Paul Horrell’s first drive 2018 Opel Insignia Review (nee Holden Commodore) with specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

IN A NUTSHELL The new European Opel Insignia has a mountain to climb in Australia. It has to capture the mainstream, as it’s going to wear Holden Commodore badges. And yes it’s front-drive, or in top versions AWD. The cabin is big and finished with a lush quality the Commodore never had, it’s loaded with high-tech features and it’s a quiet comfy machine to ride in. Not such good news for the driver though: it’s a dull steer. That said, we drove about the dullest version in the Euro lineup. Oz versions get more power and a locally developed suspension tune, so there’s hope yet.

2018 Opel Commodore (European spec)

PRICE $NA WARRANTY 3 years/100,000 km ENGINE (tested) 1.6L turbo diesel 4cyl b 100kW at 3500-4000rpm TORQUE 320Nm at 2000-2250rpm TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual DRIVE front-wheel drive BODY 4897mm (L); 1795mm (W EXC MIRRORS); 2093mm (W INC MIRRORS); 1455mm (H) KERB WEIGHT 1500kg approx SEATS 5 FUEL TANK 62 litres SPARE no (in Europe) THIRST 4.4 L/100km combined cycle FUEL diesel


IF HOLDEN IS to remain a serious player, a massive amount hinges on this car. And to a degree it’s out of Holden’s hands, as it’s designed and built by Opel in Germany. But Holden specified certain aspects at the beginning of the project, and is doing its own chassis tune at the end.

2018 Opel Insignia Review and 2018 Holden Commodore Review by Practical Motoring
Here’s what the new Holden Commodore Tourer will look like, so imagine this grille on the Opel Insignia you see here and you won’t be far off.

Then, crazily, on the day before the Insignia’s public launch in March 2017, it also slipped from GM’s direct control too. GM did a deal to sell Opel to the French Peugeot Group. Still, Peugeot has agreed to honour the agreement to supply cars to Holden – why wouldn’t it, as it’s all about selling cars and never mind the badge.

Oh, and by the way, the car we drove ran the Vauxhall badge, which is Opel’s British-market sister nameplate. So, when the local marketing people talk about it carrying authentic Holden DNA, remember Vauxhall people say it’s a true Vauxhall, and Opel people say it’s a true Opel. And likely American Buick salesmen will get their turn too. Some car brands are consistent and authentic… and then there’s General Motors.

2018 Opel Insignia Review and 2018 Holden Commodore Review by Practical Motoring

Anyway, to the car itself. The Insignia/Commodore runs on a new platform over the current Holden Insignia, and it’s much longer in the wheelbase for extra cabin space. The structure has shorter overhangs for better looks, and it’s lighter for better fuel efficiency and performance, and yet stronger to improve safety. Active safety tech and connectivity are bang up to date too.

What’s the interior like?

For a Euro-format front-driver, this is a big cabin. Not so vast as a Volvo S90 maybe, but up there with an Audi A6 for room in the back. It’s wider than a current Insignia, but not up to the current Commodore for shoulder width.

2018 Opel Insignia Review and 2018 Holden Commodore Review by Practical Motoring

It’s also well-trimmed and feels like a high-quality piece. The mid-spec car we drove had a stitched dash-top, and chromed trims around much of the switchgear.

2018 Opel Insignia Review and 2018 Holden Commodore Review by Practical Motoring

Ahead of the driver lives a digital-with-analogue dial combo. The rev-counter and fuel and water temp gauges are permanent hardware, but the speedo and oil temp and voltmeters (don’t see them on many cars these days, but useful in the hot outback) are rendered on a TFT screen. You can reconfigure that screen to emphasise a lot of useful info: trip computer, entertainment, navigation.

2018 Opel Insignia Review and 2018 Holden Commodore Review by Practical Motoring

In the centre of the dash, the touchscreen is a high-quality item with good graphics and quick responses. It’ll also do phone mirroring, ie. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Basic audio functions and the climate controls, have proper hardware switches and twist-knobs beneath the screen, which is a good ergonomic solution for making quick adjustments as you drive.

2018 Opel Insignia Review and 2018 Holden Commodore Review by Practical Motoring

The seats are low in the car, but the cushion on the base-version’s manually adjusted seats is oddly angled so it’s not easy to get comfy at first. The optional chairs have a massage function. In the back, there’s good leg and headroom even for tallish men.

