Matt Prior: Goodbye useful estate, hello drop-top SUV

Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer - parked in mud

The Country Tourer’s usefulness wasn’t reflected in its sales

Vauxhall axed the Insignia Country Tourer as Volkswagen launched the T-Roc Cabriolet. What does this say about car buyers?

Siri, give me an allegory for the state of British car buyers.” 

“Certainly. Vauxhall has axed the Insignia Country Tourer, and Volkswagen is introducing a T-Roc Cabriolet.” 

Honestly, I didn’t see that coming. Every time I open a newspaper, which is too often for my constitution these days, I’m told we’re all, basically, doomed. Goody gumdrops. 

Gloom: the ideal conditions in which to own, frankly, a Toyota Hilux. Failing that, the ideal alternative for the modest suburban dweller with access to a competitive but somewhat limited company car scheme would be a Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer

The Country Tourer is ideal for modern life. It looks like an ordinary estate car. It is beyond anonymous. It is like an airport hotel room shorn of mirrors. It says nothing about its keeper, thus making them the target of nobody’s venom. 

Nobody will place a passive-aggressive anti-urban SUV sticker on its windscreen, and yet it is taller than a normal car and rides on soft tyres so is immune from the potholes that cost local councils – which means you and me – more than £1 billion a year in compensation. It is also extremely spacious, and you should never, but never, underestimate the advantages of a large boot with a flat floor – perhaps even a washable insert – in a looming crisis. 

And beyond all of this, it has a Vauxhall badge on it: because why the hell would you care what kind of badge it has at a time like this? It is the perfect car for austere, concerned, changeable, unpredictable, crises-ridden times. Naturally, then, Vauxhall conspired to sell just 24 of them last year. 

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So it has been pulled from sale. Compare and contrast, then, with the new Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet. If we must. And I’m afraid we must. 

It will go on sale next year and has been created partly because of demand in the UK. Is there a new car you are less likely to buy, I wonder? If you drew up a list of ‘the kinds of car that somebody who really likes cars is likely to walk into a dealer and place a deposit on’, how high do you think the phrase ‘a mainstream compact crossover with a fully convertible roof’ should place? Would it be above last? 

Yet here we are. The new take on that oh-so-stylish old staple, the Golf Cabriolet, or perhaps that car’s nostalgia-fuelled alternative, the Beetle cabriolet, is this: this dollop, this aberration, this pram. 

Tall, short and heavy, likely with a small boot and limited rear seat space, it is an unpractical car with a big frontal area. It is a frivolous proposition from a company whose recent hits include concealed air pollution, landmark fines and imprisoned bosses. Unsurprisingly, there won’t be a diesel version. But pass me those anti-urban SUV stickers anyway. All of them, please. 

And yet, sigh, somehow I don’t actually mind it. 

It’s not my thing, but if somebody likes it, they are at least finding a car interesting – which is better than them not doing so. And I suppose it’s not that badly proportioned. The roof even comes off, which is nice. 

It is a car for more optimistic times than its badge, or what I hear about 2019, would suggest. But if we didn’t want cars like this, for sunnier, happier times, they wouldn’t have made it. So here’s to the optimism that made it possible. And if for no other reason than that, I’m for it.

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Read more

Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer withdrawn from UK sale​

Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet is only mainstream convertible SUV​

UK new car sales: what is each region buying?​



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