Insignia: the importance of niche

Insignia: the importance of niche

Holden admits its new Insignia VXR, the third of its new products from German-Opel is not going to be a big seller. And like the Cascada and Astra before it, they are ok with that.

The 2.8-litre V6 turbocharged all-wheel-drive $69,990 is a niche product targeted at an older male market skew, and the two key competitors in the market are the all-wheel-drive Subaru Legacy and the Volkswagen Passat 4Motion sedan, and CC 4Motion.

According to Holden New Zealand marketing manager Marnie Samphier, less than 500 new vehicles a year are sold in this particular category, and Holden’s first shipment is 20 vehicles to get the ball rolling.

Samphier reckons the target audience will be metro-centric males aged 49 to 64, who would be considering an entry level European car or a late model second hand imported European car.

She also says the Insignia VXR will appeal to car and tech enthusiasts.

It also eclipses the VF series Commodore as Holden’s most technologically advanced vehicle in dealerships.

The Insignia VXR brings adaptive cruise control, lane change alert, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive forward lighting, adaptive stability technology, high beam assist, and rear cross traffic alert to the market.

The adaptive cruise control, lane change alert, and autonomous emergency braking features are all new to any vehicle marketed under the Holden umbrella, but it’s possible these features will spread to other models.

Only one specification will be offered, and there are four colour choices for the Insignia VXR being summit white, carbon flash black, arden blue, and silver lake.

There are no options but there don’t need to be, as we discovered the specification is comprehensive. Navigation, bluetooth, smart key entry, push button start, and a touch screen for the MyLink system are all standard features.

During our ice driving experience at the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds near Cardrona, the heated leather Recaro sport bucket front seats and dual zone climate control were certainly appreciated, as was the ability of the cars traction control system and all-wheel-drive.

Even with the electronic controls switched off, the Insignia VXR is a very stable car and it took a fair bit of effort to get it to drift and flick around the cones placed on the ice circuit in the manner of a Scandinavian rally driver!

For the ice drive, the cars were fitted with 19-inch winter tyres, but for the road drive back to our accommodation in Queenstown the standard 20-inch tyres were re-fitted.

For a performance orientated vehicle fitted with wide low profile tyres, the ride quality is exceptional, especially over dirt and gravel roads. This may be attributable to the FlexRide chassis control system that offers three settings being standard, sport, and VXR.

You can interpret those settings as being comfortable, less comfortable, and full track day mode!

The all-wheel-drive system can send power to any wheel which looses traction, including sending all the engine torque to the rear wheels if necessary, but for normal every day driving the traction is predominately front-wheel-driven for economy purposes.

Power can be apportioned 30% to the front wheels, and 70% to the rear wheels when cornering hard to maintain speed and stability. It certainly managed to put a smile on our dials while driving up to Glenorchy and back from Queenstown. It even manages to sound sexier than a Commodore, which caused a bit of chagrin for the assembled Holden execs.

While the Insignia VXR may be late coming to New Zealand, it has been available in Europe since 2009, this doesn’t negate the fact it’s a very good and competent vehicle. It’s sleek, fast, and comfortable which should be very attractive to it’s male-skewed audience.

It’s also extremely well built and finished as you would expect from a German manufactured vehicle that is another reason Holden hopes it will entice buyers to its dealership showrooms.

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