2013 OPEL INSIGNIA REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Medium wagon
Price: $48,990 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.0 l/100km | tested: 7.4 l/100km
If you’re going to introduce a new brand into the packed Australian car market, it needs to stand out.
If TMR’s time in the range-topping Insignia Select Sports Tourer (that’s Opel-speak for wagon) is any indication, then Opel has at least got that part of things right.
Everywhere we took the Insignia, it commanded second-glances. Maybe it was the blingy-wheels, the hefty chrome grille, or just that Euro-wagon on-road ‘presence’ - whatever, it gathers looks.
Opel’s Insignia comes with a formidable reputation; you don’t win ‘European Car Of The Year’ in that tough market without more than a few things going for you.
But how will it go here, with Australian families, in the land of the SUV? Its price, $50k+ by the time you get it on road, would seem to indicate premium aspirations.
Quality: If you had to guess, you’d think the Insignia interior was designed by two people: one who understands ‘premium trim and fit’, and one tasked with cutting costs wherever possible.
The interior is a striking design, but up close there are too many shut-lines that don’t quite marry and too many shared parts with lesser GM cars.
The upper dash looks and feels good, the centre console is clever and solid, but the lower dash is made from hard scratch-prone plastics.
The glossy surfaces are incredibly fingerprint-prone and scratch-prone too. There’s also no leather wrap for the gear lever which just feels cheap to hold and it too is easily marked.
Comfort: Multi-adjustable front seats look good (and bear a European chiropractic seal of approval) but are fidgety to adjust.
After a fortnight, I still couldn’t find a driving position to suit my short leg/long arm stance. It’s also plainly obvious that the steering wheel is mounted too far to the right.
For rear passengers there’s much better news. The rear bench is well-shaped and comfy and the amount of width and leg room left all occupants impressed - three adult women happily endured a longer trip, and three boofy blokes, who previously couldn’t physically fit in a SAAB 9-3X, had room to spare.
Equipment: Across the board, Insignia models come with front and rear park assist, electric park brake, automatic lights and wipers, auto dimming mirrors, leather-trimmed seats and multi-function steering wheel with cruise control, audio and Bluetooth buttons, fog lamps, dual zone climate control, heated front seats, alloy wheels and trip computer.
Select models also get bi-Xenon headlights with Adaptive Forward Lighting (AFL+), 19-inch alloy wheels, sports steering wheel and sports front seats with added adjustment and ventilation, seven speaker audio with navigation, CD/MP3/AM/FM, seven-inch colour screen and additional control buttons in the centre console (although these only replicate existing buttons on the centre-stack), sports suspension and rear privacy glass (wagon only).
Storage: To the rear seats, the Insignia Sports Tourer offers 500 litres of luggage space. It also delivers a low loading-lip and a sub-floor with additional storage for shallow items.
The enormous clamshell tailgate is great for ease of loading, but take care in undercover carparks - its sheer size makes it a strike danger and it's heavy and cumbersome to close.
In and around the cabin there are map pockets and bottle holders in all doors, the centre console offers decent space, the cup holders can be covered for small item storage, but the glovebox is a little undersized.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: From behind the wheel the Insignia offers a very likeable experience. Although a little lacking in urge from standstill, the 2.0 litre CDTi engine soon offers up a stream of torque for effortless momentum.
With outputs of 118kW at 4000 rpm and 350Nm of torque available between 1750-2500rpm, the Insignia pulls strongly in typical modern-diesel fashion.
Whether on suburban thoroughfares, or rolling through the hills in the countryside, there’s not much that holds the Insignia back.
Refinement: With doors and windows sealed, there’s little to give away the diesel secret. At idle, noise levels are a shade higher than petrol models, but only slightly.
Drop a window though, and the clattery engine sounds pretty rough. But cabin isolation is an Insignia forte - even tyre rumble, while present, is certainly minimal and better than expected.
Suspension: Insignia follows segment norms of a MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension. Select models also get a slightly lower and firmer suspension tune for a more athletic feel.
While there is a sporting feel to the handling, the firmer suspension never quite settles and can ‘fidget’ a little over bumps, particularly at higher speeds.
It is also worth noting that the electric power-steering system of diesel models isn’t quite as responsive as the hydraulic setup of the petrol Insignia.
Braking: The brake pedal feels reassuring underfoot, and unlike the Passat, the Insignia is smoother to bring to a halt, and pulls up hard when asked. It may come as no surprise to learn that in no time at all, plenty of brake dust will have dulled the shiny-faced rims.
ANCAP rating: Five stars
Safety features: There are dual front, side and curtain airbags, electronic stability control, traction control and ABS as standard, front active head restraints and height adjustable front seatbelts with pretensioners, rear adjustable head restraints, three-point seatbelts for all seats and Opel’s pedal release system to minimise lower leg injuries.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Service costs: Opel Service Plus fixed price servicing program covers the first three services of all new Opel vehicles for three years or 45,000km.
The maximum standard service price for an Insignia will not exceed $349.00 per visit under the program.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Volkswagen Passat Highline 125TDI ($45,990) - Volkswagen’s Passat strikes up a compelling case when you consider its more powerful engine, lower price and stronger features list.
While it drives very well, the Insignia rides slightly better. (see Passat reviews)
Mazda6 GT SKYACTIV-D ($47,370 ) - Arriving to critical acclaim, Mazda’s all-new 6 brings impressive handling, classy interior presentation and outstanding economy to the mid-size class
The Euro-focused wagon does without the spacious rear seat space of its sedan counterpart however, but this world-class wagon certainly puts the medium segement on notice (see Mazda6 reviews)
Ford Mondeo Titanium TDCi ($48,490) - The Mondeo and Insignia are traditional rivals in Europe and it shows. They're closely matched in specification, although the Insignia has a slight edge. The Mondeo is also slightly smaller in all dimensions except wheelbase.
Nearing the end of its current model run, the Mondeo is an excellent drive, but a little dated inside (see Mondeo reviews).
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Opel Insignia wagon impresses in a number of areas. We enjoyed the feel on the road and made great use of the easy-loading rear compartment.
Inside though, the hit and miss interior, offset wheel and poor material choices make us question how happily we’d live with it in the long term.
While we value the rear seat space and quiet drive, the Opel wagon is a pricey option in the medium segment. The new Mazda6 would seem to hold the cards here.
So, we’ll give the Opel a recommendation, but with a caveat: also have a look at the Mazda and Mondeo.
The Insignia Sports Tourer has been caught by a newer pack of contenders, but it looks good - still - and remains a good drive and well-suited to a growing families.