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Design, Elite, Energy, SE, SRi, SRi VX-Line, Tech Line, VXR
6-sp manual, 6-sp auto
Vauxhall's recent history isn't exactly littered with cutting-edge, refined, diesel engines, but significant investment over the past few years is finally bearing fruit.
The firm's main, new protagonist is the new 136hp 1.6-litre engine slotted into the Astra, Meriva and Zafira Tourer last year. The first of the new generation of so-called 'Whisper Diesel' engines, named as such to highlight the increased refinement, it's also recently been installed in the Mokka crossover.
Vauxhall has now added a more powerful version. The 170hp 2.0-litre engine that's gone into the Insignia is designed to address the refinement issue further up the range and replaces the 163hp unit. Unfortunately, there's no reduction in the 114g/km CO2 figure, although the extra 7hp is useful, and there are the sub-100g/km 120hp and 140hp 2.0-litre diesels if efficiency is the number one priority.
On the road, the new engine's refinement claims are vindicated. Vauxhall says the Whisper Diesel is 5dB quieter on start-up, and it's certainly eliminated that more commercial vehicle-like clatter, an improvement that continues under acceleration in particular, where the refinement has taken the Insignia from one end of the class up towards the other.
Power delivery also impresses, and the increase in lower-rev pulling power is clear, although the car otherwise remains unremarkable to drive, being quiet, refined and comfortable, and not as at home on twistier roads than some of its rivals. The cockpit is much-improved over the confusing and user-unfriendly infotainment system of old, but still could do with a fresh approach, while the annoyance of an armrest that seemingly hasn't been swapped from left-hand drive continues to provide unnecessary discomfort. But interior space, front and back, is good, and the boot is plenty large enough.
The downside comes on the balance sheet. The new Insignia is £640 more expensive than the model it replaces, at least in part because it meets the new Euro6 regulations coming into force this September, yet efficiency figures are the same as the 163hp unit.
That means £4 a month more on the BIK payments of a higher-rate tax payer, and £51 extra on a company's National Insurance bills over three years. The new engine is also three insurance groups higher, adding another £330 over three years, while SMR costs are also up by nearly £100 and the residual value is 0.3 percentage points lower. All that levels off at 51.7p per mile for the new engine, compared with 49.9p for the old 163hp unit.
But the Insignia is still very competitive on costs, thanks to the clever positioning of the Tech Line trim level, that despite undercutting the equivalent Skoda Superb, Ford Mondeo and VW Passat, still brings plentiful equipment, including satnav, cruise control and DAB radio.
That puts the Insignia level with the more expensive but higher-quality Passat for costs, but ahead of the other main players, despite the 1.8p per mile rise over the much less refined engine it replaces.
Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 CDTi 170 hatch Tech Line
Model price range £16,299-£31,734
Residual value 31.1%
Service, maintenance and repair £1930
Vehicle Excise Duty £60
National Insurance £1804
Cost per mile 51.7p
Fuel consumption 65.7mpg
CO2 (BIK band) 114g/km (18%)
BIK 20/40% per month £69/£134
Boot space (min/max) 530/1470 litres
Engine size/power 1956cc/170hp
Big increase in refinement gives a boost, although running costs rise
Much-improved refinement, while P11D, spec and costs all impress
No efficiency improvement, infotainment system is improved, but still less user-friendly than some