Things which were once taken for granted as part of our daily grind, or even daily fun, fade away. The typewriter which wrote millions of newspapers and magazines and letters and books has been replaced by paperless computers.
Film cameras were swapped for digital and now the camera is less important. Instead, our cell phones produce snaps which are good enough for most of us and can be shared instantly on email.
Vauxhall’s Cavalier family and rep’s car was once so common it was almost a cliché for a whole class of people, as was the Vectra which replaced it. Vectra begat the Insignia which became the Grand Insignia Sport, which is a four-door saloon with a lift-up tailgate.
It has lots to applaud yet cars like this are trailing in importance and sales. We want something more practical and funky, pointers to our lifestyle – and our dogs.
All is not lost. A magazine called Professional Driver has just voted the Insignia its private hire car of the year. Hmm, not too sexy a gong but an award is an award and the judges liked its size.
Many of us still want a traditional car with plenty of rear seat room and enough boot space to carry luggage. The Insignia Grand Sport is spot on. You can get one with a petrol or diesel model for around £21,000, with respective figures of 46mpg and 122g and 57mpg/106g.
Vauxhall sent us one costing almost twice as much, the most powerful diesel version, a 2-litre twin turbo with 208bhp, 4x4 traction, eight automatic gears and a torquey punch of 354lb ft from 1,500rpm. It is no cheap ride – more than £38,000 but you get navigation, head up display, cruise and distance control, leather-faced seats heated back and front, a heated steering wheel rim, a sports chassis with a competition mode which I never used, LED matrix headlamps and so on.
If I was a private hire driver or any owner I’d also want a rear wiper to clear standing rain on the shallow sloping glass and a rear view camera to take out the guesswork of this long car for manoeuvring. This predicament is worse in rain and exacerbated by the darkened rear side windows at night. I’d also expect self-dipping headlamps. *
The GSi kit includes 20-inch alloys carrying 245/35 Michelin Pilot Sport tyres. They roar too much on, say, concrete road, and the size contributes to the woefully slack turning circle. Simple tacking takes extra shunts, with the front and rear parking sensors tweeting manically. It overhangs the typical supermarket parking bay.
Consequently, it was some days before I forgot the sharper handling of the expensive Volvo V60 estate car which preceded the Insignia. Steering felt dull by comparison. However, an airport collection with the Insignia highlighted the relaxed feel of the car on motorways. My two large passengers were comfortable in the back, exhausted after a massive delay in Limoges, cut off from catering.
Everyday economy is not brilliant. Vauxhall quotes 36 to 39mpg and a fairly dirty 184g/km of CO2. Local routes averaged 25 to 30mpg. The airport run, and my familiar mixed commuter run, were around 35mpg. This is not good.
It is, by the way, a fast car. The official 0-60mph time is 7.4 seconds, reaching 145mph – which is allowed in parts of Germany – where the Insignia has an Opel badge.
It is a remarkably attractive car, with its length (192 inches) enhancing the sleek lines and profiles. It looks just as handsome as an Audi or BMW – which are vastly more money. It dates from 2017 and since then Vauxhall and Opel have become part of the Peugeot group. Many Vauxhalls are already supported by Peugeot and Citroën technology which will infiltrate the revised Insignia, which is due soon. Here next is the new French-infused Corsa, which should resuscitate things.
Vauxhall sales dropped by 6 per cent in October and the slide this year has been six per cent. BMW now sells as many cars while Mercedes-Benz is well ahead – indicators of what cars we want and can afford despite the apparent parlous state of the industry. Some of us are doing very well and taking advantage of contract rental deals.
The tragedy for Vauxhall is that when it got its Insignia ship-shape and winsome, the market was being wowed by lifestyle SUVs and gas guzzling 4x4s and the three German prestige brands and one from Sweden. Police forces have scant loyalty to UK industries – but Vauxhalls are in service, including the Astra from Cheshire and the roomier Insignia.