Recommended. Vauxhall's new family car is a huge improvement on the Vectra it replaces. It's not quite top of its class, but it pushes the best very hard.
And so, like the Cavalier name before it, the Vectra is consigned to the history books, to be replaced by this, the Insignia. Like its predecessors, Vauxhall's new family car comes as a hatchback, saloon and (in due course) an estate, but that's pretty much where the similarity ends. Quite simply, the new car is such an improvement over the old one that it's no surprise Vauxhall decided to give it a new name.
The surprises start with the styling. And, while it may well be the four-wheeled proof of the adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there's no denying that the Insignia has a real sense of style and character to it - not something you could ever have said of a Vectra. Inside, too, the car is really stylish, with an elegant cabin that is as elegant as it is ergonomic.
However, perhaps the biggest surprise is that the car is also a really good drive. True, it may lack the ultimate ability that makes its arch-rival, the Ford Mondeo, the class-leader, but the Insignia is closer to the very best than anyone might have expected. However, where it's the sporty side of the Mondeo that sets it apart, it's the Insignia's composure that most impresses. The Vauxhall is an expert motorway mile-muncher, and even away from the highways, it displays fine body control and a generally smooth ride. Only when you really push it hard down a really poor section of road does it noticeably lose out to the Mondeo.
In fact, in most respects, the new Vauxhall pushes its Ford rival hard, although the truth is that, in most cases, the Ford just wins out. The Insignia's coupe-like profile limits the rear headroom, for example, while its boot is a little smaller than the Mondeo's and the Ford's steering has better feel.
For all that, though, there's no denying the new Vauxhall has real appeal. It's very well priced, given the amount of equipment that's standard, and there are some interesting high-tech options, such as the FlexRide adaptive suspension and the AFL (Adaptive Forward Lighting) systems. Plus, as long as you steer clear of the basic 1.8-litre petrol engine, every model gives decent performance.
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