Vauxhall Insignia sees rebirth of the GSI Range

30 Replies

If you hear the words Vauxhall and GSi in the same sentence – you will recall fond memories of the Nova and Astra – cars that set the hot-hatch market alight back in the day – today though; GSi is reborn on something very different.

As hot-hatches are getting bigger, so too are the demands of car owners and with increasing needs, the cars we drive are also vastly increasing in size – Vauxhall’s sales-rep and constabulary favourite – the Insignia, is far from a hot-hatch, but it now offers ‘performance through dynamics’ with the rebirth of the GSi badge.

You have read that correctly – Vauxhall have chosen their larger than life, hugely practical and family friendly Insignia as the model to wear the GSi badge once again, a trim and performance level that hasn’t been seen in over a decade.

It’s been 12-years since we last could buy a GSi to be exact, and on hearing about the Insignia GSi, I became quite excited – mainly as the models of old always appealed to me and let’s face it, the industry is so technologically advanced now; this all-new GSi from Vauxhall can be nothing short of fantastic.

Insignia GSi Front Seats

As the oldest surviving British car manufacturer, Vauxhall appeal to the masses – providing honest value for money with strength in numbers being the key to success. Success though, that wouldn’t be sustainable without offering well built and reliable cars.

For the last decade we have become accustomed to the VXR model range – a range that saw refinement put out the window in aid of raw driving pleasure and sheer speed – racing inspired exhaust systems and sports seating most certainly appealed, but not to the masses.

GSi now fills the void for a car that offers performance with refinement, frugality and affordability – bringing a bit more than the SRi but not just as much as the VXR, it sits well as a car that will be sought after by many a car enthusiast, now married with a few dogs and a couple of kids, as well as being stylish and sporty enough for management to be seen driving as their company car.

Available in hatchback and estate guise, the latest Insignia is a real looker when in GSi trim, featuring model specific front and rear bumpers, side skirts and a rear spoiler alongside dual-exit exhaust system, rear privacy glass and 20-inch twin-spoke alloy wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres.

On both body styles, the boot is capable of absorbing a small hamlet, especially with the estate model as pictured and with the rear seats flipped down – a hardware store collection or run to the local amenity site will never be a trouble.

Insignia GSi Engine

Inside the latest Insignia is a great improvement and despite not having as much luxury materials as some German rivals, who’s price tag is much heftier, there is soft touch everywhere and the dash is sculpted around the driver, it’s a very nice place to be.

With heated and cooled – massaging front seats, a heated steering wheel, and heated outer rear seats, the interior is monochrome with its black leather and white stitching whilst the GSi specific front sports seats are not only super supportive but also incredibly comfortable.

Family life will be easy for the Insignia GSi and four lengthy adults will even cope on a long drive with comfort, but on the run back to the airport, with five on-board a non-GSi model, the journey was less than comfortable – the luggage in the boot however had an abundance of room.

An 8-inch screen is the hub of the infotainment which features navigation, OnStar app, phone connectivity, Bluetooth, AM/FM/DAB radio and a fantastic BOSE audio premium sound system whilst a head-up display aids viewing of vital data.

Two engines are available, starting with a 2.0L Bi-turbo diesel unit as tested at launch, producing 207bhp with 354lb/ft whilst the more potent 2.0L turbocharged petrol provides 256bhp with 295lb/ft – both only come paired to an 8-speed automatic gearbox and an all-wheel-drive system.

Insignia GSi Boot

Both engines are capable of a 0-60mph sprint in around 7-seconds with a claimed, combined economy, coming in at around 40mpg and 30mpg respectively. The driving experience is greatly helped with the use of torque vectoring, technology that see’s Vauxhall being the first in this segment to use and it is ahead of much more premium rivals by doing so.

Vauxhall are so proud of their advancements in the mechanical and driving experience that Volker Strycek, Vauxhall’s director of performance cars, was on hand at the Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground launch, to help us understand the nitty-gritty that makes the Insignia GSi work.

As the first ever DTM champion in the mid-80’s, as well as a 24hr Nürburgring winner and avid rally driver, Volker doesn’t need much introduction and his team have developed something that works very well.

So much so that Vauxhall are so confident in the agility of the Insignia GSi that Rob Wilson, an F1 driver coach, who has 11 of the current grid on his tuition books, was also on-hand at Bruntingthorpe with a challenging track laid-out to highlight the brilliance of the modern GSi.

After a demonstration lap from Rob, it was into half a dozen hot laps with yours truly at the helm, and having set one of the fastest times of the 2-day event, I was genuinely miffed by what this all-wheel-drive, Ikea absorbing estate is capable of.

Rear of Insignia GSi

Okay, when driven in the manner that such a test demands, the ‘box can’t really cope as well as the likes of a dual-clutch transmission would, however for the hour or so I spent on the road, it was nothing short of precise and smooth with the track area highlighting how the Insignia GSi copes where many rivals would be in the hedge.

One other positive driving feature on the Insignia GSi is the ‘flexride chassis’ – a fully integrated system offering 3 driving profiles; Tour – Normal – Sport, with an additional Competitive Mode activated via the ESC button which then allows the driver to be fully in control.

Weighing in at 160kgs lighter than the previous VXR Insignia, this new GSi comes equipped with a reduced ride height on GSi specific suspension affirming the fact that this car is not about straight-line performance, nor being the first to arrive, but the driving pleasure between.

One benefit of buying a new Insignia GSi in the UK is that Vauxhall UK have taken it upon themselves to spec the cars to a higher level than most other countries meaning there really isn’t much of a need for any expensive option boxes when ordering.

