THE smooth new Vauxhall Insignia will ruffle some feathers among rivals.
Bigger, lighter, more economical and better equipped than the original Insignia launched in 2008, the new Insignia - called the Grand Sport - is now on sale as a five-door hatchback from £17,115 to £26,445.
It will later this summer be joined by a Sports Tourer semi-estate version costing about £1,500 more for each model in the range and which pushes up luggage space from 490 litres in the hatch to 1,665 litres.
Developed from the 2013 Monza Concept shown at the Frankfurt motor show, the Insignia Grand Sport was shaped under the eyes of Brit Mark Adams, who has produced Opel and Vauxhall landmark models for nearly a decade and who revels in sharp edges and accentuating curves evident on Insignia.
The Insignia Grand Sport retains improved and updated petrol engines of 140 or 165ps 1.5-litre and 260ps 2.0-litre blocks. On the diesel front there are 110 or 136ps 1.6 enginess and 170ps 2.0-litre models and later this summer will be joined by a 210ps bi-turbo 2.0 diesel.
Six speed manual gearboxes are fitted but top versions also get an eight-speed automatic with FlexRide suspension and chassis tuning as well as torque vectoring twin clutch rear differential in their four-wheel-drive powertrain.
Emissions range for 105g/km for the 1.6-diesel to 136g/km for the 2.0-litre and 133g/km for the 1.5-litre petrol and 199g/km for the high powered turbo.
The new Insignia has a bigger footprint with a longer wheelbase and wider track and this has created more leg and shoulder room but there is also added headroom and the occupant comfort is enhanced with better seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity as well as the groundbreaking OnStar assistance system for emergencies or concierge services.
A new Exclusive paint option provides bespoke colours and trim finishes.
A lot of work has gone into cutting weight and it features an aluminium bonnet which also enhances pedestrian protection and model for model the new car is about £1,500 less than the previous near comparable models.
This lower price and enhanced safety features help to keep down the benefit in kind business tax rates and Vauxhall is aiming the new Insignia at the user-chooser fleet driver and wants to increase the retail share from a current level of about 10 per cent.
Under the new vehicle tax regime which came into force at the start of April, the 1.6 diesel Insignia will cost £140 a year in road tax and carries a 23 per cent BiK rating.
Britain is the biggest European market for Insignia and at its peak in 2011 about 46,000 were sold, twice the number in Germany.
With the current diesel market declining and impact of business penalties being played out, Vauxhall is being cautious about the likely split of sales and the rise in the petrol versions demanded.
Vauxhall is, however, confident of taking away sales from rivals at Ford, Audi, BMW and even Mercedes-Benz.
We have just sampled a couple of new Insignias and our first model was the 170ps 2.0-diesel which had a long travel clutch in the six speed manual powertrain.
It was not particularly quiet when idling or pushed hard through the intermediate gears but it did pull well. Official fuel economy is rated at 54.3mpg.
It came with 18-inch wheels and was firm but not hard while the 165ps 1.5-litre petrol version seemed to ride better on the 17-inch wheels and tyres and was a lot quieter and composed.
My favourite, but also likely smallest seller, was the 260ps 2.0 4x4 Elite Nav, which is top of the range.
Selectable drive modes really makes a difference, the performance is very effortless and useful, while the new eight-speed automatic was superbly smooth after instant kick-down. It's one of the best autoboxes available.