Small engine brings big suprise from the Insignia

The Opel Insignia has always been one of those cars that surprised, and sadly, not for the best of reasons, writes John KNox.

The Opel Insignia has always been one of those cars that surprised, and sadly, not for the best of reasons, writes John KNox.

Here is a good sized car that looks well, drives well, is well kitted out with on the button technology and retains decent sell on value. Yet, for some unknown reason the sum of the good quality marks didn’t add up to a real swinger in the market.

That never made sense to me because Insignia measured up well against any and all competitors. For example, in the most recent annual reliability study on cars posted by Dekra – based on 15 million inspections on 230 different models – the Insignia finished second to the Astra, which is confirmation of the quality of the build apart from anything else.

Superior build quality is not a bad starting point, eh? Insignia comes with a 5-year warranty.

When Opel introduced the Insignia it came with a host of ground breaking features. The company continues to drive out the boundaries, and one of the latest biggies with the Insignia is the addition of a small in size but big in power 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine to the range.

No petrol engine is more economical, Opel insist, with the 1.4 turbo unit the thriftiest in the entire mid-size class segment.

This high performance turbo charged, four cylinder 1.4-litre unit replaces a 1.8-litre naturally aspirated version that was your ‘Average Joe’ in terms of economy and emissions. The power output of the new engines remains the same at 140PS, but in terms of drive, economy and C02 emissions the latest engine is in a far better place.

New electric steering

Standard equipment on this Insignia includes Start/Stop technology and a new electric power steering system on manual gearbox versions. The latter makes a fair contribution to reducing emissions by doing away with a power sapping hydraulic pump.

The quoted consumption figure for this Insignia is 5.7 litres per 100 kilometres, or two litres less than the predecessor, a consumption reduction of over 25%.

And in these times of crazy fuel prices, who doesn’t want to hear good news like that?

The C02 emissions fall too, and come in at 129g/km (annual road tax 225 Euro) on my test car. At the same time the torque output has been upped by 14%, and peak is attained lower down the rev range to give an appreciably sharper drive.

How does all of this work in real time driving? The 1.4-litre turbo Insignia pulls strongly and with purpose.

Insignia breezes along on the motorway, giving the impression of a much bigger unit under the bonnet. Actually, I was surprised at the ‘kick’ what is a big bodied car had off a good pace on the motorway, very surprised indeed.

Once on a sharp incline – Kilkenny people known the hill out of Bennettsbridge heading to Danesfort - and with a 40 cwt bag of coal in the boot, the car lacked a bit of sparkle, but a snappy gear change brought the buzz back into the drive.

Foot perfect

Apart from that, Insignia was foot perfect in terms of performance, never appearing to labour and it offered a drive that was always strong. The spirited nature of things on the motorway actually surprised a little, as there always appeared to be a reserve of energy for a kick when overtaking.

As we wrote recently about the impressive Ford 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine, small is definitely the new big in motoring. The Insignia is not a small car by any stretch of the imagination, yet a high kicking 1.4-litre engine can drive and carry it with easy.

In better financial times you could suggest the range was primed to make up for lost opportunity, but who can be sure of anything in these challenges times? In these days when diesel is king of the road, Opel have a real contender to satisfy the motor heads who want to stay with the petrol drive; demanding a blast of sharp power and with decent economy too.

The Insignia is kitted out well, and standard on the entry level S (prices start at 25,495 Euro) are 16” steel wheels, air conditioning, cruise control, CD 300 system with CD player, MP3 functionality, electric parking brake, electrically adjustable/heated door mirrors, adjustable steering, multiple airbags and a most convenient 60/40 split-folding rear seat.

My drive was in the next up SC version which also featured sat nav with 7” colour screen, 17” wheels, centre console multi-function controller, USB connection and so on.

The car

Opel Insignia SC (4 door) 1.4-litre petrol turbo 27,295 Euro.

Engine: 1364cc, 4-cylinders, 16-valves, 140PS at 4,900rpm, 200Nm of torque at 1,850-4,900rpm.

Maximum speed: 205kph; 0 to 100kph in 10.9 seconds.

Consumption: 7.5 l/100km (urban); 4.7 (extra urban); 5.7 (combined).

C02 emissions: 129 g/km.

Annual road tax: 225 Euro.