I will report back more on the Insignia GSi in a few months time when I get my hands on a petrol version for a week’s test, a test that I am really looking forward to and I’ll be honest – I could easily see myself in a GSi estate…

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About Author

Graham is a professional photographer and motoring writer with over 15 varied years of coverage from manufacturer press launches to international motorsport and rally events throughout the world. Graham is a full member of the Guild of Motoring Writers. See more at grahamcurry.com

RMS Forum Comments

lightning 09:35 | Fri 18 May, 2018 | Report
Nice enough machines, and would be a great all rounder but to my mind they should be SRI not GSI. GSI was always top of the pile horse power wise, a halo model. Think back to the 90-92 cavalier gsi red top, 150 brake, 7 second 0-60 and if you had one it was a real talking point! This car needs 350+ horse and a bit of a more lairy kit to be worthy of gsi's of old.
Graham 09:57 | Fri 18 May, 2018 | Report
| Nice enough machines, and would be a great all rounder but to my mind they should be SRI not GSI. GSI was always top of the pile horse power wise, a halo model. Think back to the 90-92 cavalier gsi red top, 150 brake, 7 second 0-60 and if you had one it was a real talking point! This car needs 350+ horse and a bit of a more lairy kit to be worthy of gsi's of old.
VXR has been the pinnacle for some time now, and still is, for comparison I give you the following... Audi s-line is sri Audi s is gsi Audi rs is vxr
Steve 09:59 | Fri 18 May, 2018 | Report
I like the look of it. As above though, it would have been nice to see at least 300bhp from the petrol model to keep up with the current range of hot hatches. edit - @Graham when you put it like that it makes sense.
Graham 10:04 | Fri 18 May, 2018 | Report
Sri is a trim level Gsi is chassis enhancements, a little performance and genuinely fantastic Vxr is the all-out model Also this was one of the most random days in my motoring career to date, I shared a track with a BTCC Audi, a few Bentleys with lots of taped on sensors around the body and a pair of Range Rovers towing caravans flat out, such an odd place, but memorable
Coog 10:08 | Fri 18 May, 2018 | Report
The SRI has been greatly watered down in the last 15/20 years too. The new insignia is a handsome car, huge improvement over the previous shape which to me always looked like it had rolled out of a Korean factory and not a European one.
lightning 10:18 | Fri 18 May, 2018 | Report
| VXR has been the pinnacle for some time now, and still is, for comparison I give you the following... Audi s-line is sri Audi s is gsi Audi rs is vxr
Fair point that makes sense.
Graham 10:40 | Fri 18 May, 2018 | Report
| Fair point that makes sense.
We often forget about vxr as they are such an uncommon sight on the roads
Blackie 10:50 | Fri 18 May, 2018 | Report
| The SRI has been greatly watered down in the last 15/20 years too. The new insignia is a handsome car, huge improvement over the previous shape which to me always looked like it had rolled out of a Korean factory and not a European one.
I agree, SRi’s used to be more than just trim, they were a milder version of GSi’s. They used to have slightly lower suspension (usually around 15mm) than lower spec models, they used to have decent “sports” seats, they used to have pretty damn decent spec inside too. But even in my Vec C SRi it has lost “trim” or spec from Vec B SRi, silly little things such as traction control (I don’t mind the lack of traction control myself as it adds a bit of excitement and driver skill back to the drive) etc . . . The SRi has less spec than a Design model for example. They did an SXi in the Vectra C and other models in the range which were supposed be a Trim level - basically an SRi with smaller or less powerful engines. But it definitely seems the SRi has been watered down to nothing more than a trim level and has become the SXi which appears to have been deleted from the Insignia range. From reading the article it appears the GSi now essentially fills the role that the SRi used to!
Graham 11:18 | Fri 18 May, 2018 | Report
And another highlight on this one, was the run back to the airport, five-up in an insignia with the PR director driving, and the first ever DTM winner, Valker in the passenger seat, all a little surreal
roverspeed 15:11 | Fri 18 May, 2018 | Report
| I agree, SRi’s used to be more than just trim, they were a milder version of GSi’s. They used to have slightly lower suspension (usually around 15mm) than lower spec models, they used to have decent “sports” seats, they used to have pretty damn decent spec inside too. But even in my Vec C SRi it has lost “trim” or spec from Vec B SRi, silly little things such as traction control (I don’t mind the lack of traction control myself as it adds a bit of excitement and driver skill back to the drive) etc . . . The SRi has less spec than a Design model for example. They did an SXi in the Vectra C and other models in the range which were supposed be a Trim level - basically an SRi with smaller or less powerful engines. But it definitely seems the SRi has been watered down to nothing more than a trim level and has become the SXi which appears to have been deleted from the Insignia range. From reading the article it appears the GSi now essentially fills the role that the SRi used to!
My Insignia SRI does have lower/stiffer suspension and sports seats (whether you would call them decent or not is opinion) and I think the wheels are SRI specific. Though that's where the SRI'ness ends. It really is just a trim level now as I think you couldget it with any engine in the range. I do like the new Insignia but it's very trim/specific as so many cars are now. I test drove 2 petrol turbo one last (I only went in to buy roof bars ffs) was very put together and quick but felt huge. I think it had lost some of its character (visual) but aren't all cars going that way. It's silhouette could easily be mistaken for one of the latest Volvos or Mazda 6s. I think the facelift with vx line kit and optional 20s looked great 192949


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