New Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport vs Mazda 6 vs Skoda Superb Comparison

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The Vauxhall Insignia has long been a company car favourite, but this new version will need to be great if it’s to fend off these rivals

*** Note : £1 = $1.34

The contenders

Mazda 6 2.2 150 SE Nav

  • List price £23,395
  • Target Price £22,641
  • Strong performance yet low emissions are likely to attract plenty of attention

Skoda Superb 1.6 TDI 120 SE Technology

  • List price £23,000
  • Target Price £21,445
  • One of our favourite executive cars, the Superb is cavernous inside and good to drive

Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport 1.6 CDTI 110 Techline Nav

  • List price £21,220
  • Target Price £21,220
  • More interior space and equipment than the previous Insignia and a low price.

New Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport vs Mazda 6 vs Skoda Superb

A staggering 2.6 million new cars were sold in the UK last year, but surprisingly, most of them weren’t bought by private individuals. Nope, more than half were registered to businesses for use by company car drivers.

With that in mind, we decided to gather together some of the biggest names in the company car world, including one of the newest: the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport. We’re testing it in super-clean and frugal 1.6-litre diesel form – perfect for keeping company car tax bills to a minimum.

In order to take class honours, it’ll have to outdo our current favourite sub-£25k executive car, the Skoda Superb, which also comes fitted with a fuel-sipping 1.6 diesel engine. But there’s another potential hurdle for the new Vauxhall, because the recently facelifted Mazda 6 costs only around a tenner a month more in company car tax, despite coming with a much more powerful 2.2-litre diesel engine.

Driving – Performance, ride, handling, refinement

In the name of low CO2 emissions, the Vauxhall’s engine produces just 109bhp, which makes it the least powerful car here and consequently the slowest in a straight drag race. Peak pulling power doesn’t arrive until 1750rpm, so it also tends to feel lethargic at low revs.

The Skoda’s engine produces just 9bhp more, but that’s enough to beat the Vauxhall’s 0-60mph sprint time by more than a second. The fact that its engine is punchier low down helps the Skoda to feel more responsive around town. Mind you, the Vauxhall’s shorter gearing actually gives it the edge when accelerating from low speeds in the highest gears.

The Mazda is in a totally different league for performance; its 148bhp engine hauled it to 60mph a full five seconds faster than the Vauxhall managed. The engine’s peak pull actually arrives at higher revs than in the others, but with considerably more of it on hand, the Mazda never feels out of breath. It also revs far more smoothly than its rivals.

The Vauxhall’s engine stands out in other ways, though – namely, how quiet it is in this company. Don’t get us wrong: it’s no Audi A4, but it makes the least fuss when pushed hard and remains smooth. The Mazda’s engine is slightly noisier, but the Skoda has the gruffest engine here.

All three cars ride on 17in alloys, providing a level playing field for ride quality. The Vauxhall rounds off bumps best, managing to stay comfortable over broken asphalt and still neatly controlled over speed bumps and larger undulations. The Skoda has a similarly soft, long-wave gait at motorway speeds, but at lower speeds in towns it struggles more over broken surfaces and generates more suspension noise in the process. The Mazda, meanwhile, is definitely the firmest of our contenders no matter what speed you’re doing; you feel every little bump as it passes beneath the car.

Unfortunately, the Mazda’s firmness doesn’t translate into agile handling. When pushed hard through corners, its steering becomes disconcertingly vague and its front tyres are the fi rst to give up grip. True, the Vauxhall leans more through corners, but it grips harder and feels more stable, while its steering provides a better sense of connection with the front wheels. However, the Skoda is easily the most agile. It steers with the most precision, too, and hangs on the longest through corners at higher speeds.

The Skoda was also the quietest at a steady 70mph in our tests, although only by a fraction over the Mazda and Vauxhall. Put simply, none of our contenders is at all fractious on the motorway.

Mazda 6 dashboard

Behind the wheel – Driving position, visibility, build quality

Finding a comfortable driving position is fairly easy in the Vauxhall, thanks to plenty of seat movement, including four-way electrically adjustable lumbar support.

The Skoda goes one better, by offering fully electric seat movement, whereas the Mazda’s lack of any electric seat adjustment leaves it looking the stingiest of the three.

You sit higher up in the Skoda than the other two – a potential annoyance for those who prefer a low-slung driving position. However, combined with slim pillars and tall windows, it’s the easiest to see out of in all directions.

