When it comes to attractive estate cars, we’ve never had it so good. The latest example is the load-lugging version of the impressive new Vauxhall Insignia.
Longer, lower, lighter and wider than the outgoing car, the second generation Sports Tourer has big road presence.
Inheriting sleek good looks from its equally dashing hatchback sibling, known as the Grand Sport, the Tourer’s luggage capacity is also up a crucial 135 litres to 1,665.
And while it’s not the biggest boot in its class (the VW Passat and Skoda Superb are north of 1,750 litres), it beats the likes of the Ford Mondeo and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It’s also roomier inside with plenty of space for five adults.
Size isn’t everything though, and the Sports Tourer is also a step-up in terms of comfort and represents a lot of car for the money (the range starts at £18,695).
Engines (all turbocharged) on offer include a 1.5-litre petrol with two power outputs (138 or 163bhp), a 1.6-litre diesel (108 or 134bhp), a 167bhp 2.0-litre diesel and a 256bhp 2.0-litre petrol complete with automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive.
I tested what’s likely to be one of the biggest sellers – the more powerful 134bhp 1.6 diesel in mid-range SRi Nav trim, with a price tag of £23,240.
Having also sampled the 108bhp 1.6 diesel and 167bhp 2.0 diesel, for me this engine is the sweet spot in the range, offering plenty of power combined with superb fuel economy for such a big car.
Vauxhall quotes 62.8mpg with low CO2 emissions of 119g/km, and I easily managed 50+mpg despite some spirited driving.
With a 0-60mph time of 9.9 seconds, but seeming swifter, and a top speed of 131mph, it’s no slouch either.
Just as impressive was the engine’s refinement and smooth progress through the 6-speed manual box. An automatic wasn’t available to test, but I have tried the 8-speed auto on the 2.0-litre petrol and it’s a good gearbox.
Happy in slower traffic and powerful enough for cruising on motorways at higher speeds, it’s a definite highlight.
The spacious interior is comfortable, well laid out and boasts a decent 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen in the centre console.
It seems well put together inside, but look hard and there are a few harder black plastics around, reminding you that the Sports Tourer isn’t quite up there with the likes of the Volvo V90, BMW 5 Series and Audi A6 in the premium sector, but it’s certainly plush enough for most of us.
My car also came with an optional Head-up Display (HUD), which is clear and thankfully comes with a simple screen height adjuster and info option toggle to the right of the steering wheel. There is a slight reflection on the windscreen from the housing for the HUD, but Vauxhall is not the only manufacturer to struggle in this area.
Visibility is good, though the sheer length of the Sports Tourer (nearly five metres) is apparent when looking back centrally over your shoulder, so the rear-view camera is an essential for parking.
When driving, you’re also aware of the increased width too – it really feels much bigger than its predecessor, with a footprint not dissimilar to an Audi A6 Avant.
The Sports Tourer rides smoothly, but it’s clearly engineered more for cruising than hustling round country roads because there’s a bit of pitch and roll. Take it gently though, and most drivers and passengers will be more than happy with the comfort levels.
When it comes to cabin refinement, again it’s in its element on quality roads, because as soon as it gets on the rougher stuff, a not insignificant amount of road noise seeps in. A shame, considering the well-mannered engine.
For those pulling a caravan or a trailer, towing capacity for the Sports Tourer is up to 2200kg compared to the original Sports Tourer.
You get a lot for your money when it comes to equipment too. The SRi gets cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, a touchscreen infotainment system with DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, keyless entry, as well as automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition technology.
Matrix LED headlights are available as an optional extra, along with adaptive cruise control, heated front seats/ steering wheel /windscreen, panoramic sunroof and leather seats to name but a few.
Verdict: The new Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer is a big, handsome estate offering value for money combined with practicality, comfort and economy. And while it’s not a class leader, it’s arguably the best looker and is now a stronger rival than ever for the Ford Mondeo, Skoda Superb, Kia Optima Sportswagon and VW Passat.