Review: 2010 Opel Insignia 2.0 Diesel

Martin Schwoerer
by Martin Schwoerer
review 2010 opel insignia 2 0 diesel

My first car was a 1970s–era Opel Rekord. It was one of the most beautiful cars GM ever made. It was also roomy, reliable, as well as cheap to own and service. Those typical brand values made Opel a star player in Europe, and demoted Ford and many others to the status of also-rans. Later, Opel lost the reliability and beauty part of the plot. Is today’s Rekord, the Opel Insignia, good enough to lead an almost-dead company to the future?

The latest effort from GM-Euro sure looks good enough. The Insignia sports a spectacular design that gets almost everything right. From the side, it has that leaping-panther silhouette. From the front, you see a successful implementation of the puppy-resting-on-paws motif, combined with a dash of HR Giger’s evil alien in the grille. So it’s cute but aggressive. It looks like a contemporary version of the Xedos 6, which itself was an excellent interpretation of what a small Jaguar should look like.

The boldness goes on inside, where swoops and swathes and weird angles reign supreme. Some of it works well, such as the blade-like door handles. The interior treatment is certainly distinctive, without being over-the-top like the Euro-Civic’s is. But to my mind, the net effect is overwrought and over-buttoned. I prefer the Renault Laguna’s simple elegance, or the C-Class’s utilitarian look. Also, some of it just doesn’t work so well. From my POV, the thick steering-wheel rim obscured the temp and gas instruments, and the speedometer typography is unnecessarily small.

Which leads to a major point of complaint: the coupe-like Insignia seems designed in general more for looks than for functionality. Visibility is poor, what with small windows and thick beams. Space is at a premium: this is a 4+1 and not a proper five-seater, and it has insufficient headroom and foot room in the back. (The trunk, however, is big.) I understand the positioning logic: family space is what minivans are for, and sedans are nowadays tailored to professionals. But I don’t buy it. Why should I, when buying a new car, accept a downgrade? Do I look like a schmuck? Nobody makes me pay business for economy.

Most journalists have reported Audi-like interior quality, which sure indicates the value of providing prepared press vehicles. I can say that although the interior feels, smells and looks good, it ain’t no Audi: I heard a faint pip-scratch from the center console when driving over expander joints, and the gearshift surround is made of cheap and ugly plastichrome that crackles at a touch.

My tester had a fantastically tractable 160 HP oil burner coupled to a well-tuned 6-speed automatic. This Opel was

quiet, fast (0-60 in under 9 sec), torquey (350 Nm (258 lb·ft)) and economical (providing 28 mpg despite often driven in town or around 120 mph). Once again, a good Diesel in combination with a modern auto is a near-dream team. (If it only had a chain cam . . . )

Handling is pretty fine: stable and secure at high speeds, composed and allowing high turning speeds on country roads. I seldom managed to make the ESP intervene, but when it did, it was discreet. The Insignia lacks the Mondeo’s magic however, with less precise steering and not quite as linear reactions near the limit. This is for a reason: the Opel’s development benchmark for handling was to achieve 80% of the Ford’s prowess. Also, in contrast to most other reviewers, I felt that the Insignia’s ride quality was definitely inferior to the Mondeo’s, with an autobahn experience that is closer to that of the bumpy 1-Series.

I could now stress how the Insignia has all kinds of standard gadgets such as an optical sign-recognition system that reminds you of speed limits, or a lane-departure warning. But I come from the school that says gadgets are only important if the basics are great, unless you belong to the Plymouth Horizon fan club.

I also come from the school that says having some strong merits don’t matter when they don’t fit the brand. Nobody needs a fuel-sipping Lamborghini. A successful Opel needs to be beautiful (check), affordable (Insignia prices are well below comparable Passats, so, OK), reliable (given recent Opel history, check), economical to own (maybe not, given the electronic gadgets), and family-friendly (no way!)

Up to a point, sexiness sells, and the Insignia has had a great sales start. But in time, Opel will have to answer the obvious question: why buy an Insignia from a zombie company, when you can get a (better) Mondeo from a viable one? For a GM car, this Opel is great. For a car that’s supposed to save a bankrupt company, it’s just not good enough.

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2 of 34 comments
  • Dolorean23 Dolorean23 on Jun 16, 2009
    I had high hopes when the Astra came over with Saturn, as I was set to relive the glory days of my family by turning into my father and actually owning my own Opel. Another let down. Threeer, what let you down on the Saturn front? I owned my Saturn Astra XR 5 dr now for a year and have put 23K on it already. Its a terrific little bastard that consistantly makes 31 mpg, town and highway. The 1.8L four isn't going to beat many cars to 60 mph, but its not really designed for it either (GM took the exceptionally good 2.0L turbo for the sub-par Cobalt). Its interior quality for a sub-compact is far superior to a Korean cracker box as is its styling and reliability. Its very German and loves to be driven like you stole it. If you can still find one, you really should test drive one of the three door XRs. Its too bad GM let another one rot on the vine.

  • Martin Schwoerer Martin Schwoerer on Oct 14, 2009

    Upon giving it another look and sit at the Frankfurt motor show, I changed my mind about the Insignia. The design is gimmicky and it's not a pleasure to be inside. Just too darn claustrophobic. There is something strangely undesirable about this car, so I give it an overall three stars and not more.

  • Bobbysirhan These prices will make more sense by the end of July.
  • Kcflyer It fits perfectly in the you will have nothing and be happy agenda. Eliminate affordable transportation for the middle class. The ultra rich will have stuff like this.
  • SCE to AUX That green color works on a Jeep or a Telluride, but not on a Polestar 2.
  • Kcflyer yep, surprised the clowns in the Senate blocked her. Being completely unqualified for the job has not stopped any appointee by this administration or any other. She must have pissed off someone in the donor class.
  • Chris P Bacon "It is worth noting we’ve found through our own personal testing that some Stellantis PHEVs demand lighting the internal combustion fires in certain weather conditions even if the battery has ample charge, a trait worth keeping in mind if one lives in the snow belt."It's also worth noting that my Jeep dealer applied a software update to my Wrangler 4xe that took care of this issue.