Forward visibility isn’t too bad in the Vauxhall and Mazda, but their thicker rear pillars get in the way a bit when you’re looking over your shoulder. To compound the problem in the Mazda, you don’t even get rear parking sensors (they aren’t optional, either), where as you get them as standard on the other two.

The Skoda’s interior feels the classiest. Its dashboard features lots of soft, dense plastics, and everything feels solid and sturdily bolted together.

The Vauxhall and Mazda aren’t too far behind, but their plastics look noticeably cheaper the farther down the dashboard you go, and their faux-chrome accents aren’t quite as convincing as the equivalents in the Skoda.

Infotainment systems

Mazda 6

Mazda’s Connect infotainment system consists of a 7.0in colour screen that can either be controlled by pressing it or by twisting a rotary dial between the front seats. The latter is easier and safer while you’re driving, and a DAB radio, Bluetooth, two USB ports and sat-nav are welcome features. However, there’s no advanced smartphone mirroring tech such as Apple CarPlay or Android Auto available.

Skoda Superb

The Skoda’s screen is larger than the Mazda’s, at 8.0in, but its touch-only operation makes it more difficult to operate on the move. Still, it’s on-screen graphics are crisp, its icons usefully large and its menus simple to understand. DAB radio, sat-nav, Bluetooth, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring are all standard, and there’s the option to upgrade the sound system for £600.

Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport

Vauxhall, too, has opted for an 8.0in colour touchscreen, and it’s close to the Skoda’s in terms of responsiveness. However, the graphics aren’t as sharp and the menu design is slightly o the pace. Sat-nav, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a DAB radio are all standard and a more powerful sound system is available for £510, while wireless phone charging costs £160 extra. The Vauxhall has three USB ports, the most here.

Mazda 6 rear seats

Space and practicality – Front space, rear space, seating flexibility, boot

All three cars can accommodate two six-footers in their front seats with room to spare, but the Skodahas the most head room. Meanwhile, the Mazda’s broad interior offers marginally the most shoulder space.

In the back, the Skoda is roomiest, with noticeably more head room than its rivals. Passengers over six feet tall will find their heads brushing the ceiling in the back of both the Vauxhall and Mazda, with the former providing fractionally the least clearance.

It’s a different story when it comes to leg room, though. The Mazda has the least, but it and the Vauxhall will still seat a couple of tall adults without their knees brushing the front seatbacks. The Skoda, meanwhile, offers luxury limo levels of knee room.

Sitting three adults side by side on a long journey isn’t comfortable in any of our trio, because the middle passenger has to straddle a big tunnel on the floor.

When it comes to boot usability, there’s a fundamental difference: the Skoda and Vauxhall are hatchbacks, whereas the Mazda is a saloon. As such, it’s no surprise that the Skoda and Vauxhall have more practical boots, with the Skoda’s being the biggest; it’s longer and deeper than the others, with a wider opening, and we managed to fit a whopping 10 carry-on suitcases below the parcel shelf.

You also get 60/40 split-folding rear seats as standard with the Skoda, although they leave a slight step in the floor of the extended load bay when folded and there’s a big lip at the boot entrance.

That’s not to say the Vauxhall’s boot is an embarrassment, though. It easily swallowed seven carry-on suitcases and its hatch opening is usefully wide. Its boot also has a slightly lower lip at its entrance than the Skoda’s and its rear seats split in a more flexible 40/20/40 configuration and lie flat, with no annoying steps.

Meanwhile, the Mazda’s rear seats split 60/40 and lie flat, too, but the relatively small boot opening makes it tricky to get larger items in to begin with. We managed to squeeze in seven carry-on cases, but only just.

Mazda 6

Saloon boot opening impedes access, but we fitted as many cases inside as in the Vauxhall. The Mazda is the worst for rear seat space, although most people will be able to sit comfortably

Boot 489 litres Suitcases 7

Skoda Superb

A class leader for space; four tall adults will be supremely comfortable inside. The Skoda’s boot is also huge; we fitted 10 cases into it. It’s just a shame there’s a big lip at the entrance

Boot 625-1760 litres Suitcases 10

Vauxhall Insignia

The Vauxhall’s boot took seven cases and had room for other smaller items around them. Rear space isn’t a match for the Skoda’s, but there’s more leg room than in the Mazda

Boot 490-1450 litres Suitcases 7

Mazda 6 side

Buying and owning – Costs, equipment, reliability, safety and security

List price matters a lot here, but not because many people will be looking to pay for these cars with cash; instead, a low price combined with low CO2 emissions is the best way to keep your monthly company car tax payments to a minimum. It’s a shame for the Mazda, then, that it has the highest list price of our contenders; it will cost you the most each month in benefit-in-kind tax. Assuming you’re in the 40% tax bracket, the Skoda will save you only £3 a month, though, while the Vauxhall, the cheapest and lowest CO2 emitter here, undercuts that by a further £7.

