, the speed limits on highways, but in a safe way, and other conditions that bring out the inner child in you. We will do the interior and exterior expose, then delve deeper into problems, comfort, price, options, and such. Then, finally, we will revisit the driving part, but without repeating ourselves or being boring. Follow me.
The test model
The estate version of Opel Insignia was our chosen scapegoat for the eight day tour of hard driving and almost 2,000 km of roads. It was marked for carriage of three fine-looking adults and their baggage, which bring the already impressive and not so insignificant kerb weight of this 4.9-meter cruiser and its 70-liter fuel tank to a higher mark, roughly 250 kg above the stated figure to be exact. Against that, Insignia had the weakest of its 2.0-liter turbodiesels in its extra-economical economy ecoFLEX range, rated at 120 HP and 300 Nm with a bit of extra breath should you floor it. In technical parlance, overboost.
The vehicle also had the most basic equipment kit, but this should not discourage you. For a luxurious estate, the basics are pretty interesting. Let's list them, shall we. Decent seats, cheap fabric, awful floor mats. Cruise control, Start/Stop, Hillhold, rain-sensitive wipers, high-beam assist, daytime LEDs, a rudimentary but quite capable radio plus DVD media system, dual-zone climate control, parking sensors on both ends of the car, no spare wheel and some lucky charms so you don't end up with a flat tire, privacy lids that's a bit short for the length of the boot space, a self-dimming mirror, and that's about it. Well, you do get a handful of shiny metal all around, which infuses the vehicle's already handsome shape with a second helping of glamor.
It may sound like a humble package, but some of the options, including the safety features are really nice. You will appreciate the wipers that do all the hard work for you, or the fact you don't need to flash other drivers with your lights in the dark, on narrow roads. All of this makes for a handsome addition to the overall feel. Price wise, it ranges from acceptable to ridiculous, depending where you live. And if you are from the States, astronomical.
Is it pleasing to look at?
Yes, very. Opel Insignia is a charming vehicle. And with extra paneling on its tail, even more so, true to the universal axiom that says all estate cars should be prettier than their sedan or hatchback counterparts. The wagon is really beautiful and nice to look. Now, larger wheels would make the effect even more awesome, but the default alloys and the 17-inch tires are adequate enough on the aesthetic front, excellent on the ergonomics side. More about the latter later.
From the front, the car has a very upmarket feel, with chrome elements on the grille. The silhouette swoops back, and what becomes a stubby and slightly embarrassing end in the sedan version turns into a massive, Feng shui approved rear end that offsets the car's sleek line in a very pleasing manner. The more you look, the more hypnotized you are. Best of all, the car radiates a visual message of speed and sportiness, regardless of what engine beats under the front hood.
I IS mesmerised, for real. Or just making a bit of a scene to enhance the drama.
To demonstrate some more, me team - it's mostly just me, but using the term team implies there's more people involved and a whole production and whatnot, and it gives the article a somewhat extra professional feel and touch, right - decided to turn off one of the more urbanized patches of tarmac and head into the scenery normally used in first person shooter games with heavy zombie motifs, as you shall immediately discover. The purpose thereof? Nothing, just to show off the car's fine lines, my most awesomely GIMP skills, plus comment briefly on yet another type of driving experience we had during the Eurotrip. Highways, country roads, city, and now tiny, tiny rocks on causeways leading to unnamed farms.
And on the inside?
Opel Insignia is a fairly composed car. The interior is large and airy. There's a plenty of room both front and back, and you can pack up to the max. allowed limits of adults. Road comfort is very decent, even if you ignore the clever suspension. The seats do their job fairly well, although they are far from any miracle.
The central console is okay, just a little cluttered. This is a Ford-Opel disease, and used to be Mercedes disease, of having too many buttons and stuff. Now, Insignia does this with far more elegance than the rest, and it's so much better than the rest of the range, but it can still be made simpler. Once again, my mind cannot not draw comparisons to movie elements. We had General Ackbar in Astra, and here we have the cute robot from Short Circuit. Just look at the aircon dials. Damn.
Not all is bad, far from it. The silver plastic has a nice design, the black stuff is pleasing to touch. There's a sense of logic overall, apart from the extra button fetish. However, the quality of finish is very decent, and the gadgets are within easy reach. Oh yes, the aircon vents are positioned a little awkwardly, so they will blow too much air either onto your right wrist or directly into your face. Still, you sit low, you are all snug, the steering wheel and the cushty gearlever fit handsomely into your grubby hands, and you get into a proper driving mood, forgetting about dry numbers and technical specifications that scream family boring all over the place. Last but not the least, more color would be nice. Something that is not silver, black or dull gray.
What is it like to drive?
