Vaux­hall In­signia

Our big diesel’s DPF gets clogged



To dis­cover if Vaux­hall’s flag­ship of­fers an un­beat­able mix of prac­ti­cal­ity, value and ex­ec­u­tive com­fort in es­tate form

Diesel ain’t that bad, right? That’s what we keep shout­ing, any­way, along with var­i­ous in­dus­try big­wigs de­nounc­ing its de­mon­i­sa­tion. Well, the fol­low­ing episode has un­der­mined my con­fi­dence some­what.

Our fleet Vaux­hall In­signia Sports Tourer was un­able to re­gen­er­ate its diesel par­tic­u­late fil­ter (DPF).

DPFS are de­signed to cap­ture the black soot tra­di­tion­ally as­so­ci­ated with diesel ex­hausts in order to help keep emis­sions down. The idea is they then clean them­selves, or ‘re­gen­er­ate’, dur­ing sus­tained pe­ri­ods of higher-rev driv­ing by burn­ing this soot out of the fil­ter.

DPFS nor­mally clog up, there­fore, if you only do short, stac­cato runs. But I do loads of mo­tor­way driv­ing. You’ll have seen my pre­vi­ous re­ports in which the In­signia has heaved cam­era kit, bi­cy­cles or my Ly­cra-clad mates along the M4 time and again.

You can imag­ine my dropped jaw, then, when the Vaux­hall went into limp mode. Ear­lier, a warn­ing mes­sage had sprung up on the dash: ‘Con­tinue driv­ing,’ it howled. So I did. Even though I re­ally had some­where I needed to be (I was hun­gry).

Ten min­utes or so later a sec­ond mes­sage popped up. The fil­ter had been un­able to re­gen­er­ate it­self, the en­gine warn­ing light glowed un­der my steer­ing wheel and the car fell into limp mode.

At this point the hand­book rec­om­mends tak­ing the car to a deal­er­ship. So I rang and spoke to a va­ri­ety of such fran­chises. Three weeks was the long­est wait be­fore the car could be seen, nine days was the short­est, which I duly booked.

“Am I all right to drive the car in the mean­time, then?” I asked. “No.”

“Okay, do you have any cour­tesy cars?” The an­swer from all deal­er­ships was that it would be at least two weeks un­til a cour­tesy car be­came avail­able. But I live in the coun­try­side and need to travel to work. Pre­sum­ably it’s a war­ranty part, any­way? The re­sponse I re­ceived was thus: “Well, it’s not ne­c­es­sar­ily a war­ranty part. Vaux­hall tech­ni­cians will judge whether it’s un­der war­ranty based on your style of driv­ing.”

They later de­cided that my 10,000 miles in six months was the style of driv­ing that would war­rant war­ranty treat­ment. But my as­ton­ish­ment here was twofold. Firstly, if my style of driv­ing had been judged to be ‘in­cor­rect’ – i.e. I only drove short dis­tances – then I’d have to pay for it. And sec­ond, the In­signia’s 2.0-litre diesel en­gine is only manag­ing to re­turn 34.1mpg. I can’t imag­ine those who spend even more time on the mo­tor­way than I do would re­ally want to give it a reg­u­lar boot­ful for fear of clean­ing out their wal­let with a load of black soot.

The DPF on our car was dis­cov­ered to be ir­repara­ble. The part had to be or­dered from Ger­many, ac­cord­ing to the deal­er­ship, so in to­tal I was with­out a car for 16 days af­ter just eight months of run­ning it.

Hon­estly, the en­gine has felt like a 2.0-litre diesel-pow­ered ele­phant in the room through­out my ten­ure. Emit­ting 186g/km of CO2 and with an NEDC com­bined fig­ure of just 40.4mpg, it’s a re­ally hard spec­i­fi­ca­tion to jus­tify.

There are plenty of other re­deem­ing grounds on which to rec­om­mend the Sports Tourer – space, prac­ti­cal­ity, safety kit – but just be care­ful which box you tick in the pow­er­train sec­tion, es­pe­cially given the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate around it and the fil­ter on the back.

Time to call Vaux­hall – or a chim­ney sweep

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