Most low emission versions of cars usually come with a built-in compromise – to get access to the higher fuel economy and lower emissions you have to don the hair shirt of reduced performance.
Not so with Vauxhall's Insignia Ecoflex – it uses the same 160bhp turbodiesel engine as found in the regular models, yet offers improved frugality.
Thanks to the addition of an underbody panel and a 10mm lower ride height, the Ecoflex Insignia slips through the air more efficiently than its standard stablemates.
Add in low rolling resistance tyres, a gearshift indicator graphic in the instrument display which recommends the ideal gear for best economy, and revisions to the gearbox to offer lower rpm at cruising speed, and the net result is a five-door family hatchback that offers 160bhp and 258lb-ft of torque and returns a claimed 54.7mpg on the combined cycle and emits 136g/km of CO2.
That compares with 48.7mpg and 154g/km in the non-Ecoflex Insignia – putting it three benefit-in-kind tax bands higher with the result that a 20% taxpayer will pay £9 a month more.
The non-Ecoflex model will also cost £25 a year more in VED charges.
These figures are even more impressive when you consider that most of the Insignia's key rivals offer around 110bhp in their low emission forms.
With 160bhp and plenty of torque from low down in the rev range, the Insignia has the power to offer decent acceleration and a relaxed cruising nature.
The only slight downside is the over-long sixth gear ratio – this is especially noticeable on the motorway when you slow down and try to pick up speed again from around 50mph.
Because this ratio is designed for efficient cruising, it cannot get into the torque band, resulting in a downshift to fifth, and sometimes fourth, to make progress again.
That gripe aside, the Insignia offers high mileage drivers everything they could want – decent specification, high build quality, spacious interior and luggage compartment, and a very comfortable ride.
In combining the performance of a standard car with the benefits of low emissions, the Insignia Ecoflex ticks all boxes for company motoring. And CAP agrees – putting its RV at 24% after four-years/80,000-miles – the same as Volkswagen's Passat.
- Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi Econetic
- Peugeot 407 HDi 110 SR ConnectNav
- VW Passat 2.0 TDI 110 BlueMotion 2
Passat, Mondeo and 407 have around 110bhp, while the Insignia offers 160bhp.
- Passat £18,481
- 407 £19,870
- Insignia £19,990
- Mondeo £20,620
Emissions and tax
A 20% tax-payer’s BIK bill will be £55 a month in the VW – 407 £59, Insignia £59, Mondeo £61.
- Passat 128g/km/18%
- 407 129g/km/18%
- Insignia 136g/km/18%
- Mondeo 139g/km/18%
Peugeot returns a claimed average of 57.7mpg – Passat 57.6, Insignia 54.7 and Mondeo 54.3.
- 407 8.14/£6,512
- Passat 8.16/£6,528
- Insignia 8.59/£6,872
- Mondeo 8.65/£6,920
Passat and Insignia both have 24% RV, but Passat loses less cash as it is cheaper to buy.
- Passat 29.65/£23,720
- Insignia 31.95/£25,560
- Mondeo 32.82/£26,256
- 407 33.63/£26,904
Lowest monthly rental with maintenance from www.comparecontracthire.com (excluding VAT).
- Mondeo £324 (Arval)
- Passat £330 (Days)
- Insignia £343 (Masterlease)
- 407 £359 (Arval)
This comes down to a straight contest between the Vauxhall and the Volkswagen – the Ford and Peugeot are discounted as they cost too much to run.
While the Passat offers the lowest tax bills and running costs, the Insignia is not far behind and offers a better all-round package in terms of space, power and comfort.
Winner: Vauxhall Insignia Ecoflex