The sub-£25,000 family SUV market has a fresh contender: Vauxhall’s Grandland X. Can the petrol version make an impression against the Renault Kadjar and Skoda Karoq?
*** Note : £1 = $1.34 (correct at time of post)
Renault Kadjar 1.2 TCe 130 Signature Nav
- List price £23,920
- Target Price £21,388
Kadjar has been around the block a few times, but you get loads of kit for your money.
Skoda Karoq 1.0 TSI 115 SE L
- List price £23,170
- Target Price £22,052
One of our favourite family SUVs, with lots of strengths and few weaknesses. The one to beat.
Vauxhall Grandland X 1.2 Turbo 130 Tech Line Nav
- List price £22,515
- Target Price £20,949
Vauxhall’s take on the Peugeot 3008 is the newest of our contenders. Is it the best?
Let’s get straight to the point. You’ve got around £300 a month to spend on a new car and fancy something a bit taller and chunkier than your common or garden hatchback. It needs to be roomy enough for everyday domestic duties and the annual family holiday to the Lake District, but whatever the pros and cons, you just don’t want a diesel.
Well, if this trio of family SUVs aren’t on your shortlist, they jolly well should be. We’ll begin the introductions with the newest of our contenders, the Vauxhall Grandland X, which is essentially the British brand’s take on the Peugeot 3008. It shares a chassis and engine with its more extravagantly styled French cousin but promises better value for money and a more user-friendly dashboard.
Next up is the Renault Kadjar. It, too, has a very close relative in the family SUV arena – this time the Nissan Qashqai – and if you prefer swooping curves to sharp angles and oblongs, the Kadjar stands a good chance of seducing you with its looks. It’s no spring chicken (it’s been around since 2015), but you get loads of kit for a not-unreasonable price.
Finally, there’s our reigning champion in this price bracket, the Skoda Karoq. Its combination of general roominess, clever seating tricks and tempting finance deals has made it one heck of a compelling proposition ever since its arrival last year. But is its time at the top about to come to an end?
All three cars are lined up in their least powerful petrol forms but in (relatively) posh trim levels, so you won’t need to worry about forking out extra for things such as sat-nav, smartphone mirroring, climate control, parking sensors or keyless entry.
Driving – Performance, ride, handling, refinement
We know what you’re thinking: is a dinky 1.0-litre or 1.2-litre engine really going to pull me, my other half, our two kids and Freddie the cocker spaniel up and over the Hardknott Pass?
Well, the short answer is ‘yes’. Granted, if you live in a really hilly area or regularly pound up and down the M6, you’d do well to get over any preconceptions and think seriously about a diesel. But, for the majority of scenarios, these small turbocharged petrol engines are more than up to the task.
Curiously, it’s the car with the smallest and supposedly weakest engine that did best in our performance tests. The Karoq’s 1.0-litre unit makes a mockery of the ‘bigger is better’ philosophy by taking the shortest time to sprint to 60mph from a standstill and accelerate from 30-70mph.
The 1.2-litre-engined cars are close behind, though, to the point where you really wouldn’t be able to guess which took gold, silver and bronze without a stopwatch. The Grandland X also deserves credit for its ability to build speed quickest from low revs in fifth and sixth gears.
There are bigger differences in how easy these SUVs are to drive smoothly. You don’t need any practice in the Karoq; its positive clutch pedal, slick gearbox and the predictable way in which the engine reacts to you squeezing the accelerator mean you don’t really need to think about driving at all; it all just happens instinctively.
Despite having a longer-throw gearshift and a fairly heavy clutch pedal, the Kadjar isn’t too tricky to drive smoothly, particularly when you’re out on the open road. Sadly, the Grandland X is more fractious; its clutch engages abruptly, so you need to make a conscious effort to keep things smooth, and it doesn’t help that the engine responds to accelerator inputs in a rather lethargic fashion.
The Grandland X also has the grabbiest brakes, again forcing you to actively think about slowing gently to stop your passengers from doing passable impressions of a nodding dog.
Big wheels often do bad things for ride comfort, and the Kadjar, with its standard 19in rims, loses its composure a bit over potholes and big road scars. However, it’s actually very comfortable along A-roads and motorways, staying settled and composed as it wafts you along.
