The first official pictures of the Crossland X were released in January 2017 and the car, with Vauxhall badging for the UK and branded an Opel for the rest of Europe, made its debut at the Geneva Show a few weeks later. More than a few heads were scratched. Not because Opel-Vauxhall had produced a small Crossover-type vehicle for the B-Segment, as this has become an important sector of the market with most brands offering something that bit taller than their regular supermini models, but because there already was a car of this size in the range, the Mokka X. Indeed the two models are just 63mm different in overall length. Anticipating this reaction, the official response from its maker is that the Mokka X is more SUV-like, and positioned as more of a premium product (despite the fact that Opel-Vauxhall and premium is something of an oxymoron in the eyes of the market and its customers), aimed at the Juke and the Yeti, whereas the Crossland X was aimed more at competing with the Captur, Peugeot 2008 and Citroen C3 Picasso type of car. But adding the X suffix, which is supposed to denote a level of toughness, or at least the illusion of it, did not help matters, and it seemed to many as if the manufacturer was trying to explain a difference that does not really exist. There are, of course, plenty of things that are different. The Mokka X has true Opel-Vauxhall heritage, sharing elements of its underpinnings and engines with the Corsa and Astra, whereas the Crossland X is based on a Peugeot-Citroen platform, and uses engines from the French company, a strategically happy choice given the sale by GM of its European operations to Peugeot after development of the Crossland X had completed. The Crossland X is only offered with front wheel drive, whereas the Mokka does optionally have all-wheel drive and slightly more ground clearance. Whilst the bits of the Crossland X have a lot in common with a Peugeot 2008, the outer appearance is very much an Opel-Vauxhall looking design, so you would not immediately guess at its parentage. The latest front end styling recalls that of the much larger Insignia and the chrome trim strip on the C pillars that features on the Adam and the Astra Estate do endow it with a family resemblance to other models with the same branding. Positioned as a cheaper alternative to the Mokka X, and generally available with the sort of discounts and finance deals that have epitomised Vauxhall in recent years, the car has found decent levels of sales since the first customer cars took to the roads in the middle of 2017, though the Mokka X remains the more popular choice. With a recent corporate deal signed between Vauxhall and Hertz in the UK, it was not much of a surprise to see that the Crossland X has appeared in the rental fleets, either offered in the same rental car category as the Focus and Astra, or sometimes in a separate grouping with the Captur and Mokka, depending, it would seem, almost on whim when the cars entered the fleet. Having tried most of the other cars that Hertz UK currently have in these categories, I was interested in trying the Crossland X that was offered to me for a few day’s rental in advance of a US flight.
The Crossland X is available with a choice of two different engines, but no less than five different power outputs. 1.6 litre diesel units have 99 or 118 bhp and the petrol engine is the 1.2 unit familiar from many Peugeot-Citroen products. It can be had with 81. or when turbocharged, 110 or 130 bhp. Less powerful models have a five speed box where as a six speed comes on the more potent ones where there is also the option of a six speed automatic. The test car had the entry level 81 bhp engine. There was no doubt that I had a three cylinder car, as at all times,there was the characteristic engine note that engines of this configuration have. I would not go as far as saying it was pleasant, but it was not an issue. Sadly, though, the engine was, as 81 bhp is just not enough for a car of this size and weight and the quoted 0 – 60 time of 13.6 seconds and a top speed of “just” 105 bhp tell you all you probably need to know. Unsurprisingly, this Crossland X was noticeably sluggish off the mark, and to make any progress, you really needed to rev it hard, 4000 rpm generally being required to get any decent acceleration out of it, which of course made the car noisy and can’t have helped the economy. Liberal use of the gears was required. There is a five speed transmission coupled to this power output. There is a lot of travel between the gears, though the shift is generally reasonably precise. The exception was reverse which proved quite hard to engage. Once cruising at a steady speed, on the motorway, there was more wind and especially road noise than ideal, meaning that this was not as restful a cruiser as you would hope. There is no standard Stop/Start system (though this is available as a cost option), so fuel economy in traffic would not be improved by this feature and the fact that the car had to be worked hard out on the open road meant that overall fuel economy was disappointing, at around 35 mpg.
