Vauxhall Insignia Cross Tourer remains defiantly unfashionable – in a good way
A volume car maker traditionally has to be all things to all people. The days of specialisation are long gone, and strategic alliances and platform sharing often see the same dressed up as two or three different brands for different markets and tastes. Vauxhall and Opel, the European arm of General Motors, was off-loaded onto the PSA Group in 2017. The first fruits of this new partnership are only just beginning to materialise, but for now the mainstays of the Vauxhall range – the Astra and the Insignia – are still very much their own machines.
This is problematic, especially for the latter, as it’s a large car platform in a market where the only large vehicles anyone wants to buy are SUVs or MPVs. The Insignia Cross Tourer is, as its name suggests, an attempt to push this very traditionally-minded behemoth into the crosshairs of these customers, with jacked-up suspension, chunky bodywork and a generally more rugged, utilitarian ethos that’s more reflective of our era’s current obsessions.
The Insignia Cross Tourer’s jacked-up suspension, chunky bodywork and generally more rugged, utilitarian ethos is more reflective of our current era’s obsessions
Despite this carefully targeting, the Cross Tourer remains defiantly unfashionable. This is no bad thing, because car makers are notorious at promoting themselves as arbiters of fashion and taste. Instead, it offers Tonka Toy aesthetics, pleasing functionalism (but not, strangely, actual four-wheel drive, at least in the trim level we drove) and lots of interior space. It’s not self-consciously ‘designer’ enough to be the IKEA of cars, more like the furniture department of a conservative small town department store. And just like solid pine, it will last for many, many years, weaving in and out of prevailing fashion cycles as it soldiers on obliviously.
No doubt PSA are currently formulating grand plans for the future of the brand. On one level, it’s heartening to know that there are still cars out there that don’t feel the need to ride the cutting edge. Instead, they are honest, uncomplex modes of transportation that aren’t beholden to crassly phrased branding strategies. It should also be noted that Vauxhall has never actually designed an unattractive car. For decades and decades, this mainstay of popular motoring has quietly got on with the business of building cars people need, even if they don’t desperately desire to own them. Compare Vauxhall’s output to the similarly-priced offerings from Ford or even new owners Peugeot and Citroen, and you’ll get none of the short-lived design trends, awkward proportions and wrong-headed corporate identities. Will the Insignia be the last in breed? It’s hardly a bold statement, but also a reassuringly sensible one. And sometimes that should be more than enough.