Es­tate cars can of­ten be over­looked, but they do of­fer bags of prac­ti­cal and use­able space. Roy Woodcock drives one of the best-look­ing es­tates around – the Vaux­hall In­signia Sports Tourer

Gloucestershire Echo - - TEST DRIVE -

ES­TATE cars, and I’ve made this point be­fore, are too of­ten over­looked by buy­ers rush­ing to join the ranks of Suv/cross­over own­ers. Cer­tainly, if you’re not one of those de­mand­ing seven seats, then the flex­i­bil­ity and pas­sen­ger-lug­gage space com­bi­na­tion of­fered by an es­tate stands com­par­i­son with any model you care to name.

Granted, you lose the high rid­ing po­si­tion loved by so many (and many equate that with feel­ing safer as they go about their busi­ness) but you gain so much more in driv­ing en­joy­ment; the way the car han­dles is much, much bet­ter, in my hum­ble opin­ion.

One of the best-look­ing es­tates around is that based on the Vaux­hall In­signia Grand Sport hatch­back; in this case called the Sports Tourer.

The lat­est ver­sion is no­tice­ably big­ger than the model it re­placed, yet re­tains its stylish and sporty pro­file.

It’s based on new un­der­pin­nings and its re­vised pro­por­tions re­sult in more lug­gage ca­pac­ity that has in­creased to 1,640 litres, over 100 litres more than the out­go­ing model. The length of the boot has grown by 97mm to 2,005mm and it comes with

40/20/40 fold­able seats, mak­ing it even more prac­ti­cal.

The new model is up to 200 kilo­grams lighter than its pre­de­ces­sor, which al­lows for high-tech fea­tures to be spec­i­fied, such as the ul­tra-mod­ern all-wheel-drive sys­tem with torque vec­tor­ing and the new eight-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion to ex­ploit their strengths to the full.

The In­signia Sports Tourer also comes with new tech­nolo­gies that make driv­ing safer, more re­lax­ing and more com­fort­able than be­fore.

Vaux­hall’s next-gen­er­a­tion In­tellilux LED matrix light­ing, lane keep as­sist, head-up dis­play, front and rear seat heat­ing and a heated wind­screen are all avail­able on the new In­signia. It is also the first Vaux­hall to be fit­ted with an ac­tive alu­minium bon­net to im­prove pedes­trian pro­tec­tion.

The big news last sum­mer was the in­tro­duc­tion of a new 1.6-litre di­rect in­jec­tion tur­bocharged petrol en­gine to the range. The lively four-cylin­der unit pro­duces peak power of 200PS at up to 5,500 rpm and de­vel­ops 280Nm of torque from 1,650-4,500 rpm and was the en­gine fit­ted to my top-ofthe-range Elite Nav model.

It’s the per­fect match for such a sporty-look­ing model, for on the road it puts the power down with ab­so­lutely ef­fort­less ease. The sprint to 62mph from a stand­ing start is ac­com­plished in just 7.7 sec­onds and, with a the­o­ret­i­cal top speed of 143mph, there’s al­ways some­thing in hand.

The lighter weight makes the car incredibly nim­ble and it seems to rel­ish the twists and turns that Broads throw up. For such a big car, it loves a chal­lenge and holds cor­ners re­ally well - the ride for the pas­sen­gers, how­ever, re­mains calm even when the In­signia is driven re­ally hard.

And de­spite its size, it also is easy to ma­noeu­vre and no one should have any fears about how it han­dles in a tight ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment. The cam­eras, front and rear, fit­ted to my car, plus the front and rear park­ing sensors, made park­ing a dod­dle.

The Sports Tourer line-up starts with the De­sign trim, but even that is well-equipped with a smart­phone com­pat­i­ble touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with DAB ra­dio, key­less en­try, cruise con­trol and au­tonomous emer­gency brak­ing. You can also or­der a De­sign Nav ver­sion, with the ob­vi­ous ad­di­tion of sat-nav in­cluded.

Next up is the Sports Tourer SRI, which has sports seats and 17in al­loys. A SRI Nav model is also avail­able. The Tech Line Nav fea­tures rain-sen­si­tive wipers and park­ing sensors, while the SRI Vx-line Nav has sports-style bumpers and big 18in al­loys.

Be­yond that is the Elite Nav, as tested here, which comes with a suit­ably huge kit list. It gets Matrix LED lights, leather seats that are heated in all but the cen­tre rear seat, a dig­i­tal dis­play for the di­als and an­other for the touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, which has Ap­ple Carplay and Android Auto.

There’s also a front-facing cam­era that works with the for­ward col­li­sion alert and auto emer­gency brak­ing, and lane de­par­ture warn­ing with lane as­sist.

I came away from my week with the car might­ily im­pressed; but there’s al­ways a down­side – with the high per­for­mance, which comes with the 200 horse­power, 1.6 turbo, en­gine, fuel econ­omy is poor, strug­gling to reach the quoted 42mpg.

Other engines, in­clud­ing diesel, are, of course, avail­able.

And over­all, you do get a big, prac­ti­cal and eye-catch­ing es­tate car that, at en­try level, is avail­able for a lit­tle un­der £21,000.

■ Visit: www.vaux­

The Vaux­hall In­signia Sports Tourer

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