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.
Focus instead on its static qualities and the Grandland X is far more competitive. For conservative buyers put off by the far-out approach of Peugeot’s innovative i-cockpit design, there’s a very traditional interior here that’s no harder to operate than that of an Astra. But with it comes a standard touchscreen, Vauxhall’s OnStar concierge service, all the safety features you’d expect and plenty more you’d merely hope for. And most of them are standard on most trim levels.
Moreover, the car is well built from largely high-quality materials, as spacious as you’d expect a car in this class to be and has a decently shaped and larger-than-average load area.
Should I buy one?
As a car, this is a far better bet than the 1.2 petrol manual version recently tested. While the little petrol motor seems fundamentally unsuited to the car, as does the manual gearbox, the diesel and auto combination appear a perfect match. For high-mileage users looking to hang onto the car for years, the diesel is the slam-dunk choice of the two.
The problem is that, once you’ve paid for the diesel and opted in the auto box, you’re looking at adding almost £2000 to the price of a car that, compared with the Seat Ateca and Nissan Qashqai, doesn’t look that cheap to begin with, however well equipped it may be.
It’s a hassle-free, no-surprises, well-built, functional transport device but, even in a class of unusually modest aspirations, we cannot ignore the fact that others, such as the Ateca in particular, offer so much more and do so from a much more affordable starting point.
Vauxhall Grandland X Sport Nav 1.6D auto
Where Feltham, Middlesex; On sale Now; Price £26,555; Engine 4 cyls, 1560cc, turbocharged diesel; Power 118bhp at 3750rpm; Torque 221lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd automatic; Kerbweight 1430kg; Top speed 115mph; 0-62mph 12.2sec; Fuel economy 65.7mpg; CO2 rating/BIK 111g/km, 24%; Rivals Peugeot 3008, Seat Ateca