The Grandland X is a very important car for Vauxhall. European sales of conventional hatchbacks and saloons, like the Astra and Insignia, are steadily sliding downhill every year. In their place have come hordes of soft-roader SUVs; minimal actual off-roading capabilities but with tougher looks and higher seating positions.
The Nissan Qashqai originally led the way, but now everyone is piling into the market and the vast majority of new cars we review here at The Car Expert are faux-by-fours of some sort. Vauxhall is playing catch-up in this area, having killed off its unloved and uncompetitive Antara model a few years ago.
The new Grandland X marks a fresh start for the British brand in the mid-size SUV segment, with a large helping hand from its new French owners PSA Groupe. The Grandland X shares its underpinnings with other members of the family, like the Peugeot 3008 and 5008, DS 7 Crossback and Citroën C5 Aircross.
Plunging into the middle of the pack, Vauxhall has set its prices higher than many of its major rivals – but is offering a lot of kit for your money in return. Once you start ticking options boxes on a Nissan Qashqai or SEAT Ateca, it largely evens out. And in any case, it will all depend on the finance and discounting offers that will inevitably follow the launch of the new model, and Vauxhall is not usually afraid to slash prices to boost sales.
Ultimately, the Grandland X will need to be a sales success to help boost Vauxhall’s profitability and market share. The company expects that it will become the second-biggest selling model to retail customers in its range, behind the Corsa. Astra and Insignia sales are dominated by fleet buyers, so this car needs to pull regular punters into Vauxhall showrooms for the next seven years.
Buying and owning a Vauxhall Grandland X
The Grandland X is being launched with four trim specifications, three aimed at retail customers and one targeting fleet buyers. There is a simple choice between a single 1.2-litre petrol engine and a 1.6-litre diesel engine (for an extra £1,375), with the petrol unit a bit perkier but the diesel probably better if you’re loading the car up with family and luggage. None have four-wheel drive, relying on trick software to enhance grip on loose surfaces like mud or snow.
The Tech Line Nav model is cheapest on paper (about £22,300 on-road), but is intended as a fleet model for company car drivers and there are unlikely to be retail offers available to private buyers.
The retail customer range starts with the SE trim level at about £22,500 on-road. That’s dearer than the Tech Line Nav and it gets much less standard equipment, which is because it’s basically a price-leader model that will only account for 5% of sales. But it will presumably look appealing in adverts for £199/month on a PCP or similar with attractive discounts.
The mid-spec for private buyers is Sport Nav, which is more than £2,000 dearer than the Tech Line Nav – with that extra money only giving you a different style of alloy wheel. But it does give you an indication that there will be regular discounting on Sport Nav models to make them more competitive.
Top of the line is the Elite Nav, which gets all the available gizmos and safety features.
In terms of safety, the Grandland X scored five stars from Euro NCAP and has a good standard level of safety equipment. The base model SE doesn’t get autonomous emergency braking or other advanced safety systems, which is disappointing, but since Vauxhall doesn’t really expect to sell very many of those it’s not as much of an issue as it otherwise might be.
The rest of the range comes standard with a safety pack, comprising autonomous emergency braking, driver drowsiness detection, lane assist and a forward collision alert.
Inside the Vauxhall Grandland X
The Grandland X might be based on the Peugeot 3008 and have very similar dimensions inside, but the layout is far more conventional than the Peugeot’s dazzling digital displays. That probably says a lot about Vauxhall’s intended market for the car; straight down the middle of the road and not too off-putting for technophobes or buyers of advancing years.
If you’ve recently set foot inside a new Astra, Insignia or Crossland X, it will look very familiar. But that’s not necessarily a negative, because it all works very well indeed. Switchgear is well organised and logically laid out, showing that considerable thought has gone into it.
A small but important example: the volume knob on most car stereos is placed on the left side of the dashboard. Why? Because it’s more convenient if your steering wheel is on the left-hand side. But on right-hand drive cars, manufacturers almost never bother to change the stereo controls, so British drivers have to reach further to grab the most frequently-used control on the dashboard. Vauxhall has been smarter than most, however, and put the volume knob right in the middle of the dash, under the infotainment screen, and within a comfortable arm’s reach for both driver and front passenger. I know, I’m petty. But it shows a level of thought absent in most new cars.
The seats are comfy enough and the all-round visibility is reasonable, much like any other modern SUV – higher up than a regular car but still with thick pillars everywhere. Headroom and legroom are also fine both front and rear, although as usual the rear centre seat is not a pleasant place to spend any length of time.
Boot space is good, and big enough for most family use. There’s a double floor so you can hide a few things out of sight, or lower the floor to fit some bulkier cargo if you need to. In other words, it’s very similar to most other cars in its class without quibbling about a few litres here and there.
The same can’t be said about the glovebox, which is tiny and virtually unusable except for maybe storing a pair of gloves. Other storage for various odds and ends is also a bit mean, so you’ll need to get serious about slimming down the amount of unnecessary stuff you carry around in your car.
Driving the Vauxhall Grandland X
Much like the interior, the Grandland X driving experience is entirely sensible and middle-of-the-road. It’s comfortable and quiet. It feels reassuringly predictable, with everything happening exactly as you expect it to.
The steering is light for easy wheel-twirling in car parks, although there’s no great feel of what’s going on with the front wheels. The gearshift and clutch on manual cars are easy to use, so you shouldn’t have to endure agony with every gear change on long journeys.
Like most modern diesel engines, the 1.6-litre unit in the Grandland X is functional rather than fun, but it does give the feeling that it will happily go all day with a carload of people and luggage and won’t break a sweat.
The petrol engine is a bit zippier on solo trips and flat roads, but it is less likely to maintain that edge when you load it up with extra weight and point it up a hill. It is just under £1,400 cheaper though, so you’ll need to decide what you need your car to do before deciding which way to go.
The ride is generally pretty comfortable, although the 18-inch wheels on the Sport Nav and Tech Line Nav models make life a bit more comfy than the standard 19-inch wheels on the Elite Nav models.
The overwhelming feeling from the Grandland X is that it’s a very competent car that can stand comfortably alongside its competitors, without offering anything compelling or unique. There’s not many reasons not to choose a Grandland X, but there’s also no “must-have” feeling about it. It’s impressive, but then so are most of the cars in this class.
The Grandland X ticks pretty much all the boxes that modern families need to tick. It’s comfortable, practical and well equipped for the prices listed. The finance offers will be announced closer to the car’s on-sale date of December/January, but if the payments are comparable to a Qashqai or 3008 then the Grandland X will be a perfectly reasonable choice.