Garry Fabian road tests and reviews the 2013 Opel Insignia.
The Germans have always had a reputation of being thorough, and not doing things by half.
With the introduction of the brand to the Australian market, they provide a three model line-up, the Corsa, the Astra and the top of the range Insignia, challenging three segments of the market.
Now the 2013 Opel Insignia being new, the latest thing, is a powerful ‘persuader’. Not being the latest – even if worthy, even if better than merely good – is a hurdle. That’s the issue for Opel with the Insignia.
It was Europe’s Car of The Year in 2009, launched there in 2008, and affirming it as a very good drive.
Both the diesel wagon and petrol turbo sedans have a sporting edge of European engineering and on-road manners missing among many of its medium segment competitors.
But it’s arguably arriving here four years after its debut in Europe. Will it sell? That’s the question. Here are the reasons why it should.
No complaints with this interior; the quality of materials and fit and finish is first class. It is an elegant interior with a real sense of style.
Both the higher-specified Select sedan and Sports Tourer wagon can match Volkswagen’s Passat for quality, but with a warmer and more appealing interior feel.
The seats are generously shaped and very comfortable. While the Tourer’s ‘sienna’ leather seats are bettered by the perforated leather of the Select sedan, each offers segment-leading comfort and support.
The steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake, and there is ample seat adjustment to get settled at the wheel.
Buyers in this family-segment place a lot of value on standard-fit ‘bells and whistles’, and Opel knows it. And, for the price, the Insignia is generously kitted.
In this, it’s more Japanese than German: things that might otherwise sit on the options list, are standard.
The Opel Insignia Sports Tourer Wagon comes with leather-bound multi-function steering wheel and leather seats (heated front), dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, auto headlamps, Bluetooth and 17-inch alloys.
Stepping up a grade, the Insignia Select sedan adds standard sat-nav with a seven-inch display, LED daytime running lamps, bi-xenon headlamps, adaptive forward lighting (with nine different lighting modes), perforated leather trim, extendible front cushions, sports steering wheel and alloy pedals.
The boot in the sedan is huge – at 500 litres, it offers the same space to the seat backs as the Tourer Wagon.
On the turbo there is a hint of lag: a mere catching of the breath disguised in the six-speed torque-converter automatic transmission, and then it bolts.
For overtaking, or getting out of a corner, it’s just a matter of “point and shoot”. Pile on the revs too early though and the 2.0T petrol will push wider when cornering quickly with some expected torque-steer tugging at the wheel.
Shifts through the six-speed automatic are as rapid as any modern European sporting saloon – you can paddle it manually if you wish, but there’s little point.
The 2.0T diesel is similarly refined, and certainly among the better diesels in what is now, admittedly, a segment with few poor performers. Diesel technology has come a long way.
The Insignia has a downside here though: on coarse bitumen it transmitted more noise into the cabin than we expected. It’s not as well attenuated, for instance, as the equivalent Titanium-spec Mondeo.
This is a suspension that is ‘just right’. Who ever thought we would say that about a mid-priced German car?
Sporting, yes, in the finest tradition of all those low-flying autobahn rockets, but not screwed down so uncompromisingly ‘tight’ that every ripple and every break is like an electric shock.
The sporting Insignia has an appealing suppleness to the ride, but grip levels are very high and it can be belted around a winding road (most particularly the sedan).
Suspension is a conventional McPherson strut front, and multilink rear for both sedan and wagon body styles.
The steering is well-weighted, but better in the petrol sedan which has a hydraulic system than the diesel’s hydro-electric set-up. But while both cars can be accurately placed into a turn, there’s an Audi-like woodenness to the feel.
The Opel Insignia doesn’t have the alive and satisfying steering feel of the BMW 3 Series… but it’s a lot, lot cheaper.
Pedal feel and braking performance is at the top of the class, with secure stopping power and the right feedback through the pedal.
Other Safety features: There are dual front, side and curtain airbags, electronic stability control, traction control and ABS as standard.
The Tourer Sports also features two-way active head restraints; with four-way active head restraints on the Select.
Perhaps all those years of developing and refining the product are showing. This nearly five-year-old model is considerably sharper at the wheel than many – most, in fact – of the all-new entries into the medium segment we’ve seen over the past year or so.
For dynamics, the Insignia has the premium versions of the i45 and stylish Optima shot to bits. Both the wagon and sedan are also more refined, and with a more sporting soul than the equivalent but soon-to-be replaced Mazda6.
So that puts Opel’s Insignia near the top of the list in this market segment. If you’re shopping in this segment, be sure to have a good look at the Opel Insignia.
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: 2.0 litre petrol producing 162kW and 350Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Safety: Five stars
Price: From $38,490