Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer – Review
By Liam Bird
Were it not for a certain significant Vauxhall estate car, I may not have been writing this at all. In early 1969, pre-empting the arrival of my older brother, my father bought a blue Viva HB estate; brand new, on an H-plate. He was chuffed. The Viva served him well and provided the perfect means of practical family transport he’d been searching for. Four years later when I arrived (I’ll let you do the maths) dad’s careful ownership, his home servicing skills, and no doubt copious amounts of turtle wax meant the Viva was still going strong. So strong in fact that it was another 10-years before what had become the old HB finally gave in to the tin-worm. A Hillman Avenger 1600 Super replaced it. But that’s another story.
What didn’t dawn on me until last week, when I picked up Vauxhall’s latest Insignia Country Tourer was that, since the family Bird’s Viva was unceremoniously carted off to the great car park in the sky, I can’t recall ever having spent any significant time with a family-orientated Vauxhall estate. Subconsciously (well that’s my excuse) I’ve tended to avoid them, indulging myself instead in cars of an altogether less practical, more, shall we say, sporting nature.
Something else also became apparent: for the first time, I realised that because of a certain blue Viva, Vauxhall are partly responsible for my life-long fascination with all things automotive. I spent hours in the garage with dad. Who’d have thought it, Vauxhall? Nevertheless I approached the Insignia Country Tourer with an open mind.
“Loaded to the gunnels”
The Country Tourer is the flagship model of the current Insignia range. Based on their Sports Tourer but with a 20mm higher ride height, some rugged looking wheel-arch extensions, 18” rims and all-wheel drive it promises to be a go anywhere (well almost, and within reason) family-wagon. It is Vauxhall’s answer to the Audi A4 All-Road, VW Passat All-track, Skoda’s Octavia Scout, Volvo’s aged XC70 et-al.
Priced at £26,499 it’s not cheap. Although the Audi and Volvo are more costly. But it is loaded to the gunnels with the kind of technology the schoolboy version of me would’ve thought belonged on Tomorrow’s World. Sat-nav, DAB radio, front and rear parking sensors, heated front seats, mirrors and steering wheel, power windows, part-electric seat adjustment, privacy glass, tire pressure monitors, adaptable dampers, multiple airbags, and Vauxhall’s Intellilink system that even lets you write notes directly into via a touchpad, are all fitted to the Nav-specced example I tested. As was Vauxhall’s all new dashboard.
Forget the button-festooned Insignias of old. An 8.4 inch touch screen now takes care of most of the functions listed above whilst making a magnificent job of decluttering the fascia. But, it’s the instrument panel itself that’s the real stand-out feature. Between the traditional rev counter and fuel gauge there’s a beautifully clear screen that can display either an electronic interpretation of a speedometer, inset with either the trip-computer or your navigation instructions. Or, you set it to show the speed in a much smaller digital display and utilize the freed-up space to display a host of other functions. On paper it sounds awfully complicated, but the truth is it’s incredibly easy; it’s all controlled by a simple intuitive button on the steering wheel. The truth is it wouldn’t look out of place in something costing four times what Vauxhall charge for the Insignia.
Sadly, the diesel engine doesn’t feel quite as refined. It rattles like a mini-cab at idle and wheezes like its driver when worked hard. That said it does have to toil for its living. The single turbo-ed unit’s 163bhp (there’s a biturbo auto-only option available too) and 258lbft of torque is hobbled somewhat by the extra 230kg weight of the four-wheel drive system. Add to that a slightly rubbery gear-change and some rather numb steering and the result is the Insignia Country feels altogether more relaxed than a racer ever does. The upside though, is the promise of 50.mpg and a range of over 650 miles.
“Tackle the Serengeti”
Will any of those miles ever be completed off-road? It’s unlikely. For all of the Country Tourer’s rugged pretensions it’s hardly the kind of car in which you’d tackle the Serengeti. Nevertheless the extra traction provided when the electronic differential does its stuff will probably prove to be more than enough to get you off a wet field, cope with a friend’s unpaved driveway, or get you home on a snowy evening.
As an all-round-all-year family car there’s a lot to like about the Insignia Country Tourer. It’s unassuming, practical and spacious. What more can you ask of it? I’d say it’s the nicest Vauxhall estate I’ve been in for years.
Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer
Engine: 1956cc 4Cyl 16V turbo-diesel
Transmission: 6 speed Manual, four wheel drive
Power: 163bhp @ 4000pm
Torque: 258 lbft @ 1750rpm
0-62MPH: 10.9 Sec
Max Speed: 127 mph
MPG: 50.4 combined