David Motton
Tow Car Editor

See other tow car reviews written by David Motton

Is this the best version of the Insignia for towing? David Motton finds out how well the Country Tourer stacks up against its rivals.

Overview

We're very familiar with the Insignia - this is the third we've run on our test fleet. However, unlike cars we've tested in the past, this one is four-wheel drive. Not only does that provide obvious benefits in terms of traction in bad weather or towing on damp grass, it also pushes up the kerbweight, making a wider range of tourers suitable matches. Our test car weighs 1716kg, so the 85% match is 1459kg. And Vauxhall has priced it keenly, at £27,815 for this version.

We want to find out if this is the best version of the Insignia for towing. Just as importantly, how well does the Country Tourer stack up against rivals like the Škoda Superb Estate 4x4? 

Towing

Although a high kerbweight is no guarantee of towing ability, it certainly doesn't hurt. With a kerbweight of 1716kg, our Country Tourer 4x4 has a very useful 80kg or so of extra heft compared with the regular 2WD Sports Tourer with the same engine and gearbox. 

We matched the Vauxhall to a Swift Expression 635 with a MiRO of 1485kg, a little over an 86% match for the Insignia. 

The engine can handle a tourer of this weight, so long as you don't let the revs drop much below 1500rpm. 

From this point onwards, the engine pulls strongly. It accelerates decisively on slip roads and holds speed well on motorway gradients.

Turn off onto hilly country roads and you'll have to work the gearbox a little more to maintain momentum, although we rarely needed to drop below fourth gear. 

The strength of the engine is noticeable when making a hill start, too, although quite a few revs are needed to pull away cleanly on a 1-in-10 slope. That's more because of the gearing than any shortage of muscle on the part of the engine. There was no wheel spin pulling away during the hill-start test or when accelerating from standstill at a junction. 

Once up to speed, the car is reasonably stable in still air, but it can be disturbed by gusts of wind or when overtaking high-sided vehicles. To what extent crosswinds upset the Vauxhall partly depends on the mode the FlexRide suspension is in. 

In 'Tour', the suspension is soft, wallowy and poorly controlled. We'd avoid 'Tour' while towing. 'Sport' keeps the car on a more even keel, at the expense of a firmer edge to the ride, but it's far from harsh. We'd leave the suspension in 'Normal' while towing. 

Arrive at your campsite and manoeuvres should be fine. We reversed onto a pitch with no complaint from the clutch, and the same was true when we reversed up a grassy slope. 

It's a shame that the Country Tourer doesn't have a reversing camera. A camera is available for £350, but it is a little surprising it's not standard. 

Once you've lined up with the towball, hitching up is easy. There's plenty of clearance around the ball and the electrics are mounted in the side of the neck of the towbar. That means the socket is well clear of the bumper and makes it easy to connect to the plug.

Overall, the Country Tourer makes a good tow car, with strong performance and the assurance of four-wheel drive. It's a shame it moves around a bit on breezy days. We're not talking about anything dramatic, but less movement would make long journeys more relaxed. 

Everyday driving

The standard Insignia puts comfort over a really sporty drive, and that's even more the case with the Country Tourer. The raised ride height gives more clearance over bumps than the regular estate, but there's lots of lean if you corner with any enthusiasm, unless 'Sport' mode is selected. 

This keeps the car better controlled when cornering, as well as sharpening the throttle response and adding some weight to the steering. However, the Vauxhall still feels less agile than a Ford Mondeo or a Mazda 6. 

Driving more sedately shows the Insignia in a better light. It smothers most rough surfaces in 'Normal' mode, and becomes syrupy-smooth in 'Tour'. 

For the most part, the Country Tourer is quiet and refined. The engine sounds distant and unobtrusive, only becoming vocal at high revs. Wind noise is acceptable, but road noise is more pronounced. 

Around town you are aware of the Country Tourer's size - it's only just under five metres long and it's not easy to judge the extremities of the car. 

