Opel Insignia Onstar: "A sensible, good value choice of family cruiser"
The Opel Insignia was big news when it arrived to the market in 2009. Replacing the popular Vectra, it promised a premium saloon experience, at a not so premium price – topped off with a reliable German badge.
Six years on, the large family car market has moved on considerably and 2015 has seen it become one of the industry's most competitive segments with new generations of the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat earlier in the year turning many heads back towards its traditional rivals – not to mention fresh threats arising from an updated Toyota Avensis, and the car that took the whole market by storm this year in the new Skoda Superb.
Forgoing the usual visual refresh, Opel have decided to come to this battle armed with what has become an increasingly important weapon – technology.
As well as the improvement of what has always been quite an impressive infotainment system in Intellilink, and the addition of Apple CarPlay – this year has seen the introduction of OnStar, Opel's new 'personal mobility assistant' which will, amongst other things, call emergency services for you in the event of an accident. While no doubt an exciting feature – will it be enough to keep the Insignia relevant in a cut-throat market?
Performance & Running Costs
The latest diesel line-up consists of a 1.6 or 2.0l CDTi, with 136 and 170 PS respectively, available in both manual and automatic transmissions.
Petrol fans can choose between the entry-level 140 PS 1.4i or the range-topping 2.8l OPC model which at €54,195 and pushing out 325 PS is a different animal entirely, but an exciting inclusion to the range all the same.
OPC excluded, running costs are respectably low across the board with the 1.6l CDTi a particularly economical choice – claiming to do an impressive 63 miles to the gallon. Opting for the more powerful 2.0l doesn't demand a huge sacrifice in fuel efficiency either, offering a still reasonable 53 MPG. Both cost less than €200 a year to tax in their manual forms.
The Insignia offers only the positives of the 'big car' feel – the space, the comfort, the jet-like smooth drive but none of the wallowy-ness that you can sometimes get in this class. While the 2.0l CDTi in our test car is most at home on the motorway, remaining whisper quiet in higher gears - it felt surprisingly limber on city streets too, cornering tightly, with good feedback from the steering. The eight-way electric adjustment and four-way lumbar support in the seats makes it very easy to get an excellent driving position which will be a real draw for the fleet drivers and heavy road users that it has always been popular with.
What’s in the cabin
Opel interiors have been criticised in the past for being too cluttered, and while there certainly are a lot of buttons on display inside the Insignia, they also reflect the impressive amount of kit in the cabin. The interior design is by no means the best in class but a neat, logical layout makes it easy to navigate the centre console and the materials used on the dashboard are of a high quality.
Spacewise it is more than capable of carrying five adults in comfort and the boot, while not the largest in the class is well-shaped with a low lip which will endear it to the sales rep lugging merchandise up and down the country.
Value for money
The wide choice of trim levels, as well as a long list of optional extras makes for quite a substantial gap between the entry-level base model petrol starting at €25,695 for the hatchback and the Limited Edition 2.0l CDTi sports model we had on test – complete with heated leather seats and steering wheel, reversing camera, and a driver assistance package that tots up to over €42,000 at the checkout.
One benefit to this is that customers aren't limited to just a base, mid-range or high-spec model and can pick and choose (and pay for) only the kit they really need.
You won't have to go too mad on the option list if you don't want to though with cruise control, automatic lights and a leather steering wheel amongst some of the more impressive features that come pre-equipped on all models.
Onstar is standard on the SE model upwards or for a €500 premium on the S and SC. It will be a subscription service – free in Ireland for the first year and will cost approximately €100 annually after that. While we were impressed with its advisor service – its more notable function is as a safety feature and if it takes off could be a real cause for concern for roadside assistance companies in the future.
The availability of OnStar, alongside a host of other driver-assisting features like lane-departure warning and active cruise control make it one of the class leaders when it comes to safety, but even without all that it still managed to score the full five stars on the NCAP crash test with six airbags and ESP stability control as standard.
Residual values can be strong but its popularity as a fleet model can go against it here as there are simply too many of the sparse, high mileage variety around. However, a well-specced, well-cared for Insignia is a different product altogether and will always be popular on the used market. Something to keep in mind at the time of purchase perhaps – 'the day you buy is the day you sell' and all that.
The solid fundamentals – space, comfort, low running costs and a good degree of choice when it comes to engines, trims and body type (there is also a saloon and estate version available), ensure that the likes of OnStar, CarPlay etc. are welcome additions rather than stand-ins for any shortcomings in what is still a sensible, good value choice of family cruiser.