Cheap and made for the motorway, here’s a car made for high-mileage bargain-hunters
The Vauxhall Insignia may have a bit of a dowdy image, but this is more than a little unfair. It’s a well-engineered car that’s a more rounded alternative to a Volkswagen Passat or Ford Mondeo than accepted wisdom would have you believe.
But on the used car market, such things can work in your favour. So, although the Insignia is brilliant on the motorway, has a smart interior, roomy front cabin and decent boot, it’s also very cheap to buy second-hand.
How cheap? Try from £2000 for an early 2008 example. We’d advise spending a bit more if you can, as a car at that level won’t be the best quality, but it’s still an example of just what’s out there.
Also out there will be no end of ex-company cars. Usually 2.0-litre diesels, they’ll have high mileages for their relatively youthful years. Provided they’ve got a good service history and look like they’ve been looked after – and haven’t been used as a taxi – they’re well worth a punt.
It’s hard to find an Insignia that isn’t one of the umpteen iterations of 2.0-litre diesel, but it’s a perfectly decent engine so this isn’t an issue. Be sure to check the condition of the diesel particulate filter (DPF) though – most easily, by looking for the warning light on the dashboard. Replacing it is expensive.
If you’re determined to have an alternative to diesel, the rare 1.4-litre turbo might be worth a look, not least because it’s quieter than the rather rattly diesel. No matter what the engine, try to assess the state and smoothness of the manual gearbox, as mechanical issues are not unknown.
Speaking of gearbox issues, the dual mass flywheel can also be problematic. Juddery clutches, and noises or vibrations from the gearbox are all giveaways of impending big bills (or, simply, a second-hand car that’s best avoided).
Best-value trims are the mid-range ones, variously called Exclusiv, Design, SE or Tech Line over the years. The posh Elite is packed with goodies and nice to have, but don’t bother with SRi, VX-Line or full-fat VXR models. They have stiff suspension which ruins the ride quality and thus the Insignia’s long-distance driving appeal.
Stretch your budget to £8000 and you can get one of the facelifted-models, introduced from 2013. It’s well worth making the jump if you can. The interior improvements were significant and the exterior was also lifted, gaining modern features such as LED running lights.
If you’re buying a car from before 2010, make sure the recall to check the driver’s airbag module has been carried out. Left unchecked, it can fall from its mounting and not work properly when you most need it. Oh, and does the hatchback boot lid not stay up when opened? There was a recall for that too, which saw the gas support struts replaced.