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Off-road Tourer.

Byline: a matter of OPINION By Alistair Coull and Val Jessop

VAUXHALL has found lots of admirers of its revised Insignia since the upper medium challenger made its debut at last year''s Frankfurt Motor Show.

Sales of both saloon and Sports Tourer (estate) models have rocketed by 60% in the past year. So using a successful formula to create the Country Tourer was a shrewd move on Vauxhall''s part.

Designers have taken the existing Sports Tourer, raised its height and subtly added on off-roader inspired body cladding and produced a crossover.

Two engines power the Country Tourer - both 2.0-litre diesels with either 161bhp or 192bhp outputs. The car on test was the smaller version, expected to be the best-seller accounting for 90% of sales. With 258lb/ft of torque available it has plenty of oomph for overtaking and acceleration. Top speed is 127mph with the 0-62mph 'dash'' taking 10.9 seconds.

The combined fuel economy figure is quoted at 50.4mpg but a week of driving on a mixture of roads saw it return a more realistic 42.6mpg. The car emits 147g/km of CO2.

The four wheel drive system that underpins the pumped-up version of the Insignia load-lugger is an electronically controlled set-up that automatically sends torque to the rear axle when it detects slippage. In normal conditions, drive goes to the front wheels which cuts fuel consumption and emissions.

Damper and anti-roll bar settings have been tweaked for better ride and control. On motorways or smooth A-roads the car glides along and even where it does hit a pothole it remains unruffled. The electronic power steering has been revised to send more feedback to the driver, and noise and vibration levels have been reduced for better passenger comfort.

The extra 20mm in ride height helps when tackling off-road tracks but you have to remember it is no mountain goat.

The six-speed manual gearbox has a slick change. It also comes with stop-start as standard to keep fuel bills and CO2 down. On the open road the car is comfortable while staying composed on rutted B-roads. Less welcome was the engine''s background thrum and noticeable tyre noise.

The 4x4 system works very well on mud and even mildly challenging rockier sections. It will not chase a LandRover across hillsides but it will cope with muddy tracks and winter-ravaged Tarmac.

The Country Tourer stands out from its Sport Tourer cousin with a deeper front grille, underbody protection front and back, plus cladding around the sills and wheel arches.

AKE A class-leading load-lugger with a lot of style and flair, Tadd four-corner grip and you have the Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer.

This part-time, 4x4 version of the handsome Insignia Sports Tourer provides decent off-road capability, generous space and comfort but without detracting from that attractive profile.

Vauxhall don''t envisage selling huge numbers - maybe five per cent of sales. Nevertheless, it''s still a shrewd move pitching the 4x4 Insignia into the all-wheel drive touring (or estate) domain.

It is also a tall order - squaring up to the German leaders like the Audi A4 Allroad and VW''s Passat Alltrack - plus models like the Skoda Octavia Scout and the Volvo XC70.

And while the Vauxhall may not be as quick-witted as some rivals, it has a strong engine that delivers good performance, even if at times it can be quite vocal.

The test car was powered by the 2.0-litre 161bhp version (there is also a 192bhp choice), which isn''t the quickest on Tarmac at 0-62mph taking almost 11 seconds. But it can muster decent power and maintain the momentum, while it can boast an official fuel return average of 50.4mpg.

It is a bit of a heavyweight but it feels secure and robust and that advanced four-wheel drive system helps boost driver confidence. Add a tow bar (costing PS500) and you have access to the Tourer''s 2,100kg towing capacity.

The part-time 4x4 system directs torque from the normally front-wheel drive car to the rear axle if any slide or slippage is detected, while an electric locking rear differential enhances traction by splitting power between the two rear wheels as and when required.

While the Country Tourer sits 20mm higher than the standard Insignia, it still handles just as well. It feels well-composed and glued to the ground even on demanding zig-zag routes with minimum body roll.

The six-speed gear box was occasionally a little cumbersome, but most of the time operated quite straight-forward. Steering was disappointingly vague on feedback but in general the Tourer proved a pleasant, composed and relaxed model to drive. Ride and comfort levels were very good, given its macho characteristics.

The car won''t go everywhere but it can handle deeply-rutted mud tracks, swampy fields and tackle waterlogged roads with the best. It is nice to have the best of both worlds: The Tourer allows you to go off-road, but no crag-hopping, while having peace of mind on-road with that instant four-corner grip security system.

Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer ENGINE: 1956cc 4-cyl 16v CTDi 161bhp@4000rpm 258lb/ft@1750rpm PERFORMANCE: Top speed 127mph 0-62mph:10.9 secs ECONOMY: Combined: 50.4mpg CO2 EMISSIONS: 147g/km INSURANCE: Group 20 PRICE: PS25,349
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Date:Jun 6, 2014
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