Storage space is strong, with console bins and cupholders ahead of the gear-lever, more cubbies behind – including an inductive phone charging plate – and a big hollow box under the armrest. Twin USB points replenish rear passengers’ devices’ batteries, and another, connected to the infotainment system, resides up front.

2018 Opel Insignia Review and 2018 Holden Commodore Review by Practical Motoring

The boot is 490 litres, which is going to be more than adequate for most. Even the hatch has a 60:40 split-fold backrest with remote-switched releases in the boot. There’s no spare wheel in the UK car we drive, but there is space for one.

2018 Opel Insignia Review and 2018 Holden Commodore Review by Practical Motoring

What’s it like on the road?

We drove the car in its softest spec: small engine, 17-inch wheels, front-drive. Some versions will go up to 20-inch wheels and get adaptive damping – which GM is good at. The V6 adds a driven rear axle with active torque vectoring.

But this cooking version does comfort very well. The springs are soft and generally soak up poor roads well, though there’s a bit of a shuffling motion as if there’s friction at play. Happily, the chassis and tyres don’t kick up much noise as they go.

2018 Opel Insignia Review and 2018 Holden Commodore Review by Practical Motoring

The steering is accurate and calm – it’s an easy car to place on the highway for hours on end, even if you don’t turn on the lane assistance systems. And around spiral off-ramps or tight rural turns the car has a decent cornering balance, seldom coming across as nose heavy. In that sense, I didn’t mind it was front-drive. The issue is the sense of connection through the steering – there’s basically none of it. Neither does altering your accelerator position do anything much to alter that cornering balance. So, you just point the car and round it goes. It’s easy, but not engaging.

Our tester was a 1.6-litre diesel, a quiet unit at urban speeds and when cruising, but strained when pushed beyond 3000rpm. It wouldn’t have the performance to tow uphill. The manual transmission shifts easily but, like the steering, the lever doesn’t feel like it’s connected to any actual mechanical action.

2018 Opel Insignia Review and 2018 Holden Commodore Review by Practical Motoring

For Australia, there will be a pair of 2.0-litre engines, petrol and diesel. We’ve driven the diesel in other GM cars and it’s a bit grumbly, but the Insignia’s more modern installation will, we guess, calm it down. The petrol engine is all-new. Both those drive through an eight-speed automatic, while the V6 AWD uses a new nine-speed auto.

What about the safety features?

Too soon yet for NCAP, so we can’t say anything definitive about this car body’s crash strength.

There’s a strong portfolio of active electronics. For Oz, Holden speaks of (standard or optional): Autonomous Emergency Braking; Forward Collision Alert; a display on the speedo that shows you how many seconds gap you are leaving to the car in front; Adaptive Cruise Control and Speed Limit Cruise Control; Lane Departure Warning; Lane Keep Assist which nudges the steering to keep the car between white lines; Side Blind-Zone Alert; Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.

2018 Opel Insignia Review and 2018 Holden Commodore Review by Practical Motoring

Those warnings and driver-assist functions, which are enabled by radar and cameras, are handy and reassuring, and worked properly on the test car.

But the Commodore can also help you see better: the optional Intellilux LED headlamps are, literally, a brilliant help on rural night drives. They shine a variably and precisely shaped beam pattern just where you need it, by switching 16 LEDs on each side. An additional spot beam shines up to 400m ahead, the manufacturer claims.

2018 Opel Insignia Review and 2018 Holden Commodore Review by Practical Motoring

To help you keep your eyes on the road, and better remind you of your speed, a head-up-display shows speed, plus speed limit read by the car’s camera, plus navigation arrows. It’s a clean, high-resolution display.

Why would you buy one?

Because you want a German designed and engineered car with a Holden badge. But that might also be the same reason why many people won’t buy the new Commodore. There’s no doubting it’s a very good car, but can the new Opel, er, Vauxhall, er, Holden Commodore convince the Commodore-buying heartland and even those looking to SUVs, or Government agencies moving away from Commodore and Falcon (because they have to and also because they no longer need the size) to consider the Commodore? Time will tell.

The new Holden Commodore won’t be here until next year, but there’ll be an Australian reveal later this year. Stay tuned.


