David Motton

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Powered by a 192bhp, 295lb ft torque, 2.0 diesel engine, read our Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer review to find out what tow car capabilities it has

Overview

We've had this Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer on the Practical Caravan long-term fleet. It’s a handy 4x4 estate that promises go-anywhere toughness and practicality. In this guise, it’s heavy and powerful enough to tow a wide range of tourers, while its four-wheel drive should make it capable in all weathers.

We’ve spent a lot of time towing with other versions of the Insignia. The top-spec Country Tourer is clearly the most expensive of the lot, with a price tag in excess of £30,000. Is that too much to pay for Vauxhall’s family estate? Or do the added capability of four-wheel drive and the high kerbweight and powerful engine justify the price? Let's find out what tow car credentials this Country Tourer has.

Towing

The Country Tourer has some eyebrow-raising weights and towing limits. These days it’s not uncommon for family estates to weigh around 1500kg, but the Insignia makes any weighbridge groan with a hefty 1843kg kerbweight (including 75kg for the driver). Even allowing for its four-wheel-drive transmission, that’s a lot, and gives an 85% match figure, as usually recommended for safe and stable towing, of 1567kg.

Vauxhall’s brochure lists a towing limit of 1900kg, but the VIN plate on our test car shows a 1715kg difference between the Gross Vehicle Weight and the Gross Train Weight – something to keep in mind if towing with a heavily laden car.

We matched the Vauxhall to a Swift Challenger SE 645 with a Mass in Running Order of 1526kg. It’s a big twin-axle tourer, and quite a bit larger than any caravan you’d expect to find behind a family estate car.

Even so, the Country Tourer towed it well. The engine had no trouble with an unladen caravan of this size, pulling from 30-60mph in a brisk 12.1 seconds. That’s no surprise when an engine is this powerful. With 192bhp and 295lb ft of torque, it has the muscle to cope with heavy-duty towing. It’s a shame the six-speed automatic gearbox is sometimes slow to select the right gear; otherwise, we have few complaints about performance.

It’s a stable tug, too, certainly on the motorway. All the Insignias we’ve driven feel at home when towing on multi-lane roads, and the Country Tourer is no different. It will happily sit at 60mph all day.

On twistier roads, the Vauxhall isn’t quite as assured. The suspension is on the soft side, and there’s a little too much movement if bends and bumps coincide.

In the lane-change test, the Insignia leaned heavily and was pushed around by the caravan on the fastest runs, but we never felt that the tourer was about to take charge. However, it didn’t cope as well as we’d expected given its stability on the motorway.

The hill-start showed the Country Tourer in a better light. The electronic parking brake held car and caravan still on a 1-in-6 slope. The brake released smoothly, and the automatic gearbox and the torquey engine did the rest.

On dry Tarmac, the benefits aren’t as apparent, but four-wheel drive comes into its own on wet surfaces. If you’re thinking of buying a Country Tourer, keep in mind that not every version is a 4x4: the 168bhp manual is front-wheel drive; the 161bhp auto offers the choice; but every 192bhp auto is a 4x4.

This is no Land Rover in disguise – the ride height has risen by just 20mm (less than an inch). Still, it should tow more easily across bumpy farm campsites than the standard Insignia.

The Country Tourer is a good tow car. Although not among the best when pushed, the Insignia is stable on motorways. What’s more, the powerful engine helps it perform strongly on tow.

Everyday driving

Although the Country Tourer takes well to towing, it has its shortcomings as a daily drive.

The engine is both a strength and a weakness. There’s no doubting its performance but, just as when towing, the automatic gearbox seems half asleep.

What really lets the 2.0-litre diesel down is insufficient refinement. The engine drones and complains when revved hard. The new 168bhp diesel we tested in the Insignia Sports Tourer at the 2015 Tow Car Awards is much quieter.

Otherwise the Insignia is pleasant enough to drive. With the Flexride suspension in its standard setting it feels rather soft and happier cruising along rather than being pushed. Switch to ‘Tour’ (Vauxhall’s equivalent of a comfort mode) and the car feels loose and floaty. ‘Sport’ sharpens it up, but you’d still have more fun driving the new VW Passat 4Motion.

As when towing, motorways are where the Country Tourer is at its best. Engine noise settles into the background, and you can enjoy the comfortable ride. There’s some wind and road noise at speed, but long-distance driving is the Insignia’s forte.

Around town, you notice that thick screen pillars front and rear compromise visibility. The rear windscreen is surprisingly small and gives a restricted view when you look over your shoulder to reverse. A rear-view camera is a £300 option – and we think that is money worth spending.

