During the past week I’ve been driving a couple of cars that have been around for years in one form or another - Toyota’s Yaris and Opel / Vauxhall’s Insignia - Both cars that a lot of people have driven and owned. I’ve never done either, and both rather surprised me albeit in different ways - The Insignia took over where the Vectra left off as Opel and Vauxhall’s 5 door hatchback to rival Ford’s Mondeo. Both are cars that we see every day as they’re standard rental and company car fleet fodder, but the Insignia’s styling has always stood out in a way the Mondeo can’t seem to manage. From the almost wrap around rear lights in the latest Insignia that I drove to the swooping nose, it has the lines of a far more expensive car and the interior has an air of quality about it that was absent in its predecessors. I found it really quick and easy to find the perfect driving position with the partially electric driver’s seat in the SRI model, although there was one fairly major drawback - The car I had was fitted with a large touchscreen that looks after the radio and sat nav. It’s actually very good and the information on it very detailed - The problem I found was it’s at a distance and angle that made it tricky to use when driving without having to lean quite far forward out of my seat whilst hanging onto the steering wheel with one hand - It’s not impossible. But ironically, a little of what the touch screen's trying to add in terms of convenience is taken away by its position in the dash.
What this does show though is just how spacious the Insignia’s interior is - The back seat can take 3 strapping adults with head and legroom to spare even with a 6 plus footer like me in the front. The Insignia’s a joy to drive on A roads and motorways. It feels a relatively heavy car, but in a good way - It stays planted and positive and there’s plenty of feel through the steering. It glides along in similar fashion to something German and far more expensive. The car I was given had a 1.4 litre turbo petrol engine with 138bhp - The 6 speed box changes nicely but the combination of it, the engine and the ride doesn’t inspire enthusiastic driving - What this car does well is cruise for miles and miles completely uneventfully, and there’s nothing wrong with that - It doesn’t feel especially slow despite a 0-60 time of 10.1 seconds. Pushed, it’ll reach 127mph according to the blurb that came with it, and it’s certainly more engaging to drive than the ancient, asthmatic normally aspirated 1.8 it replaced 5 years ago - The only issue I did encounter was with engine braking, or rather the lack of it - It seems to be a common with the gearing in a lot of cars cars just recently - Cruising along at 70 on a motorway, the line of traffic in front slows down. Traditionally taking ones foot off the throttle would cause the car to slow down enough to not need to brake - Not so in the Insignia. Changing down from 6th to 5th or even 4th just makes progress noisier rather than slower so you end up using the middle pedal. I assume this part of the car's being tuned for fuel economy which is pretty impressive weighing in at just under 50mpg compared to the 30 odd of the engine it replaced. have a pathological hatred of what I think of as "sales reps" cars, but I like the Insignia a lot. It’s just, well, nice in almost every respect. Nice to look at, nice to drive and a nice place to spend a few hundred miles at a time.