When Peugeot introduced the 3008 model, recalls Iain Robertson, it used cleverly a demonstration example to tow a glider airborne, thus proving the viability of its multi-surface traction control system, which is but one element of Vauxhall’s latest Crossland.
Although box-fresh from the PSA/Opel plant at Zaragoza, Spain, and marketed as an ‘all-new’ model, the reality of the Citroen C3 Picasso/Peugeot 2008-platformed Crossland is that, apart from the grille and some neater packaging details, it is pretty much the same as the previous generation car. The anodyne outline hints heavily at a level of desired design neutrality that almost evades attention. In some ways, even though touched by customary Mark Adams’ (the firm’s design boss) pen swipes, it is an ingenious embodiment of ordinariness.
That the former Crossland X was dropped into ‘yummy-mummy’ territory, with casual aplomb and the courtesy of a nifty advertising campaign, was much to its credit. The concept was to make the car exude an air of ‘always having been there’ and even the colour choice was limited to only popular shades of regular hues. While the aforementioned school-mums achieved another desired effect of reducing the average consumer age, the Crossland X also curried favour with blue-rinsers, a factor helped by cost-efficient running charges.
Vauxhall dropped recently the ‘X’ soubriquet from its Mokka range, which suggests that doing the same from Crossland should save it twice the amount of money, for an equally popular model (which, it needs to be stated, did not sell in the numbers anticipated), thus helping PSA, the brand’s owner, to meet its exhaustive costs-cutting targets. There is no mention of it reducing the vehicle’s kerbweight, although it is hardly a monster, tipping the scales at 1,320kgs, about the same as a Skoda Fabia.
Powered by a choice of 1.2-litre turbo-petrol and 1.5-litre turbodiesel three-cylinder engines, the 83bhp (petrol) unit attached to a 5-speed manual gearbox is to be avoided. However, the same engine is also available in 110 and 130bhp forms, by way of deft engine management, hooked up to a 6-speed manual transmission. The punchier variant can also be obtained with a 6-speed automatic gearbox. The diesel alternative promises 110bhp, or 120bhp with an auto-box. For mid-range urge, the diesel is always going to be the preferred option, associated with an almost 65mpg fuel return, even though diesel is costlier. If you are vehemently anti-DERV, then the 110bhp petrol is a sweet unit capable of returning 48.5mpg, with a top speed nudging 115mph and 0-60mph acceleration in around 10.0s. The 130bhp unit ventures higher to 125mph, cracking the benchmark sprint in just over 9.0s but returning similar fuel figures.
As innocuous as the rest of the car, a smattering of minor technical improvements to both brakes and steering, as well as light tuning of the car’s suspension, provide tangible benefits to the driving experience. As it should be, the Crossland covers ground with a degree of efficiency and is largely painless to live with, even though it is hardly the most engaging of vehicles. Being more crossover than SUV, its handling envelope is modest and mostly uninspiring, which is ideal for the market sectors at which it seems to be targeted. However, it can become fidgety and upset by mid-corner bumps, especially when trying to press-on a bit, which suggests that the suspension modifications were not as thorough as they might have been and that, even in ‘sportier’ SRi trim, means I am disappointed with the overall dynamics of the Crossland.
The cabin is to customary Vauxhall-spec, which means a moderate level of equipment, depending on which of the 33 model variants tickles your tonsils, in a neat and unoffensive dashboard. All of the main controls are in the usual places, with minor switchgear on a panel to the right of the steering column, or by way of rockers in the centre console gearlever surround. The revised cloth upholstery is tidy enough and upgrades to Alcantara for top versions, or hide for Elites. Of course, the SRi gets the red-thread treatment and a pair of similarly coloured stripes down the middle of the seats. The driving position is fine, with a good range of both seat and steering column adjustability, to accommodate most sizes and shapes of drivers.
If anything, it is the 1.2-litre petrol motor that is the car’s best attribute. Even in 110bhp guise, it is far from lacking in bottom-end punch and a pleasantly muted three-pot grumble emits from the other side of the front bulkhead, with a surprisingly musical accompaniment, when depressing the ‘loud’ pedal. The ever-so-slick manual gearshift is perfect for swift changes and matching performance needs to the engine’s wide spread of torque. Yet, I cannot help but return to the chassis’s shortcomings, which depress any enthusiasm.
Part of the new look for Crossland is the adoption of its much vaunted (by Vauxhall!) Vizor front panel/grille that also features on the Mokka. Precisely what it does for the Crossland I am unsure about, other than adding to the overall neutrality of the car. Yet, there are splashes of ‘bling’ for magpie fans and the option of either a black or white painted roof, to contrast with a brighter range of colours for 2021. The all-LED headlamp units, while not quite as advanced as those fitted to the Insignia model, offer the auto-on/off/dip functionality and, thankfully, a decent spread of nocturnal illumination that is far better than Ford’s or Volkswagen’s contributions on their similarly sized rival products.
As something of a recent first, the entry level price to Crossland is actually a few Pounds less than the previous iteration, starting at £19,060 in SE trim but rising to £25,665 for the fully loaded Ultimate Nav version. Would I have one? No. Sorry. Not even as a gift. Although, personally, I drive a crossover in the form of a Suzuki Vitara, it is a far more involving ownership experience, in every respect.
Conclusion: Had the new Crossland worn a Daewoo, or Dacia badge, I would have believed it to embody the respective brand charms. However, the new model is reportedly a Vauxhall and it simply fails to meet muster in the way a Vauxhall ought to.