Although it’s fast in outright terms and can also be pleasingly brisk when picking up from low speeds in high gears, the Grandland X Hybrid4 is at its best in everyday contexts such as when simply punting around town or through heavy traffic. At those moments, it’s responsive, refined, drivable and very agreeable – but the more you ask of it, the less assured and convincing the powertrain seems.
You can believe, for a start, that Vauxhall’s 5.9sec 0-60mph claim for standing-start acceleration is accurate. Selecting Sport keeps the combustion engine running all of the time and lets you tap into all three sources of drive power from rest. It doesn’t launch from standing with particularly surprising urgency but finds plenty of strength within a matter of a few yards and thus the car’s driving experience is lifted, if only fleetingly and in one sense, out of the ordinary.
Unlike in some hybrids, whether you’re in a hurry or not, you do feel the gearchanges of the eight-speed transmission when they come; and if you want the most complete kind of dominion over what’s going on, you’ll want to use the gearbox’s paddle-shift manual mode, which delivers its gearchanges a little ponderously but does at least allow you to choose, somewhat approximately but effectively enough, how and when they come.
However, it’s regrettable that if you want a quicker turn of speed and simply leave the gearbox to shift by itself, it can feel clumsy and confused, taking quite a long time to respond fully to big pedal inputs, even though the electric motors answer smaller requests more quickly.