Opel Insignia test drive by Daragh O Tuama

Opel Insignia

“Opel has finally stood up and is starting to be counted”

This week I had the pleasure of test driving the 2009 European Car of the Year, the Opel Insignia. Of course being a family man I opted for the Elite 1.6i Turbo Sports Tourer version, a beast in sheep’s clothing.

When I first saw the Opel Insignia I couldn’t believe my eyes. What has Opel done? Have they just stepped out of their comfort zone by creating something that didn’t look like paint drying? I mean, visually this car is stunning in comparison to the yawning days of the Opel Vectra. It’s got curves on it that remind me of a mix of a Passat CC, a Mazda 6, Mercedes S Class, the Audi A6 and a BMW 5 series – I think Opel are moving in a way that’s really starting to impress.

One thing I have to say is that the old Vectra was never really an ugly car, it was just mindlessly boring to look at and completely unnoticeable. Especially inside the car, everything from my recollection was square and grey. There was no excitement; it took a second to figure out what everything did – which to some people could be a good thing. I like to read the manual. I like figuring out what some things do. The Insignia’s so overloaded with buttons that with each push of a button I get a surprise as to what happens next! And, you’d find it difficult to find a single right angle in the car – there’s nothing square about this little beast.

The front of the Tourer is spacious and comfortable with an 8-way adjustable driver’s seat. Cruise control as standard in the Insignia makes for very nice for long journeys.

The back on the other hand is a different deal. Remember I mentioned this car not being square? Well, when it comes to the back seats I found this to be a bit of a disadvantage. Take a grown man or woman over 6 foot tall and watch them hunch uncomfortably for the duration of your journey. It seems that Opel may have opted for aesthetics over comfort when it came to the back. By looking very curvy on the outside it’s causing sore necks on the inside. And although I haven’t been in the saloon version yet I believe it’s the same issue there.

Another issue I have with the Insignia, and it’s something I’m not a fan of in the Astra either. I really don’t like the letterbox view out the back window. I’ve noticed the same thing in the Audi TT and the Chrysler 300c. I like seeing what’s behind me!

Okay, now for the engine. The Insignia is available in Ireland starting at a 1.6 at entry level right up to a hefty 2.8 litre V6. Most models are available in automatic or six gear manual.

This car hugs the road confidently even on its standard suspension. For those who are willing to spend a little more, “FlexRide” is available as an optional extra on most models. FlexRide is the Insignia’s answer to Adaptive Stability Technology. It gives you the option of Sport, for a more responsive drive, or Tour, for a smoother journey. The model I drove, the Elite 1.6i Turbo Sports Tourer, offers 180bhp and a top speed of about 137mph.

The Insignia is available in 5 trim levels – those are; S, SC, SRi, SE, and Elite and comes as a hatchback, saloon or sports tourer.

Overall I would have to say that I like this car, it’s great to see Opel, a reliable enough car but hugely unnoticed, become noticed. Opel has finally stood up and is starting to be counted.

Am I surprised it won Car of the Year 2009? No, not really. Yes, it had stiff competition from the other 6 of the final 7 (Citroen C5, Ford Fiesta, Alfa Romeo Mito, Skoda Superb, Renault Megane and the VW Golf Mk6), but the Insignia was such a huge leap for Opel I think it deserves the recognition it gets.


For more information and reviews, visit Daragh’spage on www.newstalk.ie/motormouth