Model/Engine size: 2.0 CDTi Exclusiv Nav
Fuel economy combined: 53.7 mpg
Green Car Guide rating:
The Icelandic volcano ensured there were no planes in the sky, and public transport was booked to bursting point, so was the Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer ecoFLEX the best way to travel to Edinburgh?
With lots of motorway miles ahead, plus one of the UK’s best A-roads, the Insignia Sports Tourer ecoFLEX promised lots of space and good economy. An official combined figure of 53.7 mpg, with emissions of 139 g/km CO2, is good for a car of this size.
But perhaps one of the key things about the Sports Tourer is that it looks great. The styling is more akin to cars in the luxury car league and it’s especially good that the appearance hasn’t been ruined by the addition of the ecoFLEX badge. Although there are minor aerodynamic tweaks, its tall gearing and low rolling resistance tyres are the main contributors towards a 20 g/km reduction in CO2, a significant amount for company car drivers and their tax bills. With its alloy wheels, this ecoFLEX version looks virtually identical to the ‘non-eco’ model, which is a good thing.
It turned out that the Insignia was an excellent car for a long distance drive. With its fuel tank brimmed to the top, it offers a theoretical range of around 800 miles, easily sufficient to get to Edinburgh and back.
Once on the motorway, the Insignia is an extremely comfortable place to be. The ride isn’t perfect, but the overall combination of suspension, seats, interior and powertrain results in a relaxed state of affairs, helped by the very long gearing on this ecoFLEX model; to turn the engine over at 2000rpm in 6th gear you’d have to be doing 85 mph.
A consequence is that there is very little response in 6th or even 5th gear to any form of pressure on the accelerator pedal, so a good amount of changing down is required for any form of improved forward progress.
Although the 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine can sound a little harsh at low speeds, it’s quiet and refined on the motorway.
So the Insignia gets a gold star for its motorway manners, but what about A-roads? The A701 links the A74(M) at Moffat to the A702 at Biggar, and it’s one of the best roads in the UK, providing an excellent test of a car’s handling. You’d expect such a large, long-geared, front-wheel drive car to be painful to drive over such a road. Although the steering and suspension are obviously tuned for comfort on motorways rather than for sharp dynamics over the back roads, as long as you drop down the gears, it was actually more enjoyable snaking along the A701 than you would imagine.
One thing we don’t like is the front-wheel drive torque steer, which can be particularly evident when accelerating in second gear.
Upon arrival in Edinburgh, more limitations of the car become evident. The imprecise steering becomes more noticeable, the ride can get juddery, and the entire car just feels a bit disappointing in the city. With stop-start, hilly city driving, the electronic handbrake can be a pain, sometimes you’re just never really sure if it’s on or off.
However the satnav did work effectively, and the IUCN Conference at Dynamic Earth was reached in a totally refreshed state after over four hours of driving.
With a large rear overhang, the car looks very long – almost as long as its name – and parking the car shows this to be true – the Sports Tourer is actually longer than the marked parking bays. And you’re reminded that the rear visibility isn’t great – this is one car where rear parking sensors would be useful.
When emptying the boot you can see what a significant piece of engineering the rear tailgate is. It’s very large and heavy, and you can understand why most other Sports Tourer models come with an electronically-powered tailgate. Although the boot is a large, long space, the sloping rear roofline ultimately compromises its practicality. But if you really need more space, why not consider a van?
The ecoFLEX, in Exclusiv (entry-level spec), doesn’t even come with electric rear windows, but it does get climate control and cruise control.
At £23,555 the basic price is good. However our test car had a number of options including 18” alloy wheels, fog lights, Bluetooth and metallic paint, taking the price to £24,835.
If you don’t want the eco version, you can go for the standard 2.0 CDTi, either in a 130PS or a 160PS version – both have identical fuel consumption (47.1mpg) and emissions, the main difference is the price – the 160PS has a £500 premium.
But what about fuel consumption of the ecoFLEX? Good, but not great for a car with an ‘eco’ in its name. Bearing in mind that the official combined economy figure is supposed to be 53.7 mpg, or 65.7 mpg for extra urban, the actual consumption of 49 mpg on the motorway and 45 mpg overall is slightly disappointing, although such a differential from the official figures is common in our experience in real life driving. It was possible to register 58 mpg when driving very, very carefully, but it would be difficult to sustain this style of driving over a long distance without causing huge frustration to motorists behind.
The Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer ecoFLEX has great styling and certainly doesn’t look like an ‘eco’ car. It doesn’t drive like an eco car; the performance and driveability of the ecoFLEX version isn’t compromised, with the exception of it’s virtually complete lack of response in 5th and 6th gears. It’s very comfortable for long journeys, and has lots of space. It’s also a lot of car for the money. All this, combined with good, if not great, economy, and the tax-friendlier 20g/km lower emissions, makes the Sports Tourer ecoFLEX ideal for business fleets. However if you want a large, comfortable estate with low running costs for a personal family car, you’re unlikely to be disappointed, although you should watch out for relatively poor resale values.
The Sports Tourer ecoFLEX gets a highly commendable Green-Car-Guide rating of 8 out of 10. It could improve on this by being more economical in real life driving, and having sharper dynamics. But if you need an efficient, large car for comfortable long runs up and down the UK’s motorways, to Edinburgh or elsewhere, this could be your answer. You’d just need to see if the 20g/km better emissions, and the 6.6 mpg better economy, with all the associated tax consequences, justifies the extra £500 price over the £23,060 2.0 CDTi 160.
Fuel economy extra urban: 65.7 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 40.9 mpg
CO2 emissions: 139 g/km
Green rating: VED band E – £110
Weight: 1658 Kg
Company car tax liability (2010/11): 19%
Price: £23,555 (From £18,470 – £34,540)
Insurance group: 10E/21E
Power: 158 bhp
Max speed: 134 mph
0-62 mph: 9.3 seconds