Well, we talked about this, at length. Let me summarize, if you're not in the mood for three pages of pure prose. The car drives well, it swallows tarmac with ease, and it corners much better than its size and length suggest, while still being perfectly comfortable and composed. The seats can be improved, though.
You have a lot of power from that diesel, just don't expect sudden delivery, especially not once the overboost tapers, and the revs go up. The power band is relatively narrow, the gears are slick and fun but rather long, and when you combine all these factors, you must be careful with your shifts and throttle response lest you end up wasting your enthusiasm in vain. You'd better hold gear than upshift, making sure you're not too close to the bottom of the turbo range, and don't expect miracles if you step on it.
Opel Insignia is a fierce fighter in the middle speed, middle power range. It works best in the third to fifth, between 40-80 km/h. Less so if you want outright acceleration from zero to whatever, and less so in the sixth, which has the same gentle, quiet, low-RPM cruising symptoms as we have seen in the Astra review. It's not good for overtaking or any hills. The engine will rumble and complain if you try to keep the RPM needle anywhere below 2,000 rpm. But then, if you keep it steady at this golden mark, it will do a lot of miracles there. Experience from other cars might urge you to shift it up, up, up, but no, don't worry, it's fine.
The upside? Phenomenal fuel consumption. The 2.0-liter ecoFLEX engine is very frugal, and no matter how wild you are, it will not drink more than 7 liters per 100 km. If you're gentle, you can do 4 liters, and anyone can achieve about 5 liters without any great talent or care. Just to remind you, 400 km of highway, at 140-150 km/h, with aircon and 250 kg extra weight, the average fuel thirst was only about 5.5 liters/100 km. This is an excellent figure that offsets the somewhat lethargic engine numbers. But there are many other turbo-diesels available on the market, with the same engine only a different ECU mapping, and even a second turbo at the top of the range, and that's where things really get interesting.
Still, even with just 120 HP, Insignia takes 12 seconds from standstill to 100 km/h, and it's utterly calm and comfortable at any legal road limit. While it does not have an impressive top speed, it carries well all the way, without any signs of weakness, shudders, coughs or anything else of that sort. You are in control, and you do all that speed with confidence.
Whether you're in a mood for an aggressive drive or a gentle family cruise, Insignia corners well, it rides well, it fears no pot hole and no bumps, it can keep up with bigger and nimbler cars on inclines and round twisty turns, and it's a breeze to use in town as it is on open roads. Never once do you fear its large physical footprint. The steering can be more precise, but this is true for most Opels. Elegance is there, all right, and the car smacks of proper class.
Well, just a few. Start/Stop is annoying, as it is in pretty much every other car. The parking sensors are too sensitive, and they squeal too much, even if there's nothing within a mile of the car. You can use them to guard your house against rabbits or foxes really. You also want to deactivate them the moment you shift into reverse, and that kind of defeats the purpose, does it not? We mentioned the privacy lid, which does not fully cover your junk in the boot, so if you must park the car in a public spot, keep the last 20 cm or so clear of anything expensive, to avoid visits to a windscreen shop for repairs.
Speaking of the boot, the door or whatever you wanna call is ultra massive and heavy, and you need to swing it like a medieval hammer to close properly. Even a strapping lad like me struggled, I can only imagine how normal people and women handle this. More finesse is needed. Or a button. Or something. Then, floor mats are butt ugly and need to be traded with something less rugged and utilitarian. They might serve their purpose, but so does a Soviet arctic tractor, and you don't want to be driving in that, now do you?
Speaking of the boot some more, when you poop the massive boot door, which be like a castle gate, the road computer monitor will show you a message that it's open. No worries, except the graphics used to indicate this activity is for the sedan version and not the estate. This is a tiny detail, but it can be fixed.
Finally, the front seats have ugly spring-like levers for positioning the back piece. I mean really. Why would anyone use that kind of thing? What's wrong with a nice cogwheel thingie? Do you want sane people to arch forward and then gently BDSM their kidneys trying to figure out the right angle of recline for their driving position?
Opel Insignia 2.0 CDTI ecoFLEX is a highly versatile family carrier, with good looks, adequate basic equipment and lots of safety-related features, excellent road handling, and a most frugal engine that does quite well despite its modest figures. You won't be thrilled, but it corners like a car half its size. That's good, if you want some spice from your rattly diesel child and dog transporter. Fuel consumption is da blast.
I'm very pleased. There are some things that could be fixed, and an extra 50-60 HP would do wonders, but overall, with 2,000 km clocked, Insignia seeped under my skin as an excellent all-around choice car, even though I prefer smaller hatchbacks. Which tells how composed and well-built this unit really is. A surprise, and a much needed comeback for Opel, after some rather lackluster years. Insignia, CDTI, 8.5/10. You should definitely consider.