All told, the Insignia drives reasonably well, but engine noise is too intrusive.

Space

If you’re in the front of the Country Tourer, there’s plenty of room. Legroom in particular is generous enough for drivers well over 6ft tall to find a relaxed position. The interior design looks good, and the Country Tourer has inherited changes Vauxhall made to the Insignia a couple of years ago that improved ease of use.

Legroom isn’t especially generous for passengers at the rear, compared to the Škoda Octavia Scout or Volkswagen Passat 4Motion. What’s more, the downward curve of the windowline makes it easy to catch your head getting in or out. The shape of the rear bench and the stout transmission tunnel make it comfortable for two than rather for three back there. It’s also a shame there are no air vents for rear-seat passengers.

On paper, the Country Tourer’s 540-litre boot capacity looks reasonable, but the space is surprisingly shallow. Not only could the shape of the boot be better, but the capacity also lags behind most rivals. The Passat Estate offers 110 litres more, while the Škoda Octavia Scout has another 70 litres.

Fold down the seats and there’s only a very slight slope to the floor, and the capacity jumps to 1530 litres. However, that’s still much less room than you’d find in most family estate cars.

In isolation the Country Tourer is reasonably practical, but most rivals offer more room.

Running costs

At more than £31,000, the 192bhp Country Tourer is the priciest Insignia. Twist the salesman’s arm and that should drop just below £30,000, according to research by What Car? magazine. You’ll have to hurry, though, because Vauxhall is discontinuing the Country Tourer and stock should run out in September.

It’s important to get a healthy discount, because resale values aren’t expected to be strong. What Car? reckons you’ll get back just 34% of the original list price after three years and 36,000 miles on the road.

If you don’t want to spend that much – or lose that much – the Country Tourer range starts from £24,989. That buys you a car with the excellent new 168bhp 2.0-litre diesel, which is much more refined than the BiTurbo engine in this, our long-term test car. However, despite the SUV-inspired looks, it’s front-wheel drive. For a 4x4, you’ll need to spend at least £27,154.

As well as depreciation, fuel bills will be steep if the official figures are to be believed. The car achieves 42.8mpg on the combined cycle, which is poor when the equivalent Seat Leon X-Perience returns 57.6mpg.

Vehicle Excise Duty is higher than for many rivals. The Country Tourer emits 174g/km of CO2, putting it in Band H at a standard rate of £205 per year. The Seat emits 129g/km, so it is in Band D and costs £110 per year.

If that doesn’t put you off, your money buys a reasonable list of standard equipment, including front and rear parking sensors, front fog lights, dark- tinted windows, rain-sensitive wipers, cruise control, climate control and satellite navigation.

Technical specs

Engine size1956 cc
Kerbweight1843 kg
85% KW1567 kg
Towball limit85 kg
Maximum towing limit1900 kg
Power192.0 bhp
Torque295.0 lb ft
Official MPG42.8 mpg
CO2174 g/km
30-60mph12.1 seconds
30-0mph11.4 m

Verdict

If you ever get the chance to tow with the Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer, we doubt you’ll be disappointed. It’s what the Country Tourer does best.

We’ve enjoyed its stability at speed when testing the car for this review and as part of our long-term fleet. Fully loaded with kids and luggage, it tows straight and true. Away from motorways and A-roads the suspension feels a little soft, but for most tow car journeys most of the time, it’s very good indeed.

Despite delivering its power through an automatic gearbox that sometimes seems half a step behind the rest of the car, the BiTurbo engine is easily up to the job of towing any sensibly matched tourer. It’s just a shame the engine sounds so gruff.

In day-to-day driving, the engine is both a strength and a weakness. There’s performance to burn, but you’ll hear it.

Inside, the Insignia is smart and well finished. But despite being almost 5m long, space inside is modest. Plenty of rivals are shorter and easier to park, but have more rear-seat space. Most have more generous boot capacities, too.

The biggest problem the Insignia has is that the Seat Leon X-Perience, Škoda Octavia Scout and other rivals do a similar job for less money. They have engines slightly less powerful than the Vauxhall’s and lower towing limits, but boast prices starting with a ‘28’ rather than a ‘31’.

Even so, for its effortless towing ability, we can’t help but like the Country Tourer.

Conclusion

Pros

  • The 2.0 diesel engine is powerful and torquey
  • It's a great car for long-distance towing on motorways

Cons

  • The engine lacks refinement and the automatic gearbox is a bit sluggish
  • Rear visibility is poor
  • Cabin and luggage space are bettered by rivals
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