It is a sign of the times that Vauxhall’s parent company, General Motors has suspended press car loans to Motoview. Fortunately, a day of testing within GM’s clan of Chevrolet, Vauxhall and recently sold Saab was arranged. Bit of background in a world in flux: Rick Wagoner, former Chief Executive of GM was ousted by Barack Obama and bankruptcy reorganisation plans will be submitted for a leaner GM. Saab is owned by Koenigsegg and Hummer has been offloaded to the Chinese “so times are a changing.”
What better way to distract yourself than to reach for the keys to the Corsa VXR, a 1.6 turbo transmits its torque through the front wheels as well as the steering one! On an empty driveway leading up to Crewe Hall hotel, I floored the throttle to see the steering wheel twitch to the right which is undiluted torque steer. It is detectable on roads under heavy acceleration, is subtle but in no way unruly. That is left to the exhaust burble and pop when the turbo stops spinning that can alarm the public as I witnessed on an industrial estate, when workers downed tools to discover the melee that was the VXR’s cry. This sub-brand will be tagged to the back of the new Insignia, such is its credibility.
Motoview tested a range of Insignia ‘Sports Tourers’, from a 1.6 Turbo that felt sprightly and lively to a serious 2.8 V6. The design emulates the Mazda 6’s with tapered glass and a low-down sporty driving position that impedes vision, together with the obligatory A-posts. The clamshell-shaped tailgate opens to reveal, what at first glance looks like a recently-swallowed Fiat 500 as there are fixed lights on the body when the tailgate is open. A tunnel-like entrance widens out, yet I question whether it will fit any dimension of white goods, after heaving it over a high bumper. Despite this, it beats its predecessor volume-wise. I eavesdropped on a conversation involving one Vauxhall Press Officer who stated that the Insignia outsold the Mondeo in March this year, no bold claim bearing in mind that sales are relatively flat. ‘Sports Tourer’ supercedes the hardy label of ‘estate’ with fewer of the practicalities. Despite this, it should keep the Griffin’s head above the waterline. A tweak to freshen up the brown dashboard vinyl is in order, reminding me of the roof of the gawky Viva, and the mechanical handbrake (an electromagnetic one is fitted to the most expensive model) is too close to your body to use comfortably if you have long arms, like me.
I echo what I wrote at the end of my 9-3 review; Saab has been treated unfairly and needs encouragement. Biofuel engines with every model should ensure that it is at the forefront of environmentally-responsible motoring, if more people knew about it. Combine this with agile chassis’ that create a sporting drive should be successful ingredients. The 9-3 XWD has all-wheel drive and proved its worth on wet roads towards Shavington. It felt sure and supple and was, in my opinion, the second-best drive of the day after the Corsa VXR. I hope its new guardian treats it responsibly.
Chevrolet was my last drive, not that I have much experience of driving them. I took a Captiva SUV for a spin. It was crude, from the sliding pigeon-hole shutter to conceal the Sat Nav to the wallowy ride and loose gearchange. I aborted the ride in the other Chevy, a conservative-looking saloon whose name evades me.
An interesting day that highlighted to me, at least, that Chevy has work to do on engineering and styling their larger cars for the UK market. I would chop that dead wood to increase fresh shoots of growth, that of the VXR brand and Insignia.
All images and words are copyright of Sotiris Vassiliou