A new era and a new model for Vauxhall as the Luton-based car maker adds another crossover to its range.
These are interesting times for Vauxhall. Long part of General Motors Europe, but now acquired by the PSA Peugeot-Citroen group, the company is entering a new era in its very extensive history.
Vauxhall goes back a long way. Founded in 1857 as an engine manufacturer, and given the Vauxhall name 40 years later after the part of London where it was based, it became a car maker in 1903. From 1925 onwards it was owned by America's General Motors for over 90 years, until the sale to PSA on August 1st this year.
Vauxhalls are made at Ellesmere Port on Merseyside, and also at factories in Germany, Spain and Poland. Bizarrely, the UK is the only country where Vauxhall-badged cars are sold. Everywhere else the same cars wear Opel badges. Will that change under PSA ownership? Not in the short term, but further ahead – who knows?
The new Crossland X is a crossover resulting from a joint venture between PSA and Opel-Vauxhall that pre-dates the recent takeover by the former of the latter. It has a soon-to-be-launched sister model in the new Citroen C3 Aircross. They share the same under-structure and engines, with different body designs.
The Crossland X is 4.2 metres long, and rather confusingly it joins the very similarly sized Mokka X in the Vauxhall car range. The rationale is that the Mokka X is the more rugged of the two with some off-road capability, while the Crossland X is more of an urban warrior intended for entirely on-road use.
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A new model Mokka X that may widen the gulf is still two years away, and in the meantime, there is quite a bit of overlap between the two. Early next year a third SUV-crossover model, the Grandland X, will become the flagship of what will then become Vauxhall's hunky trio.
The two best things about The Crossland X are the way it looks and its packaging. It's quite pleasingly styled, with a two-tone effect from the dark scuff protection over the wheel arches and along the door sills. Some versions have a matching dark roof to echo the effect. There's also a looks-enhancing upward-sweeping ‘blade' ridge along the body sides.
The car's key attribute is how roomy it feels inside, and with its crossover-typical elevation, it's room with a view. All five seats have generous knee-space, elbow room and overhead airiness, and it's not at the expense of boot room.
One of the Crossland X's useful features is its sliding rear seats. They let you vary the boot space behind them from a minimum 410 litres to 520 litres when you forego a bit of that back seat legroom. With the 40/60-fold seat backs dropped forward, the maximum cargo space is 1,255 litres.
No class topper
Although it's a space-pleaser, the Crossland X disappoints in other ways inside. It has rather a budget feel in the cabin, as if the designers did battle with the accountants and the cost-cutters won. The plastic surfaces are mostly hard and a bit cheap-looking, and some of the surfaces don't line up quite as precisely as they should. The seats feel as though they could do with a bit more cushioning.
The car's driving calibre is also somewhat mundane. It's functional but not much fun behind the wheel. Around town, on urban roads, you wouldn't be too critical, but out in the countryside on rural backroads the ride becomes a bit unsettled and jars over the bumps.
The 1.6 litre diesel engine, with a 118 bhp power output, is adequate for the body size but lacks oomph on a hilly route. The steering is efficient but uninformative, there's not much feel to where the wheels are pointing. The manual gearbox is only five-speed, so you sometimes find yourself fishing for an extra cog. Put your foot down on a bendy road, and there's quite a bit of body lean on the corners.
As a practical family-friendly transporter with a bit of style and quite a lot of space, the Crossland X certainly has its merits. It's a pity, though, that as a car for driving enjoyment, it's the least impressive new model I've driven so far this year.
Vauxhall Crossland X Stats Review
Model tested: Crossland X SE Nav 1.6 ecoFLEX
Top speed: 112 mph
0-62 mph: 12.0 secs
Economy: 78.5 mpg
Images: Sue Baker