The other driving dynamics are not going to win any prizes with the enthusiast, as even if you get over the lack of power, it really us no fun to drive. The steering is very light, with almost no feel, though it does get a bit better the more you turn the wheel. There’s a lot of body roll and there is plenty of understeer, so this is not a car that you will get in and drive for the pleasure of it. At least it rides reasonably well. with the car coping with small imperfections quite well, though the soft suspension could be caught out on pot holes and rougher surfaces taken at speed. This version came on 16″ wheels, posher spec cars have larger 17″wheels and may not be quite as smooth. There were no issues with the brakes. There is a conventional mechanical handbrake between the seats, though it proved a bit awkward to use, with the release button mounted in the top. All round visibility is generally good, meaning the car is easy to position on the road and the stubby styling making it easy to judge the extremities of the car. It featured rear parking sensors which would help if trying to reverse in a tight space. Among the other safety features included is a lane departure warning system, which was as irksome as any other, but at least I was able to turn it off.
The interior of the Crossland X does as good a job as is the case outside at disguising its roots. This definitely looks like a Vauxhall and not a Peugeot, with design cues and indeed many components brought in from the Corsa and Astra. That is not entirely a good thing, as although both have got better in their most recent generations, class-leading is not a phrase that is often used to describe them. That said, the overall interior design is neat enough and at first glance it looks decent, with all the parts fitting well together. Look a bit harder, though and you will find plenty of very hard plastics, and many of the components feel cheap to the touch. Some visual variety is provided with the use of dark grey inlays and there are some chrome highlights. Even this relatively modestly trimmed version has a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The instrument cluster comprises two large dials for the rev counter and speedometer, with fuel level and water temperature readings in between them, positioned above a small digital display area used for trip computer type functions. There are two column stalks for indicators and wipers, with the auto lights function operated by a rotary dial on the dash to the right of the wheel, all using stock Vauxhall parts shared with other models and the steering wheel boss contains the cruise control and audio repeaters. The centre of the dash contains the integrated 8″ IntelliLink infotainment colour touchscreen, which on this version includes navigation, as well as DAB radio, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Some functions are only available via this, such as retuning the radio and this proved rather fiddly. The graphics were clear enough and the system was decently responsive. Below this unit are three rotary dials and an assembly of buttons for the dual zone climate. This proved to be very powerful. There is a heated screen which would doubtless prove useful in the winter months. The GM OnStar system also features though this system has a finite life as a result of the GM sell-off of Opel-Vauxhall.
There’s lots of space in the cabin, a consequence of the crossover-type styling, with headroom being particularly generous. Seat adjustment is manual, with the usual collection of bars and adjusters allowing you to move the chair to where you want it. There’s an adjustable column, too, though I wished that it would go in further than it did, so I could not get quite the driving position I wanted. The seats are upholstered in a cloth material. They proved a little flat and shapeless, so not as comfortable as you might want. Slightly surprisingly, there was a seat heater function included, though this would appear to be an optional cost item in this trim.
Space in the back is equally generous, with decent amounts of legroom for what is a relatively small car, and again that tall styling endows the Crossland X with extra generous headroom, though three adults would be a tight squeeze as the Crossland X is simply not that wide a car. There is a central armrest and passengers here can use the map pockets on the back of the front seats and the door pockets for their odds and ends.
The boot is a decent size, too, given the modest external dimensions of the car, though in absolute terms it is, inevitably not that big. There is a false floor, which means that the boot floor is flush with the base of the tailgate. Standard spec gives you a get you home tyre repair kit, but a space saver is optional and this fits under the boot floor leaving plenty of space for odds and ends around it. The rear seat backrests are asymmetrically split and drop down to give a longer load platform that is not quite flat, sloping up slightly. There are plenty of places for odds and ends in the cabin, with a huge glovebox, door bins, a cubby under the central armrest and a recess in front of the gearlever.
