Vauxhall Grandland X Hybrid4 review

Think fast, powerful Vauxhalls and what comes to mind?

VXR and GSI badges? Maybe the legendary Lotus Carlton? What about the V8 Monaro of the early 2000s? How about a mid-sized SUV with a 1.6-litre engine?

Nope? Well believe it or not when it comes to fast and powerful, the new Grandland X Hybrid4 is the top of the Vauxhall tree at the moment.

Equipped with a petrol engine and two electric motors, this plug-in Grandland packs an impressive 300bhp and will crack 60mph in just 5.9 seconds. But Vauxhall also says it’s a sensible wallet-friendly option for the company car customer.

As car makers scramble to meet the latest demands on fleet emissions while feeding the public’s insatiable appetite for C-segment SUVs, the Grandland is diving into a segment once owned by the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV but that is now becoming increasingly busy.

Vauxhall’s PSA group partners Peugeot and DS have the 3008 PHEV and DS7 Crossback e-Tense (based on the same platform as the Grandland), Ford’s new Kuga comes with a PHEV option and Kia is lining up a plug-in hybrid Sportage. Plus premium brands like Volvo, BMW, Audi and Mercedes already have or are introducing PHEV variants of their SUVs.

Vauxhall claims that even among all these rivals, the Grandland will cost you less to run thanks to its hybrid system which, according to official testing, emits just 34g/km and returns 204mpg while being capable of 35 miles under pure electric propulsion. Combined, those figures make for best-in-class benefit in kind rates and potential savings of thousands of pounds over a four-year contract.

Given its headline figures, in some ways the drivetrain behaves exactly as you’d expect. Even in a fairly heavy car (1,800kg) that 300bhp gives the Grandland X some serious get up and go in a straight line and it’s delivered smoothly and evenly via an eight-speed auto transmission.

Opt for steadier progress in electric mode and the 111bhp rear electric motor will handle all the work up to 50mph. After that the smaller front motor will help out, with the engine kicking in under hard acceleration or above 84mph. Hybrid mode brings the petrol unit in more readily depending on demand, with seamless transitions.

Away from the official figures, on real roads, in real conditions we saw an average of 43mpg over around 100 miles. One leg returned an easy 50mpg while the return dragged it down significantly as we were deliberately saving battery charge (done via a clever option in the settings).

Despite all its power, you’re unlikely to drive the Grandland like, for example the 297bhp Cupra Ateca. On the move you’re always aware of the Grandland’s weight, especially around corners, and there’s an unsettled harshness to the ride that spoils an otherwise refined drive.

The lack of excitement at the wheel is reflected in the Grandland’s looks. Vauxhall’s current design strategy seems to be not to get in the way of its more stylish French cousins but even among a fairly staid sector the Vauxhall is pretty bland.

Inside, it’s a similar story. Most of the switchgear is similar to that found across the Vauxhall range and while the quality is fine, it lacks any of the sparkle or design flair of rivals. Comfort, refinement and space are all commendable but nothing about our test car screamed £48,000.

Because that’s how much it costs. Well, technically, it’s £47,895.

That’s for the Ultimate Nav spec which comes with plenty in the way of toys, including full LED headlights, self-parking, and “semi-automatic steering”. But it’s still 48 grand for a dull looking SUV without a premium badge.

In some ways it’s irrelevant as no-one is going to buy one. Vauxhall reckons 75 per cent of sales will be company car buyers, most of whom will take the far more reasonably priced and still generously equipped Business Edition Nav Premium spec. This, in an act of marketing madness, has exactly the same spec as the SRI Nav, which costs £4,710 more. And despite the name, you don’t have to be a business buyer to get the Business spec. So fleet or private buyer for your £36,790 you’ll get dual-zone climate control, wireless phone charging, adaptive cruise control, a powered tailgate, high beam assist, keyless entry/start and an eight-inch touchscreen with nav and smartphone mirroring.

If you want heated seats, windscreen and leather upholstery as well, the Elite Nav spec comes in at £43,400.

Sadly, whichever spec you choose, if you want the fastest charging you’ll have to stump up an extra £500 for the 7.7kW on-board charger, which halves charging times from a 7kW wallbox.

It’s all a bit labyrinthine and baffling but Vauxhall insists it should appeal to the sort of people who spend their lives staring at spreadsheets. Which is just as well because they’re likely to be its only buyers.

In terms of straight line performance the Grandland X Hybrid4 gives a hell of a lot but it comes at a hell of a price for what is, otherwise a fairly dull entry in the segment. And how you use it will have an enormous impact on the real world benefits of the hybrid system. But for company car buyers and fleet managers the attraction of its tax advantages and claimed running cost savings could be enough of an argument in its favour.

This article first appeared on The Scotsman

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