David Motton

See other tow car reviews written by David Motton

Read the Practical Caravan Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer review to find out what tow car potential this handsome, four-wheel-drive estate has

Overview

The Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer 4x4 may lack the ground clearance of other four-wheel-drive estates, but it’s got the heft and grunt to pull a fair variety of caravans.

Our expert reviewers anticipated finding a spacious and practical car after subjecting the Insignia to the toughest tests on the track and in real-life driving. What would the costs of operating it be like? How poised would it be in simulated emergency situations? Could this be the ideal tow car for your caravan holidays? Read the Practical Caravan Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer review to find out.

Towing

We took an immediate liking to the Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer. That is because its 1843kg kerbweight can be matched safely to a wide variety of caravans with a maximum technically permissible laden mass (MTPLM) of up to 1567kg, under the 85% guideline – the leading caravanning clubs recommend the ratio for safe and stable touring, especially for anyone just starting out. 

The weight premium is in part the result of the Insignia having four-wheel-drive, which promises superior grip on wet roads and slippery campsite pitches. It is worth noting that Practical Caravan’s tow car experts also add 75kg for the driver and luggage to the weights published by Vauxhall and other manufacturers who do not include it.

We hitched the Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer to a 2004 Abbey Expression 520 with an MTPLM of 1373kg. The Vauxhall was in near total control of the tourer whether on the road or at the track where, for instance, it needed just 11.7 seconds to go from 30 to 60mph and 7.8 seconds to accelerate from 50-60mph in fifth gear – something you may have to do to escape from behind slow-moving cars.

On our road test route, the Vauxhall pleased us further by holding a steady 60mph in top gear on motorway inclines, and inspiring confidence with its stable towing.

The demanding lane-change simulation resulted in an impressive showing from the Insignia, which cornered with little roll and plenty of bite. 

On quick runs, the caravan moved around, but the car always kept the Abbey in line. Except for numb steering either side of straight, there was little to criticise.

Its ability to halt the outfit in an emergency was also amply displayed – it took just 10.8m to do so on a dry track. Its electronic parking brake came into its own on the hill-start test by preventing the outfit from slipping, as well as releasing easily when needed. And the car did well, without heavy use of the clutch, in pulling and reversing up the 1-in-10 slope.

Everyday driving

The Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer is a fun car to drive solo, a bonus on your caravan holidays. It has plenty of grip and little roll, even when cornering hard. 

More responsive steering would make it better still, though, and there’s no excuse for the stiff gear changes. 

The Vauxhall Insignia we tested comes with FlexRide as standard, which means the driver can choose from three settings for the dampers. ‘Sport’ keeps everything well-tied down if you’re in the mood and the road is empty, while ‘Tour’ takes the edge off rough roads. 

Most of the time, we found the normal setting to be a good compromise. However, there’s no doubt that whichever button is pressed, the Insignia does not provide the most comfortable of rides. The engine is quiet enough at a steady cruise, but can sound grumbly at times – it is a fairly sporty car.

Space

The Vauxhall Insignia is a big car, but it could have made better use of its size. When compared with the Subaru Outback, in a twin tow car test, we found that rear seat passengers in the Subaru get noticeably more leg and headroom than in the Vauxhall. 

When clambering into the rear of the Insignia, you have to stoop to avoid knocking your head on the door frame. In its favour, the Vauxhall provides air vents to blow cool air at the rear passengers.

The front seats are comfortable and adjustable, although you could expect more headroom, especially because there is no sunroof, either as standard or as a cost option.

The manufacturer’s official figures show the Vauxhall has 540 litres of luggage space with the rear seats upright. Release the catches at the tops of the seats to extend the boot. Its 1530-litre capacity is less impressive than, say, the Subaru Outback’s 1677 litres. 

The sloping rear windscreen is at a rake that is so pronounced that it may not be appropriate for, say, carrying large dogs, although it does contribute to the car’s sporty appearance.

Running costs

The Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer 2.0 is not a cheap car, at £28,285. Haggle and the dealer may drop the price by almost £5000, suggests What Car?, our sister magazine.

That’s just as well, because the Insignia’s predicted resale values don’t make for happy reading. What Car? expects the car to be worth just 33% of the original list price after three years.

It's thirstier than an equivalent two-wheel-drive would be, but its fuel consumption is quite low for a 4x4. The Insignia can get 47.1mpg on the combined cycle, the manufacturer claims, and our test recorded a towing economy of 25mpg.

The Insignia sits at insurance group 23, promising premiums that are not punitive.

It boasts cruise control, stability control and automatic air conditioning as standard. Leather upholstery costs an extra £1145.

Technical specs

Engine size1956 cc
Kerbweight1843 kg
85% KW1567 kg
Towball limit85 kg
Maximum towing limit1800 kg
Power158.0 bhp
Torque258.0 lb ft
Official MPG47.1 mpg
CO2159 g/km
30-60mph11.7 seconds
30-0mph10.8 m

Verdict

The biggest advantage of the Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer is its kerbweight. This puts it at the disposal of a wide variety of caravans, if you adhere to the 85% guideline, and many more for experienced caravanners. 

Also important is its excellent stability at speed. Its performance in the demanding lane-change test certainly impressed the review team.

The Insignia is also a stylish car, with its smoothly sloping profile, a high standard of finish and design flair, which was alien to Vauxhall five to 10 years before this version’s release. 

It’s far from the most spacious car in its class, but there’s enough room for most families and ample luggage space for your caravan holidays. Unfortunately, the sloping roof line forces some compromise.

The Insignia offers a dynamic drive, but for a car of this quality, its engine is louder than it should be and the ride less comfortable. 

Conclusion

Pros

  • Its hefty kerbweight makes it a good match for a wide variety of tourers
  • It accelerates rapidly and dependably when on tow, and corners with little roll
  • It has strong brakes
  • It is a fun car to drive solo

Cons

  • Its engine can be noisy
  • The ride is not all at comfortable
  • The stylish, sloping roofline reduces boot capacity
  • Rear-seat passengers have to stoop low to enter
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