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About Author

Paul Horrell

Paul's working life has been paced out in cars. He began road-testing when the VW Golf was in its second generation. It's now in its eighth. He covers much more than the tyre-smoking part of the road-test landscape. He roots around in the financial machinations of the car corporations and the apparent voodoo of the technologies. Then he clarifies those complications so his general readers – too busy to lodge their heads up the industry's nether regions – get the fast track on what matters and what doesn't. A freelance writer living in London, he usually gets around the city by bicycle, which adds to his (sometimes justified) reputation as a bit green and a bit of a lefty. He's a member of Europe's Car of the Year jury.


  1. Looks like it will compare well to the likes of the Mondeo, Superb and Mazda 6…..though how will it go on the fleet market against the Camry??

    1. Here in the UK we used to have the indicator stalk on the right. Like old Austin 1100s and so on. By the time I began road testing in the 1980s there was a mix, so you had to switch depending on what you were driving. It was confusing and irritating. Now almost all RHD cars in the UK have left-hand indicator stalks. It’s not at all a problem, even though you need to use the same hand to change gear. The only time it bothers you is when you’re using your left hand to hold a sandwich on the motorway. Which of course you shouldn’t be doing.

  2. I agree with ujb on the indicators. It would cost next to nothing to apply right hand drive controls yet they dont seem to want to do it. Sure people say you get used to it but I guarantee from experience driving overseas that in an emergency you instinctively go back to what you have been used to all your life and that is the indicator on the right. I will never buy a car with this arrangement.
    Same with the spare. For a country and all its States that wrap everyone in stupid nappy laws laws because we cant think for ourselves and apply common sense, the bright sparks in Canberra don’t seem to think that a ‘no spare’ or ‘space saver spare’ is a safety hazard and should be outlawed for aussie conditions. Can you imagine a trip to the country or a drive up the Hume Highway and have to deal with what they give you should you have tyre issues. Its woeful !


    1. The reason I shot the boot with the carpet up is to show there is space for a spare wheel and I’m sure Holden will fit one.

  3. Indicator on left is no good – swapping between cars means I’ll get it wrong EVERY time, and to me it renders the car unsafe. ADRs cover inconsequential things but not something this vital.
    It needs to be able to sit a full-sized spare in the well – 80 km at 80 km/h is useless on many highways and dangerous on remote roads.
    Pleased that ventilation controls have knobs – nice touch or buttons are not visible when wearing polaroid sunglasses, but knobs can be adjusted without looking from the road.
    I’d be interested in AWD with a diesel engine and a decent-sized fuel tank. Having been spoiled with two vehicles, I’m after at least 1000 km range.
    I’ll be interested to see the lights in action. HID and Projector lamps may be greet to see as a driver, but bounce up into oncoming drivers’ eyes on our rough roads and create hazardous situations (self-levelling takes too long).
    I like instrumentation variability – I hope I can get the max!
    But – can the instrument lighting really be dimmed? Every modern vehicle I have only allows partial dimming, and on rural roads that appears blindingly bright (so roadside furniture and road markings are not as visible).
    I think I’m becoming a grouch, but too many vehicles, to me, are designed below the common denominator.
    Oh, and if it has built-in SatNav, will it be updated every time the car is in for a service?
    Speaking of service, can it determine when the service is due (as my Renault Clio did in 2008, stretching the service interval to 20 000 km)?

    1. The cars being fined tuned in Australia by Holden and driven by local press earlier this year have right hand side indicator stalk. I know as I asked the question of a journalist who drove the V6 version. He said that definitely the Holden versions had right side indicator stalk. It’s puzzling that Vauxhall don’t use this available part.

    2. The new Supercars by Ferrari and Lamborghini are doing indicators on the steering wheel with a switch very similar to a motorbike. seems to be very intuitive and costs less to manufacture. perhaps Holden could follow that path.

  4. Insignia as next Commodore? Not the brightest of idea to retain the nameplate. Insignia certainly looks good, has a nicely detailed cabin. A bit surprised to note the drive wasn’t exciting perhaps the costlier versions will be better. As for turn signals placed on the left, it looks like Ford appears to have re-located the indicator stalk to the right. My Mondeo is so equipped and have noticed the same on the Focus, Escape, Fiesta and even Mustang. Let’s hope this will may lead to more European manufacturers thinking the same way. After call, cars from left-hook Korea also have their turn signals moved to the right.

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