What's it like?
The test car came with the automatic gearbox and, combined with the diesel engine, represents a useful improvement on the manual 1.2. The petrol version is quieter and makes a far sweeter sound, but these are poor substitutes for low-down grunt in a relatively heavy car like this.
Also these are cars that will be expected to do long distances and the diesel’s more relaxed cruising plus a likely 20% improvement in fuel consumption makes it the clear choice for people with such priorities. Or at least those who have not yet been frightened off by largely ill-informed scaremongering from politicians and tabloid journalists who almost certainly chose not to be inconvenienced by the facts.
Yet this is still some distance from even an engaging driving experience, let alone a remotely entertaining one. The 1.6-litre diesel is a blameless beast of burden, strong at low revs, reasonably responsive, slightly uncultured of voice but as honest as the day is long. I expect its quite narrow powerband might prove irksome when harnessed to what we know is a far-from-peachy manual gearbox but, even with only six speeds, the auto does excellent work keeping the motor in the range in which both the car and you will find most comfortable.
The gearbox does have a self-shifting plane but there are no paddles and, to be honest, there's no reason why you might routinely or indeed ever want to shift it out of Drive. Nor, as we discovered with its petrol powered team-mate, does it have anything to offer the enthusiast driver - and I’m talking by the hardly interstellar standards of the mid-sized crossover SUV. The ride quality is reasonable despite its cheap and not always very cheerful torsion beam rear suspension, but it really has no interest at all in cornering at more than a sedate pace. The steering is accurate but lacking in feel and the brakes over-servoed.