DRIVE DOWN ANY motorway for five minutes and we guarantee that you’ll see at least one Vauxhall Insignia; a combination of keen pricing, low running costs and plenty of kit makes it a firm favourite with company car drivers. However, times change, and after nine years the original Insignia was definitely ready for replacement. That’s where this new Insignia Grand Sport comes in. It takes the familiar Insignia formula and adds more interior space and more kit while being cheaper to buy than before, with the most basic of the six trim levels costing just Ј17,115. But the big question is this: does it have more to offer than acres of space for a bargain basement price? The old model was never that great to drive and its diesel engines were gruff. We’ve tried the new entrylevel 1.6-litre diesel to find out if those issues have been rectified.

Relatively refined diesel
New turbocharged 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre petrol engines are available elsewhere in the range, but this little diesel unit is carried over from the previous Insignia. If that sets alarm bells ringing, you needn’t worry. Although you can tell it’s a diesel from outside the car, the motor is impressively hushed when you’re behind the wheel. There’s some clatter at idle and under acceleration, but you can hardly hear the engine at all when the car is at a cruise. That’s not entirely down to improved sound deadening, though; even on the smallest 17in alloy wheels, road roar is surprisingly noticeable at all times. This becomes a constant drone at motorway speeds.

Those worried that 108bhp isn’t enough in such a big car might be surprised. Sure, the Insignia isn’t outright fast, but there’s more than enough poke to get you up to 70mph by the end of a slip road. The engine is also impressively flexible, providing a good amount of power from very low revs. We suspect that those who regularly carry four passengers might be better off with one of the more powerful engines, though.

What’s even more important, given the amount of Insignias that will go to company car drivers, is the amount of CO2 coming out of its exhaust. Unlike its rivals, the Skoda Superb and Ford Mondeo, which both have the option of sub-100g/km diesels, the best the Insignia can do is 105g/km. Even so, it’s still incredibly tempting for businesspeople thanks to keen pricing; an Insignia is around Ј4000 cheaper than the equivalent diesel Mondeos and Superbs, helping to keep benefitin- kind tax payments low.

You do get the feeling that
corners were cut to achieve that astonishing purchase price, though, especially if you try to go around one with some verve. Turn in and the Insignia, despite having shed some weight, feels like a big, heavy car. After you’ve turned the wheel, there’s a noticeable delay before the car leans over and starts to turn. You’d think that the Insignia’s soft suspension and its relatively small 17in alloys would be a recipe for a comfy ride, but that isn’t quite the case. It feels relaxed and slightly floaty on smooth roads, but the ride quickly deteriorates on craggy surfaces, fidgeting noticeably and thumping over potholes.

Pleasant inside
The Insignia’s interior is a nice place to be. Soft-touch plastics have been strategically placed so that the areas you regularly touch feel sufficiently plush. While there are some scratchy surfaces, the Insignia is no worse than the Mondeo in this respect, although it isn’t up to the Superb’s standard.

The seats are supportive, but entry-level Design models don’t get adjustable lumbar support and don’t offer it as an option, either. You’ll have to step up to SRi for that. All of the car’s major controls are easy to find, and we’re pleased that it has separate air-con controls instead of requiring you to delve into the infotainment system to change the temperature. A 7.0in infotainment touchscreen is standard on models without sat-nav, while nav-equipped cars gain a larger, 8.0in display. The on-screen icons are large and easy to hit and the menus are easy enough to figure out. While there’s plenty of room up front, the rear seats are a bit of a mixed bag. We doubt that anyone will complain about leg room – even if you’re 6ft tall, your knees will be nowhere near the front seatbacks – but you might find that your head is uncomfortably close to the curved roof.

Low on our list
Vauxhall clearly knows exactly who will be buying the Insignia Grand Sport for the most part: company car drivers. Certainly, the car’s low list price, affordable running costs and generous standard kit will keep many such customers happy. However, if you compare the Insignia with its rivals, it becomes much less appealing. The Superb is more comfortable, the Mondeo is more fun to drive and the Volkswagen Passat is far more appealing inside. Make no mistake, the Insignia isn’t a bad car; it’s just one that we can’t recommend over such strong competition.