VAUXHALL looks set to again upset the apple cart in the big posh family car sector and take on the might of the Germans at both BMW and Audi with a new flagship model, the Insignia Grand Sport.
The first Insignia launched here in 2008 caused a stir then competing against the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Audi 4 and sold really well, admittedly overwhelmingly to fleet buyers, finding 46,000 customers alone in 2011, its best year, and even another 25,000 buyers in its run out year in 2016.
It also bucked the trend of the so-called current decline in big saloon car sales, making the UK second only to Germany in total European Insignia sales, and was reminiscent of the last time Vauxhall had such a strident flagship competitor in the up-market sector with their Opel badged Senator, which ended production some 24 years ago.
Now the new Mark 2 Insignia will certainly make rivals sit up and look and will also be music to the ears of hardened fleet buyers because this latest model is better looking with a more comfortable ride, good to drive, packed with more standard equipment than before including all the latest on-board technology drivers of a premium saloon car would expect too.
Crucially also is the pricing of the seven trim model line-up which starts at £17,115 for the 1.6-litre 138bhp petrol engined Design through to really exciting to drive top of the range two-litre 256bhp petrol powered Elite Nav 4x4 at £27,710.
Looking at the sums it means this new range of five-door hatchback Insignia cars are on average £1,500 cheaper than the outgoing model which again will be music to the ears of fleet buyers.
Weigh up what each new Insignia costs and what's included in each in terms of equipment levels and refinement then in anybody's book they simply offer better value for money than most rivals leaving dealer sales people to persuade potential buyers not to be concerned over the Vauxhall badge on the front grille rather than a teutonic one.
There's a choice of three petrol engines with a new 1.5-litre unit offering either 138bhp or 163bhp and the two-litre 256bhp which comes with top Elite specification and 4x4 as standard.
On the diesel side the 1.6-litre engine is carried over from before but with vast improvements in terms of performance, fuel economy and quietness and refined in running terms.
Outputs here are either 108bhp or 134bhp with again a two-litre option available with an output of 168bhp.
The diesels will be the best sellers and a test run in the 108bhp Design Sat Nav it's easy to see why because it's refined to drive with hardly any wind or road noise and so quiet at all speeds while the driver will appreciate its nicely weighted steering and decent agile handling.
Ideal too for long distant cruising where that sixth manual gear makes it so comfortable to drive with excellent low-down torque and helps good fuel economy with an official combined figure of 70.6mpg.
Inside there's loads of standard kit on board, plus distinct touches of the latest Astra layout and content too, including an eight-inch touch screen with sat nav, Apple CarPlay, cruise control, full wi-fi connection, Dab radio and much more, so much that will immediately satisfy the needs of the company car driver on the move.
It has a decent enough acceleration (0 to 60mph in 10.9 secs) for such a big car and CO2 of 105g/km.
Crucially for drivers of any of the new models is that the overall weight of this Insignia has been cut by a remarkable 175kg and this is reflected in how much easier and more nimble the car feels to drive whatever trim level is chosen.
The improved and adjustable driving positions across the range are a welcome move and will suit drivers of all shapes and sizes while the general tone of the interior finish is also better with a far better quality all round.
It's also on a new platform and has grown in size with a 90mm longer wheelbase and a 55mm longer body and the backroom teams have utilised all this to overcome one of the major criticisms of its predecessor in a lack of legroom and head space in the rear seats.
Even with the car's quite stylish swooping roofline there's definitely more space in the back even though one or two rivals still pip Vauxhall in this area but nonetheless it's a welcome improvement and like wise the 490 litres of boot space isn't the biggest in its class but it's still a decent amount.
Overall the new Insignia is a much better car, very comfortable, very quiet, very good to drive and a lot of car for the money whatever trim level/engine is chosen.
For those looking for a Tourer (estate) version of the Insignia that too is on its way and should be in dealer showrooms by July and Vauxhall has just confirmed that early in 2018 a new off-road AWD Insignia Country Tourer will arrive complete with a 20mm raised ride height with prices to be confirmed at the end of this year.