Driven: Vauxhall Insignia 1.4T SRI

The fleet favourite gets a new small capacity turbocharged petrol engine - but the driving experience still lags

Evo rating
  • Feels more powerful than you'd expect, good at cruising
  • Lacks excitement, slower than diesel version

What is it?   Not exactly a car to set the world alight, but instead a revised version of the big-selling Vauxhall Insignia, fitted with a 1.4 turbocharged petrol lump up front. Essentially replacing the old naturally aspirated 1.8 in the range, it’s priced from £23,015 in the sportier SRi trim tested here.   Technical highlights?   Using the same 1.4-litre turbo engine from the Astra hatch, the latest Insignia now features a start/stop system, boasts sleeker aerodynamics on the undertray, and the 17-inch alloys are shod with low-resistance tyres. Other concessions to efficiency include a new ‘REPS’ rack assisted electric power-steering setup, which replaces the old hydraulic system for improved fuel economy.   What’s it like to drive?   As you’d expect, the little turbo is considerably better than the ancient engine it replaces. It’s hushed and refined when you’re on the motorway, and mid-range torque is impressive considering it’s small capacity. 

There’s a perky charm to using an eager, revvy petrol unit in this type of car, but it can start to run out of steam (and start to boom noisily) once you explore the higher reaches of the rev range.  

The new electronic power steering is linear and well weighted, and somewhat surprisingly, it feels better resolved than the old hydraulic setup. The eco tyres still generate a considerable amount of grip, and thanks to the lighter engine the Insignia feels quite nimble, but it’s a capable rather than compelling package. 

With 138bhp on tap, the new engine rarely feels short of pace, but it’s smooth nature and relatively low emission, the new diesel engines – one of which that will do 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds – are likely to remain the bestsellers.  

Ride comfort is extremely impressive, and while there’s some unsettling rebound from the rear, it’s impressively cosseting, with wind and road noise is well suppressed.    How does it compare?   It’s still not quite as sharp to drive as the current class best - the Ford Mondeo - and at this price, it also knocking on the door of some serious premium competition in the shape of the BMW 3 Series. The Insignia certainly isn’t a bad car, but this small turbo isn’t likely to be the first choice for enthusiastic drivers.   Anything else I need to know?   This set of mechanical changes is only the start of the Insignia’s mid-life revamp, so if you want to get your hands on one that both looks and drives differently, then it’s worth waiting until next year for the cosmetic updates too.

Specifications

Engine1364cc four-cylinder petrol, turbocharged
Max power138bhp @ 4900 rpm
Max torque147lb ft @1850 rpm
0-6010.1 seconds (claimed 0-62mph)
Top speed127mph
On saleOctober 2011

Most Popular

MAT Stratos 2021 review – Lancia’s iconic Stratos reborn
MAT Stratos – front tracking
Lancia

MAT Stratos 2021 review – Lancia’s iconic Stratos reborn

It’s been a long time coming, but this Ferrari F430-based reimagining of the Lancia Stratos is finally here
11 Jun 2021
Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition 2021 review – a 720bhp tribute act
Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition – slide
Ford Mustang

Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition 2021 review – a 720bhp tribute act

Immense performance from about the coolest modern muscle car out there. It’s expensive, but there’s nothing else quite like it
12 Jun 2021
Tesla Model S Plaid deliveries begin – 1006bhp super saloon now reaching customers
Tesla Model S Plaid
Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S Plaid deliveries begin – 1006bhp super saloon now reaching customers

The long-awaited Tesla Model S Plaid has finally come to fruition, with first US examples hitting the road
11 Jun 2021
2021 Audi RS3 Sportback and saloon previewed – will it finally match Mercedes-AMG A45 S?
Audi RS3 manufacturer spy 1
Audi RS3

2021 Audi RS3 Sportback and saloon previewed – will it finally match Mercedes-AMG A45 S?

Audi Sport is putting the final touches on its new RS3 hot hatch and saloon
10 Jun 2021
BMW M5 CS 2021 review – a class act that reaffirms the M division’s brilliance
BMW M5 CS – front cornering
BMW M5 saloon

BMW M5 CS 2021 review – a class act that reaffirms the M division’s brilliance

Nonsensical on paper, but sublime in practice. Never has a modern supersaloon been more tactile or more engaging
14 Jun 2021
2021 Maserati GranTurismo to go EV-only – IC option ditched
2021 Maserati GranTurismo spy – track
Maserati

2021 Maserati GranTurismo to go EV-only – IC option ditched

GranTurismo coupe and its soft-top GranCabrio sibling to be reborn later this year, but controversially without the proposed combustion alternative...…
11 Jun 2021
Posaidon’s 217mph Mercedes-AMG E63 RS is faster than a Porsche 918 Spyder
Posaidon Mercedes-AMG E63
Mercedes E63 AMG

Posaidon’s 217mph Mercedes-AMG E63 RS is faster than a Porsche 918 Spyder

Three new Posaidon power upgrades are now available for Mercedes-AMG’s E63 S, bringing hypercar numbers to the four door supersaloon
9 Jun 2021
Used car deals of the week
Used car deals 11 June 21
used cars

Used car deals of the week

Here's what caught evo’s fancy this week on the second hand car market
11 Jun 2021
Best small cars 2021 – pocket rockets reviewed and rated
Best small cars 2021
Best cars

Best small cars 2021 – pocket rockets reviewed and rated

You don’t need 200bhp or more in a small hatchback to have fun – these ‘warm’ small cars are the proof
7 Jun 2021
Ferrari F8 Tributo replacement mule spied – will it emulate the McLaren Artura?
Ferrari F171 spy 2021 – front
Ferrari

Ferrari F8 Tributo replacement mule spied – will it emulate the McLaren Artura?

Ferrari’s going hybrid and V6 for its next mid-engined supercar
9 Jun 2021
BMW announces entry into LMDh class from 2023 – to fight Audi, Porsche and other big names
BMW Le Mans header
BMW

BMW announces entry into LMDh class from 2023 – to fight Audi, Porsche and other big names

The 2023 LMDh class is shaping up to be a big one, with BMW getting back in on the action with its own racer, but only in the USA
11 Jun 2021
HKS in development of a supercharger kit for new 2021 Toyota GR 86
HKS Toyota GR 86
Toyota

HKS in development of a supercharger kit for new 2021 Toyota GR 86

Japanese tuner HKS is in development of a supercharger upgrade package for the new GR 86
9 Jun 2021
Can the Renault Clio Trophy beat a modern supersaloon for daily transport?
Jethro opinion header
Opinion

Can the Renault Clio Trophy beat a modern supersaloon for daily transport?

The boot struts have gone saggy and the hatch slams onto my head three times a week, but the Clio Trophy is hard to resist
8 Jun 2021
2021 Alpina XD3 and XD4 update revealed – extra torque from Alpine’s quad-turbo diesel SUV
Alpina XD3 and XD4 2021 – header
Alpina XD3

2021 Alpina XD3 and XD4 update revealed – extra torque from Alpine’s quad-turbo diesel SUV

The updates to the Alpina XD3 and XD4 are largely of the aesthetic kind, but more torque and new chassis calibrations are also part of the package
10 Jun 2021