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2018 Vauxhall Insignia GSi Grand Sport review

The first GSi to come from Vauxhall in over a decade is here! We see if it lives up to the name.

Introduction

Once upon a time, the GSi nameplate held a place in the hierarchy of budget performance heroes. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, it spawned greats like the compact Nova GSi and V6-powered Vectra GSi. It fell to the wayside in the ‘00s though, last appearing on an Astra in the ‘00s in favour of VXR models.

Well, now it’s back, and this is the first of the reborn legend — the Insignia GSi. Engineers at sister company Opel have taken the latest version of the regular saloon, added some go-faster bits and tested it extensively at the Nurburgring to produce a performance model. But how does that translate to the road?

It’s not just another nameplate here, there’s plenty of new mechanical bits to back it up — along with some fresh equipment.

Available in the GSi is an all-new 2.0-litre diesel engine, although a petrol alternative is also on offer. Helping to keep the car on the road is a chassis lowered by 10mm, four-piston Brembo brake discs all-round and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres.

There’s looks to match the performance, too. Large air intakes dominate the revised front bumper, while a rear spoiler emphasises the point. New 20-inch alloy wheels complete the aesthetic.

Inside, new bucket seats feature — apparently styled after a cobra snake — along with selectable Tour and Sport driving modes.

Performance

Powering our test car is the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It’s good for 207bhp and 480Nm of torque, resulting in a 0-60mph time of 7.3 seconds with a 145mph top speed possible.

It’s not the ultimate performance motor, but it’s definitely brisk enough to have some fun with. You can get the best from the engine just above 3,000rpm, although maintaining that can be a bit of a challenge as a result of the eight-speed gearbox’s reluctance to downshift, even in ‘manual’ mode.

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Ride & Handling

It’s clear to tell the efforts by director of Vauxhall performance cars Volker Strycek and his team has resulted in a more refined driving experience, but it’s not quite the purist machine marketing may lead you to believe.

There’s undoubtedly fun to be had — head into Sport mode and the steering weights up nicely, although there is still a lack of feel through the wheel and there’s definitely a case for a faster steering rack.

Thankfully, daily usability remains good, as the GSi rides comfortably and quietly at motorway speeds — particularly with Tour mode selected — and town driving is still a doddle thanks to good visibility and the standard inclusion of parking sensors.

Interior & Equipment

Don’t expect the cabin of the GSi to be pulling punches well above its weight, but it’s no bad place to be. Everything is well-built, with premium-feel materials featuring throughout. The steering wheel is good to the touch, and a lack of road noise helps make it be a pleasant place to be.

Most notably, there’s a set of Opel-developed bucket seats for both driver and passenger, apparently styled after a cobra snake with high bolstering and a hood-like design at the top. They’re comfortable even over longer distances, and there’s even an optional massaging feature — although this feels a little more akin to being gently punched in the back rather than a relaxing spa treatment

As standard, the GSi comes with a generous helping of equipment. Off the bat, there’s a Bose sound system, heated bucket seats, dual-zone climate control, a heated and leather-trimmed steering wheel, a head-up display, LED matrix headlights and Vauxhall’s IntelliLink infotainment on an eight-inch screen, complete with OnStar, among a ton of other goodies.

Plenty of safety technology is thrown in too, including forward collision alert, automatic emergency braking, a following distance indicator and lane departure assist.

Cost 

A £32k price tag may seem a lot on the face of things, but there’s definitely a good amount of standard equipment included for the money. The only real downside is the lack of a standard reversing camera — a £350 option — although the parking sensors work well enough.

As for running costs, it’s a fairly efficient engine — returning a claimed 40.4mpg on a combined cycle. Tax will be high though, with emissions of 186g/km.

Verdict

The Vauxhall Insignia GSi isn’t the last word in performance as marketing may lead you to think, but it’s still a great all-round offering. Those looking for a hardcore Insignia might be better off waiting for a full-blown VXR version to appear.

If you’re looking for something to use on a daily basis and cover a lot of ground with yet provide the odd grin when the roads get twisty, this may well be the car for you. It helps that there’s enough equipment you’ll likely need thrown in at no extra cost, too.

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