Vauxhall’s Insignia is the first of a new generation of GSi-badged models from the manufacturer, set to sit below any potential hardcore VXR variants, with as much focus on everyday usability as performance. Saying that, the Insignia GSi gets a sophisticated four-wheel-drive system and eight-speed automatic transmission as standard, plus the company’s latest FlexRide adaptive damping, so it should not be dismissed as just another trim level. Buyers can choose from two engines (one petrol, one diesel) and whether they’d like the Grand Sport fastback or the Sports Tourer estate. The twin-turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel engine is not unique to the GSi, as it’s already available in the Vauxhall range with the same 207bhp output.
Indeed, within the Insignia line-up, it can elsewhere be paired with four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox. The GSi model, however, receives a modestly sporty visual makeover to differentiate it, extending to bespoke 20-inch alloy wheels riding on special Michelin tyres.
To make the most of those, the chassis has been lowered by 10 millimetres on stiffer springs and there are other detail changes, including the fitment of Brembo brakes and a recalibrated electric power steering system. And it’s the steering that truly stands out as excellent in this car.
Like many modern sporting cars, there are several driving modes to choose from (Standard, Tour, Sport and Competition in this case), but unlike most others, Vauxhall doesn’t just reduce the power steering assistance for the sportier settings, so it remains perfectly weighted throughout, allowing delicate placement of the car’s nose in the corners and even some useful feedback. That feedback, in fairness, is usually indicating that there’s a surfeit of grip, even in less-than-perfect conditions. Press on, feeding the power back in earlier than you might in a front-wheeldrive car, and you can feel the rear axle at work. It’s a clever design, using twin clutches to apportion engine output to one or both rear wheels as conditions demand. This design also enables torque vectoring, making the car more stable and more satisfying to drive. It stops short of giving the Insignia a rear-driven feel in any mode, but it does allow a driver of any skill to use the performance to the full.
As does the automatic gearbox, which is so well-judged that we found little use for the gearchange paddles. It makes a good partner for the torque-rich engine under the bonnet. Twin sequential turbocharging means there’s seemingly endless torque on tap, pleasingly delivered low down in the rev range. It’s a shame that it’s quite a noisy unit and not particularly economical.
All this performance can be accessed from the comfort of a well-appointed cabin, featuring bespoke leather-upholstered GSi sports seats up front that are electrically adjusted, ventilated and heated. The touchscreen infotainment allows easy setting of the various drive modes too, but otherwise, it is, like the rest of the car, an understated update, a theme that defines the new GSi badge.
On sale | Now In showrooms | Now
Prices | £33,375 to £34,875
Bodystyles | 5-door hatchback and 5-door estate
Engines | 2.0 (207bhp) Trim levels | GSi
Also consider| Ford Mondeo ST-Line
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Model tested | Grand Sport GSi BiTurbo 4X4 2.0 Turbo D BlueInjection
Price | £33,375
Built in | Rüsselsheim, Germany
Bodystyle | 5-door hatchback, 5-seats
Layout| Four-wheel-drive
Powerplant| 1,956cc, 4-cylinder, 16-valve, twin turbo diesel
Transmission | 8-speed automatic
Stop-start| Yes SCR| Yes
Max power| 207bhp @ 4,000rpm
Max torque | 354lb ft @1,500rpm
Top speed | 145mph
0-62mph | 7.3secs
CO2 emissions | 186g/km (Euro-6)
Economy (urban/extra urban/combined) | 30.7/49.6/40.4mpg
Fuel tank size | 62 litres Range | 551 miles
Insurance group | 28 BIK rate | 37%
Size (length/width with mirrors) | 4,897/2,093mmv Boot space (min/max) | 490/1,450 litres
Kerb/max towing weight| 1,733/1,805kg