Euan Doig

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You've got loads to choose from and they're keenly priced, but what tow car ability does the 2008-2017 Insignia Sports Tourer have – and what goes wrong?

Vauxhall and Ford have battled for UK tow car buyers’ custom for decades.

Back in the 1980s, there was the sharp-edged Cavalier Estate and jelly-mould Sierra Estate to choose from. Move on a decade and it was the Vectra Estate or Mondeo Estate.

Today, buyers have the option of the trendily named Insignia Sports Tourer or the Mondeo Estate.

The Insignia was aimed at high-mileage company-car drivers who had to carry around a lot of business-critical items between sales meetings.

There has always been a bewildering range of petrol and diesel engines on offer, with everything from a weedy-sounding 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol, through the sweet 138bhp 2.0 CDTi Ecoflex turbodiesel we focus on here, all the way up to a 321bhp 2.8-litre turbocharged V6 petrol.

The range of trims is equally confusing. If you include the fact that some are listed twice, depending on whether or not they have satellite navigation fitted, there are a full 12 for buyers to negotiate.

The best option for tow car buyers, in our humble opinion, is the Insignia Sports Tourer 2.0 CDTi Ecoflex SRi Nav. This offers by far the best combination of performance, economy, handling, comfort and equipment.

Model history

The Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer was launched in 2008, but it wasn’t until the following year that the economy-focused 2.0 CDTi Ecoflex model was released.

This featured a streamlined underside, low-rolling-resistance tyres and longer gearing, all of which proved popular with company-car drivers.

Later in 2009, the VXR Sports Tourer model was announced, complete with large alloy wheels, firmer suspension and that 321bhp 2.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine. It makes a suitably entertaining way to carry a fair amount of stuff rapidly between petrol stations, as long as they aren’t too far apart.

Throughout the Insignia Sports Tourer’s life, Vauxhall has constantly made tweaks to boost its appeal to both the business and private markets, so models have become steadily more economical and better equipped.

The 2.0 CDTi Ecoflex offers a blend of reasonable performance and startlingly good average economy claims of 72.4mpg. It also emits just 104g/km of CO2 so annual road-tax bills are just £20.

Motorways are the Insignia Sports Tourer’s most natural environment, and in terms of what tow car ability it offers, it’s capable of pulling a 1409kg tourer with ease.

It remains stable at all speeds, and the accurate steering makes keeping car and caravan on the straight and narrow stress-free.

The electronic parking brake makes hill-starts easy enough, and the big Vauxhall will stop quickly and in a straight line.

If there’s a downside, it’s that the performance is somewhat blunted by the presence of a caravan. Still, even when loaded and towing a trailer, the Insignia Sports Tourer is economical.

Arguably the biggest let-down is its boot. It isn’t particularly large and the sloping tailgate not only impacts on overall capacity, but also makes loading the luggage area more awkward than it need be – and certainly more so than in the Ford Mondeo Estate.

Trouble spots

The main issue with 2008-2017 Insignia Sports Tourers concerns electrical faults. These have plagued the Insignia throughout its life, and can affect any of the car’s systems, including the stereo.

On occasion, these persistent faults have required the replacement of the car’s wiring loom. As well as making sure everything works as it should, you’d be well advised to pay extra for an independent inspection of a potential purchase before you buy it.

The car’s other big weak spot is its braking system, because the brake pads, brake discs and brake fluid all have to be replaced earlier than the class average. When on the test drive, make sure the car stops as it should, with no odd grumbling noises and no vibrations.

Some owners have also reported issues with the Insignia’s clutch and dual-mass flywheel, so when you’re on your test drive, make sure the car pulls away from a standstill smoothly, with no clutch judder. It would also be sensible to subject the car to a couple of hill-starts.

One final thing to take note of is that the Insignia is quite expensive to service (see below).

Verdict

The Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer makes quite a decent tow car, because the 2.0 CDTi engine is fairly lusty, and it’ll be economical no matter what you ask it to do.

There’s a vast choice for the used car buyer to pick from, at bargain prices, and all models are pretty well equipped.

Where it falls down is in its ability as a solo estate, because it isn’t as practical as many rivals and it isn’t as entertaining to drive.

Our top choice from the Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer range is the 2.0 CDTi Ecoflex SRi. It works well as a tow car because it has reasonable strength while remaining economical. It’s also stable and composed on the motorway, and it is well equipped.

But we would avoid the 2.8i V6 VXR. Yes, it sounds good and performs well. But its styling add-ons aren’t to everyone’s taste – and it’ll cost you a lot in fuel, especially when towing.

What you need to know

So now you know what tow car ability these 2008-2017 Vauxhalls have, how much money do you need to buy one?

It’s possible to bag yourself an early Insignia Sports Tourer from as little as £2400, but whether you’d want to is another matter; the Insignia was designed to do big miles, but we’d steer clear of cars with 150k+ on the clock.

Upping the budget to £6k will net you an example with a five-figure mileage (some even starting with a five), and you’ll find some examples at Vauxhall main dealers.

The forecourt is your oyster should you have as much as £13,000 to spend, because you can get a low-mileage, two-year-old car with some warranty left.

Here are some useful figures (for a 2015 Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer 2.0 CDTi Ecoflex):

  • Kerbweight 1658kg
  • 85% match 1409kg
  • Towing limit 1600kg
  • Towball limit 85kg
      

We’ve also researched potential servicing costs for the 2008-2017 Insignia Sports Tourer. According to quotes obtained from Servicing Stop, you will pay £221.24 for an interim service, while a full service will cost £323.96.

And if you want to fit a towball, Witter’s detachable towbar will be £195.36 and the Witter flange towbar will be £107.52 (fitting extra – quotes from PF Jones).

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