Opel Insignia 2013: Road Test

words - Feann Torr
Every bit a European style meister the imperfect Insignia is a intriguing take on the medium semi-prestige car

Opel Insignia Select 2.0T Petrol Sedan
Road Test

Price Guide (recommended price before statutory & delivery charges): $45,490
Options fitted to test car (not included in above price): Metallic Paint $695
Crash rating: Five-star (EuroNCAP)
Fuel: 95 RON PULP
Claimed fuel economy (L/100km): 8.8
CO2 emissions (g/km): 206
Also consider: Ford Mondeo (from $31,490); Mazda Mazda6 (from $33,460); Volkswagen Passat (from $38,990); Volvo S60 (from $49,490)


Forget the unfamiliar badge, the Opel Insignia is an intriguing vehicle that has no major flaws; and can be quite involving to drive. It has an ergonomic cabin and good levels of comfort. It sports a discernibly European design, is kitted out with all the mod cons, has five-star safety and is plenty roomy for a mid-sized semi-prestige car.

Yet for all this the German-born Opel Insignia still has a lot of work to do if it wants to get bums on seats because while it does most things very competently, there's nothing truly compelling about this car.

The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine is a rip-snorter, delivering strong pulling power thanks to its 162kW/350Nm output, but the power delivery feels anodyne. Plant the throttle and the wheels struggle to maintain traction, which results in a sharp rebuke from the electronic stability and traction control systems.

I found it to be a difficult car to bond with. It's sufficiently fast and it handles well but I can't help think that if Opel softened some of its sharp edges it would have been a more amenable mode of transport.

For instance throttle response is so crisp and sharp and the turbo so forceful, driving smoothly can be an exercise in frustration.

Opel has developed a potent overtaking machine, as the Insignia absolutely slays roll on acceleration. That said the car's powertrain feels better suited to high-speed autobahn touring in Germany than 80km/h arterial roads in Australia.

At light throttle openings there's not a whole lot of oomph which makes commuting and general urban cruising less than ideal. But when the turbo kicks in it's like a late '90s WRX with a flashed ECU - peaky power that is not always welcome, particularly as it struggles to find a measured outlet via the front wheels.

So one drives the car either slowly or fast, a happy medium not always easy to maintain. On the plus side the six-speed transmission is a swift and savvy unit, dropping gears quickly when you floor the throttle and keeping things nice and relaxed at highway speeds.

A big 70 litre fuel tank means the Opel has a reasonably good open road cruising range. Opel tested the petrol-powered Insignia to ADR 81/02 guidelines and came back with 8.8L/100km on the combined cycle. I ended up with a figure around 12.0L/100km which wasn't bad considering the unrelenting way it preferred to be driven.

The $45,490 Opel Insignia Select 2.0T sedan's ride quality is a little on the firm side when viewed against its direct competitors. The car is not quite as compliant as it could be and that's because the Select variant has less ground clearance than entry-level models and larger 19-inch alloy wheels shod with 245/40 low profile profile tyres.

If you value comfort over handling, it may be wise to test the more affordable $38,490 turbo-petrol model which is fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels.

Handling dynamics are well sorted and the Opel Insignia won't disappoint the driver who likes a good squirt every now and then. It reveals an eagerness on twisty roads that is surprising, hugging the road through corners while feeling stable and planted. The engine is also much more rewarding when drilled hard, producing a sports-car like howl at high revs.

Guiding the car through consecutive corners at a rapid pace will put a smile on your dial, but the same can be said about many of its contemporaries including the Volkswagen Passat and Volvo S60.

The hydraulic power steering is direct and predictable and the wheel has a premium feel thanks to good quality cow hide. Being slightly smaller than the norm the steering wheel is easier to turn quickly, which comes in handy when cracking out an impromptu U-turn. A turning circle of 11.4 metres is not great however, due to its front drive layout.

The ventilated disc brakes, measuring 321mm by 30mm front, 315mm by 23mm rear, are strong and responsive in regular driving providing confident stopping power should you need to jam on the anchors with short notice. Anti-lock brakes and stability control are also standard and during spirited driving on twisty roads the brakes are reassuring and more than happy to dance to the fast-slow-fast rhythm of a determined driver working the drilled alloy pedals.

The up-spec Insignia Select model on test cuts a sharp profile with its big 19-inch foot wear and curvy profile. It's a well-equipped vehicle too, featuring lots of fuss-free automated systems like dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive auto Xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers and an electric park brake with hill start assist.

The six-way electrically adjustable seats are above average in terms of comfort and the 'Siena' leather upholstery looks and feels great.

The seats are both heated and cooled, and on hot summer days the air piped through unseen vents are pure bliss. Ergonomics are well sorted, with smooth armrests and the placement of essential controls are logical. Things like Bluetooth connectivity, voice control, and satellite navigation are welcome additions.

Rear seat room is unexpectedly spacious and the boot is massive, 500 litres in total, but part of that is due to the fitment of a space saver spare wheel. With the rear seats folded down there's a claimed 1015 litres of space, which I don't doubt considering there was enough room for a seven foot surfboard.

There's nothing particularly wrong with the car and in many ways it's a pleasant surprise, but when there's more established players in this space there needs to be a persuasive reason to choose one. And at the moment I can't see one. The turbo-petrol 2.0-litre engine is a dynamo but its hyperactive persona may put some drivers off. Apart from that the Insignia is an accomplished vehicle, and there's always the diesel model to consider...

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Published : Tuesday, 8 January 2013
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