All-round parking sensors help in tight spots, or would if they weren't so oversensitive. Bleeps turn to a continuous tone long before the car is really close to any obstacle.

Space

The Insignia's size might not be a plus on narrow streets, but Vauxhall makes good use of it inside. In the front, a 6ft 3in driver can be a fair distance from the pedals, still with several centimetres of seat travel to spare. 

The dashboard is solid and there's a quality feel. The touchscreen is mostly easy to use and is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. 

There's lots of storage in the cabin, with generous door bins and space under the armrest. 

In the back of the car, head and legroom are plentiful. A Škoda Superb Estate has even more room, but we can't see anyone feeling cramped in here. 

Boot space is long and wide, although not especially tall. There's no load lip and a wide, unobstructed opening, so it's easy to use all of the space. The relatively low height of the boot floor is a plus if you're thinking of the Country Tourer as an alternative to a tall SUV. 

There's a 560-litre capacity with the rear seats upright. The seats are split 60:40 and are released by buttons on either side of the tailgate. 

This leaves a slight slope to the floor, but not enough to be inconvenient when loading items. The total space increases to 1665 litres with the back seats lowered. 

That's competitive with most rivals, but lags behind the Škoda Superb Estate, which has a 660/1950-litre capacity. The Country Tourer isn't as roomy or practical as the Superb, but the Škoda is unusually spacious. Compared with most family estates, the Country Tourer has plenty of room for people and luggage. 

Running costs

The Insignia is keenly priced at £27,815, and research by our colleagues on What Car? shows that discounts are there for the asking. Even before haggling, the price undercuts the nearest equivalent Škoda Superb Estate 4x4 by over £6000.

Resale values are nothing to get excited about, though, holding on to a fairly modest 40% of the original asking price after three years and 36,000 miles. However, when the car undercuts its rivals by so much, that's not as big a concern. 

The added weight and fractional losses from the four-wheel-drive transmission mean the Country Tourer 4x4 drinks a little more fuel than the 2WD. According to the official combined figure, you can expect 45.6mpg on the combined cycle. We found mpg in the low 40s to be realistic in solo driving, dropping to 25.4mpg while towing the Swift caravan on a varied economy route. 

The Country Tourer is well equipped, although we'd like to see a rear-view camera as standard. Automated emergency braking, a lane departure warning system, sat nav, climate control and 18-inch alloys are included in the price. 

Technical specs

Engine size1956 cc
Kerbweight1716 kg
85% KW1459 kg
Towball limit90 kg
Maximum towing limit2200 kg
Power168.0 bhp
Torque295.0 lb ft
Official MPG45.6 mpg
Towing MPG25.4 mpg
CO2164 g/km

Verdict

The Country Tourer makes a worthy alternative to SUVs and conventional estate cars. 

Perhaps its greatest strength is value for money. You really do have to check twice when you compare the Vauxhall with its rivals, as it undercuts them by such a healthy amount. 

You'll lose some of that when the time comes to trade the car in, but not so much that it isn't a sound and sensible buy. It's a practical one, too. 

It may not be as roomy as a Škoda Superb Estate, but then, very few cars are. It's there or thereabouts compared with most rivals, and much more spacious than the previous generation Country Tourer. 

The Insignia drives well, too, so long as you value comfort over a sporty or agile drive. At a steady pace, it smooths bumps in the road, especially with the FlexRide system in 'Normal' setting. Selecting 'Sport' firms things up, but trades some of the standard set-up's ride comfort. 

As a tow car, the Insignia is good rather than great. The soft suspension allows the car to be pushed around a bit in strong winds. We never felt at all nervous towing with the Vauxhall, but we've towed with plenty of big estate cars that are better tied down in windy weather. 

The 2.0-litre diesel is a fine engine. So long as very low revs are avoided, it pulls strongly and smoothly, with enough brawn to cope with any sensibly matched caravan. 

It might not be perfect, but the Country Tourer is likeable, capable and very good value.