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Vauxhall finally has a credible contender in the mid-sized SUV class. But just how competitive can this Grandland X model be? Jonathan Crouch decides.
It's surprising how long it's taken Vauxhall to get itself proper representation in the mid-sized 'Qashqai-class' family SUV segment. Yes, there was the Korean-built Antara model that sold between 2007 and 2016, but that car was crude, expensive to run and not very well built. Buyers almost universally ignored it. Which was a problem for the Griffin brand, at a time when Nissan Qashqais and Peugeot 3008s were flying from the showrooms. What to do? Economics meant that some sort of platform-sharing deal for representation in this sector would be essential, so Vauxhall turned to Peugeot, with whom the brand was starting to consider a merger. Well before that happened, a deal was concluded to see the creation of a small SUV (the Vauxhall Crossland X) created from the underpinnings of a Peugeot 2008. And a mid-sized model (this Grandland X) to be built using the platform and engineering of a MK2 model Peugeot 3008.
Engine-wise, mainstream Grandland X buyers are offered a PSA-sourced choice of units, either a three cylinder 130PS 1.2-litre petrol powerplant or a 130PS 1.5-litre CDTi diesel. There are manual and automatic transmission options in both cases. Near the top of the range, there's an auto-only 177PS 2.0-litre CDTi range-topping model. All the variants just mentioned are front-driven. If you can afford more, Vauxhall hopes you'll consider the top petrol/electric plug-in 'Hybrid4' variant, which uses a 1.6-litre direction turbo, offers 4WD and delivers a combined output of 300PS. Whatever your choice of engine, don't expect handling to be especially rewarding; if you want that, why on earth are you considering buying an SUV in the first place? Like most of its rivals, Vauxhall has focused instead on ride and refinement and you can expect high class standards to be matched in this regard. On the mainstream front-driven models, the brand offers an optional electronic Grip Control system that ensures traction in diverse driving situations. The driver has a choice of five driving modes: for each one the system adapts the torque distribution to the front wheels, allows wheel-spin if necessary, and, with the automatic transmission, adjusts shift points as well as throttle response. This ensures traction and stable handling regardless of the road surface. The brand continues to deliver on its commitment to lead in lighting technology, equipping the Grandland X with Adaptive Forward Lighting LED headlamps. With these, functions such as cornering light, high beam assist and auto levelling guarantee optimal illumination of the road ahead.
At nearly 4.5m long, nearly 1.9m wide and nearly 1.65m high, the Grandland X is a touch bigger than the mid-sized SUV Qashqai-class norm - and, Vauxhall hopes, a touch more distinctive. As usual, that's a matter of perspective: ours is that the Peugeot 3008 crossover this car is based upon is slightly more eye-catching, but you may think differently. The Grandland is certainly good looking enough to stand its corner on the school run. Above the front skid plate, the bold grille proudly displays the Vauxhall Griffin badge, chrome winglets embracing the brand logo and flowing outwards to the slim, double-wing LED headlamps. Muscular, sculpted wheel arches and protective cladding on the lower body deliver the required dose of 'SUV-ness' and an optional two-tone finish, with the roof in contrasting black, adds an extra touch of personalisation. Inside, the instrument panel and centre console with touchscreen are clearly laid out and horizontally aligned to the driver. There's no sign of the 'love-it-or-hate-it' i-Drive cockpit of this model's Peugeot design stablemate, which sees 3008 buyers viewing the instrument dials over the steering wheel rim. That may be a relief for some. The centre stack has three horizontal rows of controls for fast and intuitive access to infotainment, climate control and chassis functions. Driver and passengers benefit from the elevated seating position typical of an SUV, which ensures good visibility in all situations. And this model's relatively long wheelbase provides decent space for up to five people, while the luggage compartment (with a load volume from 514-litres to a maximum of 1,652 litres) should offer more than adequate room for luggage.
So, let's get to the pricing, which is mainly pitched in the £24,000 to £35,000 bracket - pretty much what you'd expect these days for a family-sized Qashqai-class compact Crossover with cutting-edge design. There's a choice of five trim levels - 'SE', 'Business Edition Nav', 'SRi Nav', 'Elite Nav' and 'Ultimate Nav'. The most affordable variants use an impressively efficient three cylinder 1.2-litre 130PS turbo petrol unit - and that might be all you really need if your annual mileage is quite low. Most customers though, are likely to want to pay extra for the 1.5-litre CDTi diesel variant, this engine offered with 130PS. Model for model, the diesel is around £1,500 more expensive to buy. Both engines come with the option of automatic transmission. There's also a petrol/electric plug-in Hybrid4 variant available at the top of the range, available with the top four trim levels at prices ranging in the £40,000 to £45,000 bracket. Across the range, the Grandland X offers a selection of ultra-modern assistance and comfort features. Adaptive Cruise Control with pedestrian detection and Automatic Emergency Braking, Driver Drowsiness Alert, and Advanced Park Assist are just some highlights. AGR-certified premium ergonomic front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats and a smart powered tailgate that opens with a kick, all ensure driver and passenger comfort. Grandland X drivers and passengers can enjoy cutting-edge connectivity with the latest generation of IntelliLink infotainment systems and the personal connectivity and service assistant Vauxhall OnStar, which now includes new services such as hotel booking and parking space search. Smartphones can easily be integrated to the infotainment system and charged wirelessly via inductive charging on handsets with this function.
It used to be that there was quite a big running cost penalty for choosing any sort of Crossover SUV over a conventional Focus-sized family hatch and the reason why was mainly down to weight. Take a Ford Kuga, for example, which weighs a hefty 1.6-tonnes, around 300kgs more than the Focus it's based upon. If, in contrast, you compare this Grandland X with its counterpart, the Astra hatch, the difference is around half that. Match that to cutting-edge engine technology with stop/start efficiency and you'd expect this Grandland X to deliver a near class-leading set of running cost returns - which it pretty much does. The 1.2-litre petrol model manages up to 44.8mpg on the WLTP combined cycle and up to 116g/km of NEDC-rated CO2, while the 1.5-litre CDTi version delivers up to 53.3mpg and up to 111g/km. The 2.0-litre diesel manages 53.3mpg and 128g/km of CO2. The other option is the petrol/electric Hybrid4 variant, which when fully charged, offers a 31 mile WLTP-rated driving range. The battery can be charged fully in just 1hr 45mins using an optional 6.6kW wallbox. The WLTP combined cycle fuel figure is a faintly unbelievable 166mpg and the NEDC CO2 figure of 36g/km will mean low tax bills. You'll also need to know that Vauxhall includes a three-year, 60,000 mile warranty as standard, a package that can be extended up to five years and 100,000 miles at extra cost. A year's free breakdown cover is also provided, along with a six-year anti-corrosion guarantee. Plus you can opt for a service plan that lets you pay monthly to spread the cost of regular work to your car. As part of this, Vauxhall offers discounts on wear and tear items, such as brake pads and windscreen wipers.
Vauxhall hasn't bought us anything particularly new or innovative here, but it has given itself a fighting chance of getting an important slice of sales in this vitally important fast-growing market segment. The Grandland X is comfortable, good-looking, well-equipped and practical, all attributes that will endear it to likely showroom browsers. Don't expect it to be particularly dynamically rewarding; few SUVs are. You can though, have much higher expectations when it comes to ride and refinement. In short, if you want an SUV in this class, there's no real reason why you shouldn't consider this one. And that, for Vauxhall, is a big step forward.
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