Vauxhall's Grandland Hybrid delivers family-friendly electrification. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
You might well have overlooked the existence of Vauxhall's Grandland 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 feature plug-in hybrid electrified technology so, naturally, this Grandland gets it too - in front-driven 225PS form. Compared to PHEV rivals, it's a value-orientated package that now gains a sharper look and a more modern cabin.
These days, Vauxhall only offers this Hybrid Grandland model with the lowered-powered 2WD 225PS petrol drivetrain; no one seemed much interested in the 4WD variant with 300PS, so it's been dropped. The engine is a Peugeot-derived 1.6-litre petrol turbo unit mated to a single electric motor with drive via an 8-speed auto gearbox. It's a pretty rapid confection - 60mph from rest takes 8.9s on the way to a top speed of 140mph (it's 84mph in all-electric drive, but getting anywhere near that would decimate the quoted 34 mile driving range capability).
The bulk of this particular contender (1,735kgs) 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 three main 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 'Electric' (where the car uses only the battery-powered electric motor, resulting in an ultra-quiet and smooth drive with zero exhaust emissions.
Design and Build
As usual with a plug-in, there's nothing apart from different badging and an extra charging flap to designate this Hybrid variant's PHEV status. As well as losing an 'X' (in its name), this Grandland Hybrid has gained quite a lot in terms of its adoption of the brand's far more interesting 'Vizor' trim detailing on the front of the car. This sees Vauxhall's latest Griffin logo proudly positioned in the centre, flanked by slim LED headlamps and more muscular bumpers. As before, the dimensions (nearly 4.5m of length, nearly 1.9m of width and nearly 1.65m of height) position this Grandland just above smaller mid-sized SUVs Plug-ins (like the Kia Niro PHEV and the Renault Captur E-TECH Plug-in) and just below larger mid-sized models (like the Ford Kuga PHEV and the Volkswagen Tiguan e-Hybrid). Avoid entry-trim and you get a contrast-coloured roof too.
Inside, changes have been made with the adoption of Vauxhall's latest Pure Panel cockpit with two widescreen displays for more of a digital experience. Ahead of the driver is a display up to 12-inches in size, offering up essential information, while the central 10-inch display controls all infotainment via a touchscreen.
As before, driver and passengers benefit from the elevated seating position typical of an SUV, which ensures good visibility in all situations. And this model's relatively long wheelbase provides decent space for up to five people. While the luggage compartment is rated at 390-litres, as before 124-litres less than you'd get with a conventionally-powered model. It's 1,528-litres with the rear bench folded.
Market and Model
There's quite a premium to pay if you want plug-in hybrid capability for your Grandland. Prices start from around £34,500 with base 'GS Line' trim - or around £38,000 with plusher 'Ultimate'-spec. And that's where the range stops because there's no longer a higher-powered 4WD version available. If you're comparing against an equivalent petrol or diesel Grandland model of the conventional sort, you'll find that this Hybrid derivative attracts a premium of around £3,000 over a diesel and about £4,000 over a petrol auto. You're going to need to budget £500 (inc. VAT) more for the optional 6.6kW on-board charger because it halves the battery replenishment time when charging with a 7kW wallbox.
The sporty 'GS Line' package features a black roof, door mirrors and wheel arches combined with 18-inch Gloss Black alloy wheels, dark tinted rear windows and alloy-effect skid plates. It also features LED headlights, tail lights and daytime running lights. Inside, there's Vauxhall's Pure Panel cockpit with twin screens including a 10-inch colour touchscreen and a 12-inch digital instrument cluster. Along with a Multimedia Navi Pro satellite navigation system and an AGR-approved driver's active sports-style seat for added comfort.
Top 'Ultimate' trim adds 19-inch multi-spoke 'Ironman' alloy wheels, IntelliLux LED Pixel HeadLights and body-colour for the front bumper, rear bumper, wheel arches, door claddings and skid plates. Inside, there's Alcantara upholstery with heated front seats and steering wheel. Safety technology includes Side Blind Spot assist, Highway Integration Assist and Lane Positioning Assist.
Cost of Ownership
Let's get to the figures. We've covered the 34 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 192mpg) 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.
The WLTP CO2 return (29g/km for 'SRi' trim or 31g/km for 'Elite'-spec with its larger wheels) will mean attractively low BiK figures based around a 20% rating. The insurance group is 24E. Charging the 13.2kWh battery takes three hours with a standard Mode 3 cable - or 1 hour 45 minutes if the optional on-board charger has been fitted (which really ought to be standard). You'll need 8 hours to charge from a domestic socket. The battery is covered (up to 70% capacity) by its own 8 year / 100,000 mile warranty. The car itself gets the usual unremarkable three year / 60,000 mile Vauxhall cover.
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 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 model with the kind of attractive finance deal your Vauxhall dealer will probably be able to offer and the picture might 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.