Opel heads upmarket with its sophisticated new Insignia
Opel heads upmarket with its sophisticated new Insignia, writes Geraldine Herbert
Once the quintessential family car, the saloon is under assault from myriad chic crossovers and compact SUVs. And yet despite this competition, one in five Irish buyers still drives a new saloon off the forecourt.
In fact, we Irish are almost unique in Europe in our loyalty for these four-door cars, a trait shared only with the Turks, the Cypriots and the Maltese.
The key components of a decent saloon car are well established: comfort and efficiency is right at the top of the list, along with spaciousness - but a bit of refinement, technology and luxury is also permitted.
Keen to reinvent its popular but ageing Insignia, Opel has rebranded its new version the Insignia Grand Sport and it now comes with more space, a sophisticated interior and sleek new design.
From the outside, it is clear designers have drawn inspiration from the Monza concept, a stunning show car that wooed crowds at the Frankfurt Motor Show back in 2013. The low roof-line gives a very sporty silhouette while the new headlights give it a strong and purposeful front face.
The IntelliLux light system is also quite an interesting feature. As soon as the car leaves urban areas, the IntelliLux light system switches itself on automatically and then constantly adapts the range and distribution of the light beam to every traffic situation.
Climb inside and the changes are instantly noticeable; the new model is bigger, longer and wider and feels so much more spacious and airy.
Ergonomics are also impressive and the driving position is hugely improved. Passengers front and back are well catered for and there is loads of boot space and plenty of legroom.
Engine options include a new 1.5 petrol engine with 138hp or 163hp, a 1.6-litre diesel with either 109hp or 134hp and a 2-litre diesel 168hp and turbo petrol 257bhp. Fuel economy is as low as 5 l/100km for the petrol range and 4 l/100km for the diesel.
The new Insignia is available with an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission, torque vectoring and all-wheel-drive. You now sit 30 millimetres lower than before so it all feels much more connected to the road, enhanced by a retuned suspension designed for sharper handling. It's also lighter with up to 175kg shed from the overall weight.
On the road, it's a refined drive, smooth and quiet. It made light work of the picturesque German villages around Frankfurt and even lighter work of the autobahn, where overtaking and cruising was a pleasure, and it accelerated with a nice unexpected burst of speed.
Prices on the new Insignia are also very competitive. Arriving in dealerships in June, prices start from €27,350 for the new 1.5-litre 140bhp petrol and diesels start from €29,350 for the 1.6 litre and even the basic SC trim includes OnStar with wi-fi as standard, IntelliLink smart phone touch screen (7in) with voice control - compatible with Apple Car Play and Android Auto air con, cruise control, 17in wheels, electric windows and Bluetooth.
While it may be a long time since a roomy saloon was considered a proper family car, cars like the new Opel Insignia should cause families to rethink. It is well priced, looks good, plus driving dynamics and economy have improved.
Debuting on the new Insignia is "Opel Exclusive" a new programme that allows customers to choose from an unlimited range of colours based on their personal preference. Got a favourite tie or lipstick colour? Opel will match the paintwork on your new Insignia.