There is an extensive range of Crossland X models. As well as choosing from the 81, 110 and 130 bhp petrol or 99 and 118 bhp diesels, and whether you want an automatic gearbox (only on the more powerful versions), you need to select from the available trims, with the range expanding somewhat following its May 2017 launch. These follow the current Vauxhall hierarchy practice, starting with SE. Sitting above this from launch came the Elite, company-car oriented Tech Line Nav and at the top of the range the Ultimate Nav. Even the entry-level SE is well equipped, especially given the price, getting LED daytime running lights, front fog lights, 16″ alloy wheels, cruise control, all-round electric windows, a height adjustable driver’s seat, reach and range telescoping steering column, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, auto lights and wipers, dual-zone climate control and a 7″ touchscreen IntelliLink infotainment system with DAB Radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, Safety features include Hill-start assist which will give you a hand when setting off on an incline, while speed sign recognition will remind you of the speed limit. Lane departure warning alerts you if you stray from your lane on the motorway, too. All models get GM’s OnStar system, though this service will expire as a result of the GM sale of their European business to Peugeot. There is an SE Nav version which adds, as the name might suggest, the integrated navigation system which means you get the slightly larger 8″ display screen. This version costs an extra £700, but the Tech Line Nav version is cheaper than SE Nav and better equipped. It gets the integrated sat-nav with 8″ screen, an alarm, the false floor that levels up the boot, a driver’s central armrest, heated seats, rear parking sensors and rear privacy glass, so makes a lot more sense. Just be aware that Tech Line Nav may be more expensive on monthly finance than SE Nav as it’s designed primarily for company car users. If you’re buying outright or buying as a company car user, Tech Line Nav is a no brainer in the Crossland X. The Crossland X Elite features 17″ alloys, alloy-effect front and rear skid plates, chrome-effect window trim, a contrast colour roof, silver roof rails, LED rear lights and rear privacy glass, heated front seats and steering wheel, while a driver’s seat armrest helps you find a more comfortable seating position. There’s some extra chrome around the windows, while a reversing camera is a desirable feature. Topping the range is the Crossland Ultimate Nav, which does what it says on the tin and includes everything, including the 8″ integrated navigation system, as well as keyless entry/start, the advanced driver aid pack with AEB up to 19mph, head-up display, LED lights, wireless charging for your mobile, a black contrast roof, privacy glass and roof rails. Some options you might still want to add include the fixed panoramic glass roof for £695, winter pack with heated seats and steering wheel for £355, sports seats with electric adjustment for £425 and the versatility pack that bring sliding rear seats and a centre rear armrest for £375.
I have to say that I really was not that impressed by the Crossland X. And when I took it back to Hertz and had a chat with the returns agent, it emerged that few of their other rental customers are, either. For sure it does have some good points, with the spaciousness inside perhaps being the best feature, and even in entry level trim it is well equipped, but it is really rather insipid to drive and in this form it is simply underpowered, which also means it is not even particularly economical. And that was with one person on board. I hate to think how turgid it would feel if full of people and luggage. Give it more power, though, and the other driving dynamics would probably disappoint even more. Many buyers of cars of this type are probably not looking for the sportiest of experiences, but even so, I really do think you can do better. And no, the Mokka X is not that car, as that left me rather unimpressed with both versions that I’ve tested. Even the Renault Captur, a car I also did not particularly warm to, would seem preferable to the Crossland X. I suspect Seat’s new Arona knocks both of them out of the proverbial park, and would be the car I would most likely favour from this class. So it would seem that Opel-Vauxhall have now got two cars of similar size, neither of which is anything better than a segment also-ran, but which will probably sell if the discounts are big enough. Surely they can do better than that?