Vauxhall's Insignia GSi is a deceptively quick package. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
The fastest Vauxhall Insignia, this GSi model, isn't quite as wild as its Insignia VXR predecessor was but it's smarter and arguably faster in the real world. Four wheel drive is still a key part of the package based around diesel power, with near 150mph performance. Plus hatch and estate options, a slick 8-speed auto gearbox and some clever electronics to get torque to the tarmac. It's a lot of car for under £35,000.
You have to wind the clock all the way back to 1993 to find the last time that a 'GSi' badge was used on a performance-minded Vauxhall model. But the 'VXR' moniker used since then seems to have been a casualty of fundamental changes which have gone on in the brand in recent times, so this fastest version of the company's second generation Insignia gets the same 'GSi' label that's always been used on Opel versions of the conglomerate's same designs on the Continent. If you're hoping for something as wild as the model this car supposedly replaces, the previous Insignia VXR SuperSport, then you're going to be disappointed. That older Insignia had a 2.8-litre petrol V6 good for 325PS and 170mph. The Insignia GSi this time round is based around a 2.0-litre four cylinder turbo diesel unit putting out a much humbler 210PS. But bear with is because there's still much to like here.
Given this Insignia Gsi's lack of the throaty V6 powerplant used in its VXR predecessor model, you might be surprised to hear that Vauxhall has timed it as being faster around the industry's benchmark test track, the infamous Nurburgring Nordschleife; 12 seconds faster in fact. That was with a 260PS 2.0-litre petrol turbo plumbed in beneath the bonnet, a unit Vauxhall doesn't now offer. So UK Insignia Gsi buyers must be satisfied with a 210PS CDTi turbo diesel. But of course it's not what you have but how you use it. This Gsi model's sophisticated intelligent all-wheel drive system uses a state-of-the-art rear torque vectoring system. Here, a clever twin-clutch set-up - the so-called 'Twinster diff' - can apply torque to one or both of the rear wheels independently. When cornering quickly, more torque is sent to the outside rear wheel, improving traction and ensuring that there's far more of a feeling of precision when you turn in. That's ideal if, for example, one of your wheels happens to be slightly off the ground, as it might be if you were taking a fast, bumpy turn at speed. The CDTi engine is mated to a freshly designed, super-slick 8-speed auto gearbox that comes with the requisite steering wheel paddles. It offers 480Nm of torque and a 62mph sprint time of 7.4s. The brand's 'FlexRide' driving modes system is standard, complete with adaptive damping.
Whether you choose this car in Grand Sport hatch or Sports Tourer estate form, you'll get a package of subtle sporting styling cues. The GSi logo can also be seen at the rear of the car, which carries a spoiler to deliver additional levels of downforce to the rear axle. The rear also features two chrome-edged exhaust pipes, and smart, pronounced chrome air intakes can be found near the front wheels. All Insignia GSi's come equipped with unique wheels and tyres, combined with Brembo four-cylinder brakes at the front. The rims are special 20-inch, flow-formed items, and when combined with the lighter Michelin Pilot Sport 4-S tyre, each item weighs 1.5 kilograms less than the regular 20-inch wheel/tyre on other Insignia models. Inside, there are AGR-certified sports seats developed by Vauxhall provide increased lateral support and long-distance comfort. These offer ventilation, heating, massage and adjustable side bolsters. There's a leather steering wheel with a flattened lower section, plus aluminium pedals and black headlining.
Vauxhall emphasises the performance-per-pound value proposition of this car: that'll depend on your perspective of course. Prices start at around £33,000 for the Gran Sport hatch CDTi model. There's a £1,500 premium to pay if you want to move into the Sport Tourer estate body style. The asking figures include 20-inch wheels, a Gsi bodykit, a special sports chassis and the FlexRide driving modes system with adjustable damping. Customers can specify the seats in one of two leather combinations, each featuring the prominent Gsi emblem. Infotainment is taken care of by a 'Navi 900 Intellilink' system that comes with a large 8-inch screen. As with other Vauxhall models, you also get the brand's 'OnStar' package that allows you to create in your car a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, plus there's a smartphone app that can remotely lock or unlock the doors, check your oil life or, if you've lost this Vauxhall in a busy carpark, it can sound the horn or flash the lights. Plus if your Insignia is stolen, 'OnStar' can disable it so it can't be started.
Bi Turbo diesel Insignia GSi customers can expect to manage 38.7mpg and 186g/km - or 38.7mpg and 187g/km for the Sport Tourer. Obviously, the key criteria in fuel and CO2 returns lies with the way you'll be driving the car. An 'Eco Index' option in the 'info' part of the instrument binnacle display provides a coloured bar that helps you drive more economically. On to maintenance issues. Both engines share the same one year or 20,000-mile service intervals and you can download a provided 'My Vauxhall' app onto your phone that sets up reminders about servicing and MoTs and helps you find the most convenient garage to your location. Another part of the instrument binnacle's 'info' section has an option that allows you to view remaining oil life. If anything goes wrong that's not supposed to, you're covered by a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty that includes 'Vauxhall Roadside Assistance' breakdown cover. This can be extended by up to two years and up to a maximum of 100,000 miles at extra cost. As for residual values, well experts predict that after three years and 60,000 miles, this GSi will be worth around £11,625 - about 36% of its original purchase price, a reasonable return for a high value Vauxhall. Insurance is rated at group 28E for this diesel variant.
There's been a subtle change of emphasis in the move from VXR to GSi branding for this hot Insignia - but that'll probably net this variant more sales. It doesn't have the smart street presence of smart premium German rivals, but it's arguably as capable as any of them. The improvement in quality brought about by the second generation Insignia design means that choosing one of these over a warmer BMW 3 Series or Audi A4 is no longer as laughable a prospect as it once was. If you're not afflicted by badge snobbery and you get the right deal, there's much to like here.
|County Motor Works Vauxhall|
|01245 932 703||Directions|
|Doves Vauxhall Southampton|
|02381 630 543||Directions|
|Warrington Motors Fiat, Peugeot and Vauxhall|
|01925 934 123||Directions|
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