After 25 years, Vauxhall brought back the GSi badge when it launched a high-performance version of its sporty mainstream Insignia model. Exterior design updates include chrome air intakes at the front and a rear spoiler for improved levels of downforce, while on the inside, full-leather sports seats, steering wheel and aluminium pedals complete the look. Continuing QUBE/just-auto's review of interior design and technology trends, we take a closer look at how the automaker has created something special from a standard package.

Spacious interior

First impressions, this D-segment saloon has space. Bags of it thanks to an extended wheelbase. Vauxhall points out that rear passengers have 32mm more room at hip height, 25mm more shoulder and knee room and 8mm more headroom. When the split rear seats are folded flat, luggage space increases from 490 litres to 1,450 litres.

The instruments stacked on the centre console are slightly angled toward the driver and set within easy reach – a trick pioneered by BMW. This clever thinking is evident across the cabin. Positioned centre stage is a frameless eight-inch colour touchscreen of the Multimedia Navi Pro infotainment system that comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone integration. Journeys are made easier with real-time traffic information, online map updates and predictive navigation for route planning, while new symbols give the navigation display a fresh appearance.

The touchscreen itself replaces a myriad of buttons found on the previous Insignia. We also liked the shallow bezel shelf that stretches along the base of the touchscreen thereby providing a place to steady your hand while navigating the menu.

The E-Call system exclusive to Vauxhall can be specified for Insignia orders, automatically sending an emergency call if the seatbelt tensioners or airbags are deployed. Alternatively, help can be summoned by pressing the red E-Call button. Smartphones can be charged wirelessly.

In our opinion, the Opel/Vauxhall brands offer materials and build quality on a par with the rival German premium brands. The Insignia's instrument panel and centre console is supplied by Faurecia. Vauxhall is also still one of few automakers to offer seats certified by Aktion Gesunder Rücken (Campaign for Healthy Backs). These ergonomic seats offer a combination of side bolster settings, massage, memory and ventilation functions. And we must not forget to mention the USB ports found in the front and rear of the GSi so that mobile devices can be charged from any seat. Neat.

Laminated side glazing

Every car has a laminated windscreen, of course.  For some time, however, Europe has led with the adoption of laminated side glass for increased vehicle comfort and security. The first North American vehicle with laminated side windows was launched in 2002 with market demand catching-up in Europe.  Today, from just-auto's research database QUBE on glazing technologies, we are seeing a clear upward trend for laminated side glass, especially for front door applications due to the acoustical benefit that comes with that value-added product. The GSi that we took out for a spin came fitted with optional front side laminated windows, supplied by Fuyao. Laminated glass provides a three-to-six decibel noise reduction over tempered glass.

Laminated side glazing has other benefits that go beyond cabin noise. The use of laminate greatly reduces penetration of UV rays into the vehicle.  Other benefits such as safety and security are also considerations for carmakers. 

While the laminated side windows in the Insignia certainly supports a quieter ride, it also helps you appreciate the seven-speaker (five front and two rear) Bose sound system.

Advanced driver assistance technologies

As a first for this flagship model, the Insignia features a new rear-view camera that improves rearward vision. Safety in reversing can be increased with the optional rear cross-traffic alert, which uses radar sensors to detect objects 90 degrees to the left or right behind the car, up to a distance of 20m away. The driver is warned by acoustic signals, and on the display screen.

The front camera system on the Insignia, supplied by Magna and marketed by them as the EYERIS electronic vision system, incorporates features such as forward collision with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection; lane keep assist; side blind-spot alert; adaptive cruise control with emergency braking; traffic sign recognition; advanced park assist; and head-up display (HUD). The information displayed on the pin-sharp HUD can be controlled using three buttons on the dash.

Forward visibility around some narrow A-pillars is good. Rear visibility is hampered due to some broad rear pillars; however, the rear parking sensors are a considerable help.

Hot technologies

Our Insignia features a button on the centre console to defrost the windscreen and another to heat the front seats and steering wheel. The front seat heating function may also be operated via the touchscreen. The rear seats are also heated by pressing a button located behind the centre console. By switching on the heated rear window, the heated wing mirrors are automatically activated.

IntelliLux LED matrix headlights

Although our focus is on the Insignia interior, the nitty-gritty technologies behind the headlamps are worthy of note.

The IntelliLux LED lighting features new functions, including curve and spotlight illumination, improving long-range visibility when driving at night. For example, when taking a curve with the full beam engaged, the light intensity automatically rises based on the steering angle, in order to increase the illumination and to help the driver see the road situation ahead.

First shown on the Monza concept in 2013, Opel/Vauxhall introduced IntelliLux LED matrix headlights in the Astra in 2015. Initially featuring a 16-light system, the automaker has been able to develop the technology significantly with the second generation, incorporating twice as many LED segments while maintaining an ultra-slim appearance. Gentex's so-called SmartBeam HBA (High Beam Assist) automatically turns on a vehicle's high beams when it's dark enough and no other vehicles are present. The system is already in production with well over one million units sold. BMW was the first carmaker to introduce it in Europe in 2005. Audi and Vauxhall have both since introduced the technology, the latter on the Insignia.  

On the road

On the road, our 2.0-litre turbo diesel with eight-speed automatic gearbox floated along motorways on 20-inch wheels and low-rolling-resistance Michelin tyres. For all the development work on the seating and clever packaging, the driving position on the GSi is good with enough leg space in the back for tall adults. The well thought out cabin is a pleasure to sit in with a wrap-around, uncluttered cockpit speckled with chrome-effect trim. Like other models in the Insignia's range, the GSi is also a good deal lighter (by 160kg) thanks to optimised packaging and the use of lightweight materials. It ticks a lot of boxes.