Vauxhall Insignia Tourer set to storm fleet market

Vauxhall Insignia Tourer set to storm fleet market in 2010

THE changing face of the new car market is set to see a dramatic shift towards fleet sales in 2010 and manufacturers are already donning their business heads to see how they can appeal to the customer branded motorway man in recent election hype.

Low emissions and fuel economy are top of every fleet manager's agenda but premium style and build quality are a must and some usable space to help get the family clear of the new-build housing estate is also essential.

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With their Insignia Sport Tourer, Vauxhall have done their best to provide all of the above, ensuring its down in the blocks in plenty of time for for the anticipated rush for fleet vehicles which set to follow the end of the scrappage scheme and a corresponding fall in new car prices implemented in an effort to maintain sales.

The Insignia has the style thing wrapped up.

Sharing the same sweeping silhouette, pebble-smooth edges and neat shut lines as its saloon sibling, the Sport Tourer has a genuine premium appeal.

Vauxhall has made a few sacrifices in the name of style, however.

Some interior space has been sacrificed in order to tease those good looks into shape and that means that, despite boasting a boot thats 10 litres up on the old Vectra estate, at 540 litres, you have to remove a false floor in the boot to reach that figure.

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And load space is still two litres down on its main rival, Fords Mondeo Estate.

I tested a £24,829, mid-range, SE-spec Sport Tourer with the ranges most powerful diesel engine, the 158bhp two-litre CDTi, from the range that starts at £20,150 and tops out at £29,995.

With CO2 emissions of 159g/km and a claimed 47.1mpg on the combined cycle (in manual gearbox form), the economy figures stack up nicely, while a 9.2-second sprint to 62mph and 132mph top speed are reasonable, if not particular selling points.

Impressive standard spec

The Sport Tourer range includes Exclusiv, S, SE, Elite and SRi levels of trim and a choice of six engines (four petrol and two diesel).

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SE boasts an impressive standard specification. Tinted windows and 18-inch alloy wheels ensure the outside lives up to that Sports billing, while an electronic handbrake, part-leather electrically adjustable seats, an upgraded stereo with six-disc autochanger, MP3 format and DAB digital radio, and Sat-Nav ensure the options list cam be left largely alone.

An electrically-operated tailgate which can be operated from inside the car, via a key fob or a button on the the boot lid, is a nice no-cost perk.

It can even be set to open at varying degrees to ensure it doesnt come into contact with low garage ceilings.

Opening the boot lid does reveal how much space its wraparound design steals from the load area, with deep sills made clearly visible.

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Attractive interior architecture ensures that the design team responsible for the Insignia's exterior are not let down by the finer details.

The use of wood trim isn't as naff as the Rover 75 connotations it brings might suggest and it compliments the organic, sweeping shapes.

Only the fairly plentiful use of an matte-finish plastic trim around the Sat-Nav console looks a little cheap.

Overall, theres a sense of space and rear seat passengers have just about enough room to stretch their legs.

"Not the most refined diesel engine"

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First things first about the driving experience. The CDTi unit isn't the most refined diesel engine on the market.

As I found with the new Astra (in 1.7 CDTi form), it emits a traditional diesel clatter from a cold start.

Once up to temperature things quieten down somewhat and the performance of 158bhp and 258lb.ft. of torque make for smooth progress.

The emphasis is more on economy and laid back mile-gobbling rather than performance, with a long throw, long ratio, six-speed gearbox helping to set a relaxed pace.

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On a twisting B-road feedback through the steering and chassis, and a leaning towards understeer, fails to truly engage but the suspension offers a well struck balance between comfort and control.

As the most aerodynamic Vauxhall estate ever built, however, the Sport Tourer feels completely at home on the motorway.

A 70mph cruise commands a fuel-saving 1,850rpm in sixth and the CDTis ample torque ensures changes of pace dont require a change of gear.

Motorway Man is spoilt for choice

Citroen's C5 Tourer impressed me greatly when it rolled into Advertiser towers last month and the Insignia Sport Tourer is probably the most capable member of the Vauxhall family tree.

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Though space and driving thrills are in shorter supply than they might be in some rival packages, the premium style and specification of the Vauxhall ensure its well positioned for an assault on 2010's fleet market.