Companies looking to lease these cars will find a different running order, with the Skoda costing the least by a big margin and the Vauxhall the most. However, company car drivers paying for their own fuel will appreciate the fact that the Vauxhall proved the most frugal in our real-world True MPG tests, even though the Mazda and Skoda weren’t far behind.

Buying privately? The Mazda makes little sense, because its heavy depreciation and high insurance premiums make it the most expensive in the long run – and by a big margin. Big discounts and relatively slow depreciation will make the Skoda cheapest to own privately over three years.

There’s more bad news concerning the Mazda: it has by far the least standard equipment and very few options are available. Vauxhall has been far more generous, although you might still want to add the Winter Pack for £660, bringing heating for the front seats, steering wheel and windscreen for those frosty winter mornings. Likewise, the Skoda has a long list of standard kit, foregoing the Vauxhall’s keyless entry and start (it can be added for £400) but getting standard part-leather seats and electric seat adjustment instead.

Crash safety body Euro NCAP awarded each car the maximum five stars, but that’s not the full story. The Vauxhall scored the best marks for adult occupant protection (the Skoda fared worst), while the Skoda was awarded the best score for child protection, with the Mazda bringing up the rear. The Mazda is also the only one of our trio to not come with automatic emergency braking, which detects objects at lower speeds and applies the brakes to avoid a collision.

Meanwhile, the Insignia comes with the most safety aids; it’s the only one with lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition as standard.

New Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport with Mazda 6 and Skoda Superb

verdict

In last place, it’s the Mazda 6. Yes, its engine is strong and impressively frugal, but it is otherwise disappointing to drive and the least practical of our contenders, and it will cost the most to run as a company car, albeit by a small amount.

Credit has to go to Vauxhall for keeping the Insignia Grand Sport’s price so low while still o ering plenty of kit. It’s the cheapest of our trio to run as a company car, and it has the smoothest ride and the most economical engine. Sure, rear head room could be better and it could be sharper to drive, but it’s still one of the better cars in the class.

However, the Skoda Superb remains top of the pile. It’s the most enjoyable to drive and the quietest cruiser; it also has the classiest interior and is easily the most spacious. True, its engine could be quieter and its suspension more supple at low speeds, but it’s still worth the small extra outlay in company car tax over the Insignia.

1st – Skoda Superb

  • For Hugely spacious; classiest interior; tidiest handling; lots of standard kit
  • Against Gruff engine; lumpy low-speed ride without adaptive suspension
  • Must-have options Rear seatback releases in boot (£100)
Specifications: Skoda Superb 1.6 TDI 120 SE Technology
  • Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
  • List price £23,000
  • Target Price £21,445
  • Power 118bhp @ 3600-4000rpm
  • Torque 184Ib ft @ 1600-3250rpm
  • 0-60mph 10.0sec
  • Top speed 128mph
  • Gov’t fuel economy 62.8mpg
  • True MPG 47.5mpg
  • CO2 emissions 110g/km
2nd – Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport

  • For Quietest engine; comfiest ride; cheapest company car; generous standard equipment
  • Against So-so handling; tightest for rear head room
  • Must-have options None
Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport 1.6 CDTI 110 Techline Nav
  • Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
  • List price £21,220
  • Target Price £21,220
  • Power 109bhp @ 3500rpm
  • Torque 221Ib ft @ 1750-2000rpm
  • 0-60mph 11.3sec
  • Top speed 127mph
  • Gov’t fuel economy 70.6mpg
  • True MPG 50.2mpg
  • CO2 emissions 105g/km
3rd – Mazda 6

  • For Strong yet frugal engine; user-friendly infotainment interface
  • Against Choppy ride; unruly handling; not very well equipped and not many options; shortage of safety kit
  • Must-have options None
Specifications: Mazda 6 2.2 150 SE Nav
  • Engine size 2.2-litre diesel
  • List price £23,395
  • Target Price £22,641
  • Power 148bhp @ 4500rpm
  • Torque 280Ib ft @ 1800-2600rpm
  • 0-60mph 8.3sec
  • Top speed 130mph
  • Gov’t fuel economy 68.9mpg
  • True MPG 47.3mpg
  • CO2 emissions 107g/km

(whatcar.com, https://goo.gl/hdQ37f)

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