The off-road estate isn’t a new concept, but it’s one that more car manufacturers are turning to in an effort to create upmarket versions of their everyday family carriers.

Vauxhall is the latest company to head for the hills, with the new Insignia Country Tourer. As the name suggests, this car is based on the Insignia Sports Tourer estate, but it’s been given an SUV-style makeover to mark it out as a premium version of the recently revised family model. Here we try out the flagship BiTurbo diesel, which comes with four-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission.

For this test, we’ve lined up another family estate that’s been given a rugged makeover: the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack. It doesn’t have quite as much power as the Insignia, and it’s more expensive, too, but with its 4MOTION four-wheel drive and energy-saving BlueMotion tweaks, it should still be a tough rival for the new Vauxhall.

• Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer review

• Volkswagen Passat Alltrack review

Click the links above to read each review and then read on for our verdict.

Head-to-head

Off-road

Neither car here has permanent four-wheel drive. Instead, they use reactive systems that feed power to the tyres with the most grip. This means extra traction if the going gets slippery, but neither is a substitute for a proper 4x4.

The Passat has a slight edge over the Insignia thanks to its Off-Road mode, which activates the hill descent control and hill-start systems, as well as the electronic diff lock.

Load capacity

when the back seats are in place, the Insignia’s boot is 48 litres down on the Passat’s, with 540 litres of space. But the VW has a 186-litre advantage with the seats folded, as it offers a 1,716-litre maximum capacity. The Vauxhall features a powered tailgate as standard – it’s a £335 option on the Passat.

Company costs

The Insignia’s lower P11D price is countered by 174g/km emissions, placing it in the 30 per cent tax bracket. Higher-rate payers face a £3,662 bill – £230 more than for the Passat – although adding options will raise the VW’s bill.

Verdict

1st place: Volkswagen Passat Alltrack

We think the Passat Alltrack is still the best crossover estate on the market. The punchy diesel, slick DSG box, decent performance, relaxed cruising comfort and better fuel economy give it a clear advantage over the Insignia, and cancel out its higher asking price.

2nd place: Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer

The Insignia Country Tourer is a relatively comfortable and roomy family estate with plenty of gadgets to keep you amused. Trouble is, the BiTurbo diesel is thirsty and unresponsive and the ride is unsettled, while steep running costs also count against the new car.

Figures

VW Passat Alltrack 2.0 TDI (177) 4MOTIONVauxhall Insignia Country Tourer 2.0 BiTurbo 4x4 Nav

On-the-road price/total as tested£32,160/£36,765£30,864/£33,169

Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£13,218/41.1%£10,679/34.6%

Depreciation£18,942£20,185

Annual tax liability std/higher rate£1,716/£3,432£1,831/£3,662

Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,936/£3,227£2,331/£3,885

Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost26/£389/G/£18023/£347/H/£205

Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£287 (2yrs/20k)£186/£303/£186

Length/wheelbase4,874/2,710mm4,920/2,737mm

Height/width1,550/1,820mm1,523/1,856mm

Engine4cyl in-line/1,968cc4cyl in-line/1,956cc

Peak power175/4,200 bhp/rpm192/4,000 bhp/rpm

Peak torque380/1,750 Nm/rpm400/1,750 Nm/rpm

Transmission6-spd auto/4WD6-spd auto/4WD

Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel70 litres/space saver70 litres/£95

Boot capacity (seats up/down)588/1,716 litres540/1,530 litres

Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,726/649/2,000kg1,768/667/1,600kg

Turning circle11.4 metres11.5 metres

Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/1yr3yrs (60,000)/1yr

Service intervals/UK dealersVariable/22320k miles (1yr)/404

Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.19th/25th29th/18th

Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars91/77/54/594/79/40/5

0-60/30-70mph7.9/8.0 secs8.3/7.9 secs

30-50mph in 3rd/4th3.2/4.5 secs3.9/5.7 secs

50-70mph in 5th/6th6.3/8.0 secs7.1/10.4 secs

Top speed/rpm at 70mph131mph/2,250rpm130mph/1,800rpm

Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph49.2/34.3/9.0m47.3/34.0/10.0m

Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph68/46/61/67dB71/50/60/71dB

Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range38.4/8.4/591 miles31.9/7.0/491 miles

Govt urban/extra-urban/combined40.4/53.3/47.9mpg31.7/53.3/42.8mpg

Govt urban/extra-urban/combined8.9/11.7/10.5mpl7.0/11.7/9.4mpl

Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket197/155g/km/27%237/174g/km/30%

Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSix/yes/yes/£310Six/yes/yes/£300

Adaptive cruise/stability ctrl/tow bar£725/yes/£865£1,100/yes/£545

Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/£1,805/£280Yes/£1,045/£500

Met paint/adaptive xenons/keyless go£535/£1,050/£440£545/yes/£395

Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes

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