THE Vauxhall Insignia is a lesson to rivals.
While many challengers have or are about to move out of saloons/hatchbacks and into crossover models in the modestly priced family sector, or executive brands keep pushing up prices but offering less in return, the Vauxhall hatchback stands out as extremely good value and packaging.
The Insignia range today spreads over 17-models in a single hatchback body style, mostly diesel engines producing 122 with 1.5 litres or 174ps from 2.0 litres and a couple of petrol units developing 200ps or 230ps from their 2.0 litre capacities.
They are nearly all front wheel drive but there is an all-wheel-drive version at the top of the range and while most are manual you can order automatic transmission.
In February, Vauxhall introduced all new engines and transmissions with class leading low emissions and fuel consumption, restyled "active-aero" bodywork and the latest safety and convenience technologies.
Starting at under £24,000, the big, roomy Insignia is a challenger to much more expensive rivals which deliver less in the real world.
This includes premium Bose sound system, integrated mapping and telecoms, leather upholstery, dual zone climate control with heated front seats and steering wheel, automatic head and tail lights, intelligent cruise control with lane assist and black/ chrome detailing.
It all adds up to a very attractive package but what is not so apparent is the lively performance from the 1.5 litre triple-pot turbo-diesel engine. It's a generally smooth and willing engine and proved very economical on test consistently providing over 50mpg between refuelling.
You have to exploit the six-speed manual gearbox to keep the pulling power at its peak or the engine runs out of breath and then it becomes noisier, but the long travel clutch and wide-gate to the box are not ideal in this respect.
On main road or motorways the Insignia Sri 1.5 is in its element just hustling along and sipping fuel, very quiet and smooth.
The suspension soaks up nearly all bumps without complaint or sending them into the cabin and the seats are very well shaped and have lots of electric adjustment in the front. The front pair are particularly supporting and the rear three are comfortable if not so good at locating occupants.
Their offset split backrests can be gradually folded down to eventually almost triple luggage space and with a low floor and sensible shape the boot will take large objects with ease.
The room in the boot is matched by a very commodious cabin, ideal for fsix-footers if needed, with good access and headroom.
We have said how well it copes with any surface, although you can hear the suspension and tyres rumbling away, but it also steers and stops with confidence even if it's a little distant with the driving feedback through the hands.
It stays rooted to the road and is never put off line by mid-corner bumps or potholes and while its unlikely you'd rush into many corners, just easing off the throttle or steering brings it all back under control very quickly and safely.