The benefits of Vauxhall's takeover by the French PSA conglomerate back in 2017 keep coming. As part of that Gallic group, the Griffin brand gets access to a slice of the industry's most sophisticated electrified engineering tech, part of which features on the mid-sized Grandland X Hybrid SUV plug-in model we're going to look at here. There's a price to pay for the convenience of this but it's an undeniably interesting package for a family buyer wanting a degree of EV tech but not quite ready to take the plunge into full-battery motoring.
You might well have overlooked the existence of Vauxhall's Grandland X mid-sized SUV, so, just to remind you, this is the Luton brand's version of the design which, with different bodywork but the same engineering is sold by Peugeot as the 3008 and by Citroen as the C5 Aircross. Both those cars have lately gained plug-in hybrid electrified technology so, naturally, the Grandland X gets it too. And with that, a belated chance to make a little more impact on customer consciousness amongst the crossover crowd.
There are a couple of Grandland X Hybrid models on offer and both use a Peugeot-derived 1.6-litre petrol turbo engine mated to an 8-speed auto gearbox. This powerplant features in 225hp form in the front-driven Grandland X Hybrid. Or in 300hp guise in the AWD Grandland X Hybrid4, the latter variant featuring two electric motors (a 108bhp unit on the front axle and a 111bhp motor on the rear axle - hence the nominal AWD capability). In both cases, the way that petrol progress is seamlessly integrated with electrified power is very impressive - and the whole package feels as quick as those output figures might suggest (rest to 62mph in the Hybrid4 takes just 5.9s en route to a 146mph maximum - or an 84mph all-electric maximum). That kind of rapidity isn't always a given with plug-ins of this sort, thanks to their not insubstantial weight. The bulk of this particular contender (around 1.8-tonnes) is evident in the slightly firmer way it rides across more terrible tarmac tears, an issue the engineers have tried to address with softer suspension settings. Which in turn results in an extra degree of body roll through the bends should you try and chuck this car about in the kind of manner a typical owner never would. You get four driving modes, with the one you'll be using most of the time being the 'Hybrid' setting that chooses the best mix of electric and petrol propulsion to suit the driving style whilst optimising efficiency. The alternative settings are either 'Sport' (where the car combines the power of the electric and petrol motors to offer livelier performance). And 'All-Wheel Drive'. There's also 'Electric' (where the car uses only the battery-powered electric motor, resulting in an ultra-quiet and smooth drive with zero exhaust emissions, offering a WLTP range of up to 35 miles).
There's very little to visually give away the fact that this variant is a hybrid. So, as with other Grandland X models, this one is nearly 4.5m long, nearly 1.9m wide and nearly 1.65m high, which makes it a touch bigger than the mid-sized SUV Qashqai-class norm - and, Vauxhall hopes, a touch more distinctive. The Grandland is certainly good looking enough to stand its corner on the school run. Above the front skid plate, the bold grille proudly displays the Vauxhall Griffin badge, chrome winglets embracing the brand logo and flowing outwards to the slim, double-wing LED headlamps. Muscular, sculpted wheel arches and protective cladding on the lower body deliver the required dose of 'SUV-ness' and an optional two-tone finish, with the roof in contrasting black, adds an extra touch of personalisation. Inside, the instrument panel and centre console with touchscreen are clearly laid out and horizontally aligned to the driver. There's an 8-inch centre-dash infotainment system. Essential hybrid-specific information can be easily accessed via the 'EV' button, or via the indicator stalks for the on-board computer. The rear seats lack the extra versatility you'll find in a comparable Citroen C5 Aircross and only fold 60:40. Which brings us to the boot, which isn't especially big, not helped by the higher floor necessary to make room for the plug-in system's bulky battery. Luggage capacity is rated at 390-litres (that's 124-litres down on a conventional Grandland X); and with the rear bench folded, there's 1,528-litres of space (134-litres down).
There's quite a premium to pay if you want plug-in hybrid capability for your Grandland X. If you're happy to stick with the front-driven Grandland X Hybrid, there's a choice of 'Business Edition Nav', 'SE Nav' and 'SRi Nav' trim levels, with prices that from launch started at just over £32,000. To give you some price perspective, a top Grandland X Hybrid SRi Nav model at £38,500 costs over £7,000 more than a directly comparable 1.5-litre Turbo D 130PS automatic diesel variant with equivalent 'SRi Nav' trim. You'll need more of course for the AWD Grandland X Hybrid4. The range here is spread across 'Business Edition Nav Premium', 'SRi Nav', 'Elite Nav' and 'Ultimate Nav' variants, with pricing starting up at around £37,000 and rising to around £47,000. Still, at last you get a lot of kit for your cash. All Grandland X Hybrid and Hybrid4 variants get LED headlights, roof rails, front fog lamps, alloy wheels of at least 18-inches in size, keyless entry, high beam assist and cruise control. Inside, standard across the range is an 8-inch Intellilink infotainment screen with voice control and smartphone projection. Plus dual-zone climate control, a wireless charging mat and a powered tailgate.
Let's get to the figures. We've covered the 35 mile WLTP-rated all-electric driving range; it's actually more like around 25 miles in real-world use. And we also ought to apply real-world thinking to projections of likely fuel economy because the fantasy-land official combined WLTP figure (up to 204mpg for the Hybrid4) clearly isn't likely to be replicated by the average owner. As a feather-foot, we suppose 80-90mpg might theoretically be possible but your realistic average is going to be much less than that - and certainly less than you'd get from the equivalent diesel model. Rely on the petrol engine alone and you'd struggle to average 35mpg. Interestingly, the WLTP CO2 return for the 300hp Hybrid4 variant (29g/km) is better than that of the front-driven 225PS Hybrid model (31g/km). That'll mean attractively low BiK figures. Insurance groups vary between 23E and 24E for front-driven model and between 29E and 32E for the Hybrid4 variant. Bear in mind that you'll need to find £500 extra to upgrade your Grandland X Hybrid to a model incorporating a 7.4kWh fast charger that would be capable of accepting charge from anything faster than a domestic three-pin socket. This halves charging time when charging with a typical garage 7kW wallbox. And it really ought to be standard. Charging the 13.2kWh battery takes 3.5 hours with a standard mode 3 cable - or 1 hour 45 minutes if the optional on-board charger has been fitted.
We can see the attraction of the plug-in hybrid SUV, we really can. But with all of the models of this sort currently available, you have to be prepared to pay a big premium for the extra tech. And accept practicality compromises in return. In this regard, the Grandland X Hybrid is no different from its market rivals. Or from the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid and Citroen C5 Aircross Hybrid models that share its engineering. As with those French cousins, with upper-spec 4WD versions of this car, the primary issue lies in pricing that isn't too far off what you'd pay for a plug-in SUV of this kind with a premium badge - and that's a hard problem for a volume-branded product to overcome. But shop for a front-driven model at the bottom of the range with the kind of attractive finance deal your Vauxhall dealer will probably be able to offer and the picture will look very different. Then, it'll be simply a question of making sure you regularly plug the thing in. If you can work all of that out and you cover only short distance family mileage, then visits to petrol stations might become pleasingly irregular. And a fresh dimension in family mobility could open up to you.