THE 'old firm' rivals are squaring up again with Vauxhall trying to claim another scalp from Ford.
Having knocked the Fiesta and Focus off the top of the sales charts for the past two months, Vauxhall is now turning its sights on the Mondeo.
Its new Insignia fleet and family model goes on sale in January with styling, dynamics and high tech features never seen before on a Vauxhall.
The Insignia is shot in the arm so badly needed as a replacement for the Vectra - and it will set new standards in the rep-mobile market.
Within months of going on sale the Insignia will become the first car in the world to feature a forward facing camera to act as an extra pair of eyes for the driver.
It's programmed to recognise speed signs and flash up the information on the dashboard. Combined with a lane departure warning system it will be an extra costing about £300 on all models in the five trim range.
It will be the icing on the cake for a line up which is priced from £15,935 for a 1.8-litre hatch or saloon in Exclusiv specification.
The Insignia range will top out at £30,285 for a very quick 2.8-litre V6 turbo estate complete with auto gearbox and four-wheel-drive.
Diesels are priced from £16,935 while models with factory-fitted sat nav systems start at £16,735.
Three petrol engines, 1.8, 2.0 turbo and 2.8 turbo, and two diesels, both two-litre with one developing 130 and the other 160bhp, will be available initially. A low emission eco model is slated to be available later in 2009.
The diesels, with six speed manual gearboxes, are capable of averaging a claimed 48.7mpg with CO2 emissions of 154g/km while the thirstiest is the V6 at 24.4mpg in the hatch where it has emissions rated at 272g/km.
Compared to the Mondeo the Insignia is slightly more expensive but come the new tax regulations next March the higher powered versions will be at a disadvantage.
The 2.8-litre Vauxhalls will fall into the highest bracket, costing the private motorist £440 a year to tax - £140 more than anyone owning the highest powered Mondeo.
On the road, the Insignia is crisp and precise - light years ahead of the Vectra - but base versions are still not quite as adept as the Mondeo.
The 1.8-litre is up to the job although it needs to be worked through the gears. The diesels, which will be the mainstay of the fleet sales, have the necessary mid-range power but it is the two-litre turbo which really impresses.
Available from mid-range SRi specification with prices starting at £20,635 it delivers a magnificent sporty drive. Top speed is close on 150mph, 0 to 60 takes around seven seconds and it will average almost 32mpg with emissions of 208g/km.
Mated to the four-wheel-drive system it's even better and at £21,885 is a keen competitor to the likes of an Audi A4 quattro. At this point the Insignia suprasses the Mondeo.
The turbo's twin exhausts also complete the Insignia's looks, which from any aspect are swish, smart and smack of quality.
Inside, it's a similar story with plenty of curves across the facia creating an illusion of space.
The dash is purposeful. Plenty of buttons and metal-effect inserts look the business - much more stylish than the wood-effect trim on higher grade interiors which looks a bit out of place in what is otherwise a very modern interior.
Versions with beige leather interior, as opposed to black, are very classy.
All Insignias have electronic stability controls while adaptive suspension is standard on the turbo models. At the touch of a button the ride can be stiffened in sports mode or softened for cruising - and to emphasise the feel the background lighting on the instrument panel changes from red in sports setting to white when touring.
Top range Elite Insignias are also fitted with what Vauxhall calls intelligent lighting - a system which varies the beam automatically to adjust for road conditions and even switches off main beam when oncoming traffic is detected. The system is available as an £850 extra on other models.
Cargo space is plentiful. On the saloon the boot is 500 litres while the hatch offers 520 which with folding rear seats becomes 1,465.
The Insignia is without a doubt the finest Vauxhall of modern times and certainly different enough from the Mondeo to make it highly appealing.
Even from the 1.8-litre onwards there's the right feel of executive class to keep everyone happy.