The last big GSi from Vauxhall was the Vectra from the early noughties; a harder, lower, faster version of the family hatchback, beloved of sales reps everywhere. It’s taken a decade or so, but now there’s a new GSi that Vauxhall promises is definitely not a replacement for the even hotter VXR. That said, they’ve done development work at the Nürburgring and are proud that the car is 12 seconds quicker around the circuit than the old Insignia VXR, despite falling 64bhp short.
At least the petrol-powered version is. This BiTurbo Diesel variant loses another 49bhp to just 207bhp, but balances that with an impressive 354lb ft of torque. It puts all of that torque through a four-wheel-drive system via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Things get complex at the rear where there’s torque vectoring that allows an outside wheel to harness more power. The whole car sits 10mm lower than a standard Insignia, and the usual suspension - MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link axle at the rear - has been stiffened quite significantly. On top of that, Vauxhall’s FlexRide adaptive suspension has been fitted, with two buttons by the gear lever labelled Tour and Sport, allowing the driver to switch between driving modes.
The effects of pressing them are quite different. In Sport mode, the GSi becomes taut, the suspension tightening but, at the same time, losing the supple ride quality the standard mode offered, even on 20-inch wheels. On a disused airfield with lots of cones it makes a good fist of handling like a sportscar, the all-wheeldrive system working overtime to keep the big estate car under control. There’s not much feel through the steering, but it’s precise and, with special Michelin tyres that are nearly ten inches wide, there’s almost endless grip.
However, it’s not particularly quick, or at least doesn’t feel it. A standstill to 62mph time of 7.4 seconds is brisk but not earth shatteringly fast, and the wave of torque is lost from time to time as the gearbox shifts up a gear automatically, even when in manual mode. Some downshifts are prevented by the computer too, making extracting its full potential tricky.
That’s fine out on public roads where outright speed isn’t such a big deal, and it’s there that the Insignia makes more sense. Sport can be a little too harsh over the UK’s broken roads, but Tour softens things up nicely. It makes the Sport Tourer a consummate touring machine, able to cruise from one point to another in sublime comfort and at speeds that are often a little higher than you think. Turn up the wick and the soft suspension struggles to keep up with undulations, but at 80 per cent it’s actually rather special.
Relax into the unusually comfortable and supportive cobra-inspired sports seats, roll up the double-glazed windows and tune in the DAB radio and the GSi turns into a load-lugger that can demolish entire countries. It drinks the fuel while doing it though, with an official economy figure of 39.8mpg being some way below the more parsimonious drinking habits of some of its rivals. Still, it does offer an enormous load space, befitting its estate status. Nearly five metres long, the Sports Tourer swallows 560 litres of goods with the seats up. That’s the same as a BMW 5 Series Touring, and more than you’ll find in a Mondeo. With everything folded down it extends to a cavernous 1,655 litres, with a flat floor that extends beyond two metres.
In the main cabin it’s business as usual, with little to distinguish the GSi from other models, bar those sports seats. It’s a high-class cabin design, although some material choices let the side down, but it’s easy to use with crisp, clear displays. The infotainment system is perhaps trickier, but it’s something any owner would get used to quickly.
Equipment levels are also very high, with an eight-inch navigation and infotainment system, DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring. A Bose sound system adds aural delight (the BiTurbo engine isn’t particularly sonorous) and a heated steering wheel and warmed seats front and rear keep chilly mornings at bay. None of this distracts from the fact that, while it’s not the sportscar Vauxhall might be wanting the GSi to be, with their talk of track times, torque vectoring and FlexRide adaptive suspension, it is a really special car. It’s good looking, practical, and comes loaded with equipment, making the £34,475 price tag look great value.
On sale | Now
In showrooms | Now
Prices | £32,975 to £34,475
Bodystyles | 5-door hatchback and 5-door estate
Engines | 2.0 (207bhp)
Trim levels | GSi Nav
Also consider | Skoda Superb SportLine, Volkswagen Passat GT
Model tested | Sport Tourer GSi Nav
BiTurbo 4X4 BlueInjection
Price | £34,475
Built in | Rüsselsheim, Germany
Bodystyle | 5-door estate, 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 | 144mph 0-62mph | 7.4secs
CO2 emissions | 187g/km (Euro-6)
Economy (urban/extra urban/combined) | 30.7/48.7/39.8mpg
Fuel tank size | 62 litres
Range | 543 miles
Insurance group | 28 BIK rate | 37%
Size (length/width with mirrors) | 4,986/2,093mm
Boot space (min/max) | 560/1,665 litres
Kerb/max towing weight | 1,807/1,805kg