Although it wasn’t particularly surprising, it was still odd to hear at the press conference preceding the UK media launch of the Grandland X that the Astra is starting to be seen as a minority-interest car. In its various forms over nearly four decades, the Astra has been a core part of Vauxhall’s line-up, and to a large extent it still is.
The most recent figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that the Astra is the sixth most popular car of any sort in the UK, just behind the Corsa. But we are living at a time when SUVs are becoming almost a default choice. Both Vauxhalls are further down the list than the Nissan Qashqai, which is starting to catch up on the third-placed Volkswagen Golf.
It’s therefore important for Vauxhall to have a contender in what’s known within the industry as the C-SUV sector. Hence the arrival of the Grandland X, which is larger than the Crossland X and more of a lifestyle vehicle than the Mokka X.
Its main competitor in this country is of course the Qashqai. Vauxhall also specifies the Ford Kuga and the Kia Sportage as rivals. The Peugeot 3008, another obvious target, is hidden within the phrase “among others”, and there’s a good reason for that: to a large extent, the Grandland X is a 3008.
You might note at this point that Groupe PSA, which owns Peugeot, is this year becoming the new owner of GM Europe, which owns Vauxhall and its continental European equivalent Opel. The connection between the Grandland X and the 3008 is not related to this deal, or at least if it is both parties managed to keep very quiet about it. The nature of the Vauxhall was already public knowledge well before the announcement that a buyout was being considered.
Thanks to considerable efforts by the Vauxhall/Opel design team, the two cars look significantly different, but they are largely made of the same stuff. This is more than a question of platform sharing. The two engines available from launch – a 128bhp 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol and a 118bhp 1.6 four-cylinder diesel – are both French, as is the IntelliGrip electronic traction control system which serves as an alternative to four-wheel drive (not available on the Crossland X, though it is on the Mokka X) and has appeared for some time on Peugeots and Citroens under the name GripControl.
Inside, the Grandland X looks very much like a Vauxhall and hardly at all like a Peugeot. Most notably, it doesn’t have the low-set, small-diameter steering wheel and high-mounted instrument panel which Peugeot favours. Its layout is much more conventional, and will come as no surprise to anyone who has driven a current-generation Astra.
The cabin doesn’t have as much of a quality feel as that of the Peugeot, but I do like Vauxhall’s policy of supplying rotary buttons to control things like the audio volume and the heater fan speed. Some things are just plain awkward to adjust on a touchscreen, and these are two of them.
The interior dimensions are generally similar, though the 3008 has more luggage space. (The Qashqai, for reference, has less.) There’s plenty of headroom and just about enough legroom for four tall adults. Strictly speaking there are three seats in the rear but the one in the middle is suitable only for a small person.
Of the two engines, the diesel costs more, is less powerful overall, is substantially more powerful at low revs and uses less fuel, very much as you would expect. That said, as with the 3008, I’d go for the little petrol unit every time because a Grandland X fitted with that is far nicer to drive, both dynamically (the ride and handling are almost unbelievably better) and in terms of noise.
The most basic Grandland X is the SE, which Vauxhall acknowledges will be avoided by 95% of UK buyers. Prices start at £22,485, and you miss out on a lot of safety equipment offered as standard on all the other versions.
The Tech Line Nav is better-equipped and actually cheaper (from £22,310) but it’s intended for business users so there’s little chance of receiving any financial help with it.
Sport Nav is very similar to Tech Line Nav, while at the top of the range comes Elite Nav. This is priced from £26,660, and comes with heated, leather-faced front seats (power adjustable for the driver), a panoramic camera, advanced park assist, blind spot alert and 19″ inch wheels, though if you specify IntelliGrip these are replaced with the 18s fitted to all other versions other than the SE.