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Opel Insignia review

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    It drives better than most cars in the class, looks good and has an upmarket interior feel. Photo Gallery

Craig Duff road tests and reviews the new Opel Insignia with specs, fuel economy and verdict.

Opel Insignia 4

GM's Opel brand launches here next week. We get an exclusive first drive of the range-topping Insignia sedan. There’s a new badge in town and it plans to lay down the law in the mid-size segment.

The Opel logo may not be familiar but the cars are no strangers to local roads. In the past they've worn Holden emblems and earned a big following. The Astra we all know. Some might not know that Barina used to be an Opel Corsa.

All is about to change with the launch of the German-based brand here. Carsguide has sampled an exclusive pre-production drive of the company's range-topping sedan -- and we like it.

Unlike the small car class, price isn't the major buying factor in the mid-size segment. Opel has aimed for the high ground, specifying the Insignia sedan and wagon with enough standard gear to shame most of its competition.

VALUE

Opel's claim to fame in Australia will be German build quality wrapped around Asian car makers' spec levels. Opel isn't claiming to be a prestige brand, so it pits itself against the best of the European mass-market rivals.

That means the Volkswagen Passat and Ford's Mondeo are directly in the beam of Insignia's xenon headlamps. The Accord Euro is in the mix as well -- age hasn't wearied the mid-size Honda and its dynamics are still among the best in the class.

Pricing hasn't been set but Carsguide expects the base sedan to start about $39,000 -- or right on Passat money. The up-spec Select variant is likely to be about $45,000. They share a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine -- a turbo diesel of the same displacement will probably be $2000 more -- and the wagon is similarly expected to be a $2000 premium over the sedan.

Standard gear on the top model tested by Carsguide includes 19-inch alloys, seven-speaker sound system, dual-zone climate control, seven-inch infotainment display, satnav and automatic lights and wipers.

The seats are heated and cooled and are the only production car pews officially approved by the German chiropractic association to help your back -- although there is only electric assistance for lumbar support and vertical adjustment.

TECHNOLOGY

This is the 2009 European Car of the Year and for very good reason. The engine is crisp, the transmission smooth and there are enough software tweaks to satisfy first-adopter technophiles. European cars have the option of all-wheel drive and that is expected to appear here in the performance OPC model -- if and when Opel Australia announces we're getting the halo variant.

A “FlexRide'' adaptive damping system will be an option. The system can be manually adjusted from sport to tour, or left in auto to map its own settings based on the driver and car's behaviour. Not that there's anything wrong with the basic package.

DESIGN

The sweeping roofline on the Insignia sedan almost entitles it to four-door coupe status but rear headroom is better than those vehicles. A boot lip spoiler will be standard on Aussie models but was missing from our pre-production drive and the cluttered centre console on our test car will be simplified with an infotainment controller between the front seats.

The wraparound look that extends to the doors is slick, unlike the controls on the steering column stalks, which suffer from the fact they're shared with the unloved Holden Epica. But that is one of the few areas where the Opel shows its age as a 2008 model, along with the lack of stowage options for the junk most people pack into a car these days.

The upside is that the 500-litre boot should satisfy most owners' haulage needs and there's always the wagon for those wanting greater load capacity.

SAFETY

Euro NCAP says the Insignia is a five-star car for safety. All variants have six airbags, electronic stability and traction control linked to the ABS and four-way active headrests, along with seat belt reminders for both front occupants.

The biggest criticism of the car from the crash-testing group was for its pedestrian safety -- the sheep who invite disaster by ignoring road rules while walking with buds in their ears might want to stroll in front of something else. Like a bicycle.

DRIVING

The Insignia's date with a television camera meant Carsguide couldn't push its dynamics to the limit. Something about paint chips not looking good in the launch commercial. As it transpired, we didn't need to -- the chassis and suspension are right up there with those of the Passat and Mondeo at anything approaching highway speeds.

The ride is consistent with Euro-built cars in that it trades initial damping over minor bumps for more suppleness as the pace or severity of the hit increases. There's a touch of play in the steering straight on, but the feel and weight improve as more lock is applied. The brakes are great -- repeated emergency stops didn't faze them -- and acceleration is class-leading at 7.8 seconds from rest to 100km/h.

VERDICT

The Insignia ticks most of the boxes -- excluding the non-electric front seats -- for mid-sized buyers. It drives better than most cars in the class, looks good and has an upmarket interior feel. Let the battle commence.

Opel Insignia

Price: from $39,000 (estimated)
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Resale:  N/A
Service interval: 12 months/15,000km
Engines: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo , 162kW/350Nm; 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 118kW/350Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto, FWD
Thirst: 8.8L/100km, 206g/km CO2; 5.7L, 151g/km
Dimensions: 4.8m (L), 1.9m (W), 1.5m (H)
Weight: 1593kg
Spare: Space-saver

RIVALS


Ford Mondeo Ecoboost
Price: from $37,740
Engines: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo petrol, 149kW/340Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto; FWD
Thirst: 8.0L/100km

 

Ford Mondeo Ecoboost - see other Ford Mondeo Ecoboost verdicts

 

 


Peugeot 508
Price:
 from $35,990
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo petrol, 115kW/240Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto; FWD
Thirst: 7.1L/100km


 

Peugeot 508 - see other Peugeot 508 verdicts  

 

 


VW Passat 118TSI

Price:
from $38,990
Engine: 1.8-litre 4-cyl turbo petrol, 118kW/250Nm
Transmission: 7-speed twin clutch auto; FWD
Thrist: 7.2L/100km

 

VW Passat - see other VW Passat verdicts
 

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 5 comments

  • having had my company isignai for 2 years i cant wait for it to go back
    awful fuel economy, terrible handling, also only one reversing light works, a major design fault, also if you have the space saver on your traction control & ABS do NOT work, HOWS THAT SAFE Vauxhall have always been cheeaply made and are a none experience driving, i mean the interior is like a chav on acid has designed it innit!!!

    Brian J Wilkinson of manchester Posted on 21 December 2012 3:31am
  • Hey Peter where did you buy your GTE and Ascona - sounds like South Africa to me - Sounds like the Golf, Audi and Jetta rust buckets. If you bought an Audi in Cape Town in the 70s and 80s you were considered an IDIOT. Body Filler under the Xmas Tree!
    Grew up on the coast in Cape Town SA - My dad had three Opels over the years there. Here in Aust. 2 Vectra imports and an Astra import - Never had a single rust problem on any of them - Did however have a problem on the locally built Camira - minor surface rust along the rear window. As far as I know Opel have never had rust problems.

    Lee of Penrith Posted on 23 September 2012 12:54pm
  • If I bought a car that rusted out in three years I wouldnt buy a second one let alone a third. are you for real?

    rentakeyboard Posted on 10 September 2012 7:29pm
  • Adam Opel invented rust. That´s why Opel always been the worst rust buckets on the road. I have owned three Opels. One Kadett GTE and two Ascona and they all rusted away in about three years.

    Peter in Maroubra of Maroubra Posted on 07 August 2012 10:07pm
  • Electric seat adjustment is not a huge omission, usually once it is set that is it. When the missus gets in all is need is to jack the seat up to “kiss the windscreen position” which IS electric!

    Mika of Brissy Posted on 02 August 2012 9:16am
Read all 5 comments

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