The Karoq is less prone to tripping over potholes and broken patches of asphalt around town, but neither does it cosset you quite as well along faster roads; it’s always that little bit firmer. The Grandland X fidgets the most at all speeds, gently tossing your head from side to side as its wheels roll over small lumps and bumps. Mind you, it never becomes too jarring, even over potholes, and our test car probably wasn’t helped by its 19in wheels (18in rims come as standard on Tech Line Nav trim).
SUVs have a number of advantages over hatchbacks, but handling isn’t one of them. The Kadjar sways about the most through bends and feels the least willing to change direction. Its steering is light and accurate enough at moderate speeds, but the wheel starts to kick back in your hands quite violently as you approach the limits of grip.
The Grandland X grips harder and its body stays more upright through tight turns. While its steering could build weight in a more natural manner, there’s enough precision to allow you to place the car where you want it, even when you’re driving quite quickly. Still, both cars are rather wallowy compared with the Karoq, which handles like something altogether squatter. It resists body roll remarkably well, making it the most agile, whether you’re darting around town or barrelling down your favourite B-road.
Behind the wheel – Driving position, visibility, build quality
You’re unlikely to have any issues getting the seat and steering wheel into positions that work for you in any of our contenders. However, you’ll find the Karoq has the most comfortable and supportive driver’s seat, especially for longer journeys. The Kadjar’s is squishier, but not so much so that it causes aches and pains on long trips and, as with the Karoq, you get adjustable lumbar support as standard to help prevent you from slouching.
Disappointingly, adjustable lumbar support isn’t fitted on the Grandland X; to get it, you have to stump up £425 extra for ‘ergonomic sports-style front seats’. That wouldn’t be such a bitter pill to swallow were the uprated seats a big improvement in other respects, but they’re so woefully short on side support that you find yourself wedging one elbow against the door and the other against the central armrest to stop yourself from sliding across the car through corners.
Boxy styling and tall windows tend to be good for visibility, so it’s no surprise that the Karoq is the easiest to see out of in all directions. Sitting behind the wheel of the Kadjar or Grandland X is hardly like being in a pillar box, although their more heavily styled rear ends mean there are bigger blindspots to contend with when looking over your shoulder.
That said, all three cars come with front and rear parking sensors to help with negotiating your way into and out of tight spaces. The Kadjar and Karoq even have a rear-view camera to give a clear, unobstructed view behind the car when you’re reversing. It’s a pity that this useful feature isn’t even optional on the Grandland X.
There’s a clear podium order when it comes to interior quality. True, the Karoq’s dashboard isn’t particularly interesting to behold, but the quality of materials and the way all the buttons and dials operate mean it feels the most expensive and generally the best engineered. The Grandland X’s interior feels far from cheap, although it should be pointed out that the car in our pictures is a more expensive Elite Nav model with some posher bits of interior trim.
Being the only car here with part-synthetic-leather seats can’t stop the Kadjar from feeling a bit low-rent inside. Some of the matt grey dashboard plastic is a bit flimsy, as are the secondary stereo controls behind the steering wheel. The nappa leather on the steering wheel does feel nice in your hands, though.
This isn’t the brightest or most visually impressive touchscreen you’ll ever use, and it’s an inch smaller than those in the other cars (measuring 7.0in from corner to corner). However, it’s reasonably snappy to respond when you press it and you get plenty of gadgets, including sat-nav and Apple CarPlay/ Android Auto smartphone mirroring. The standard eight-speaker Bose stereo, with its integrated subwoofer, is easily the most powerful and best-sounding here.
Go for SE L trim and you’ll get a clear, bright 8.0in touchscreen that responds promptly when your prod it. The system is also very simple to use, thanks largely to its logical menus. You can upgrade to a 9.2in screen for an extra £1500, but we really wouldn’t bother. Care Connect, which brings lots of online features including emergency response, is also very pricey at £400 for three years. Mind you, the Canton sound system (£550) is worth considering if you love your music.
Vauxhall Grandland X
The Grandland X’s 8.0in touchscreen can sometimes be a little sluggish to respond and the menus aren’t quite as logically laid out as they are in the Karoq. However, you get plenty of features as standard, such as the OnStar package, which includes emergency SOS response, a 4G wi-fi hotspot and some connected services. Vauxhall is also the only manufacturer in this trio to give you the ability to charge your smartphone wirelessly; it’s a £160 option.
Space and practicality – Front space, rear space, seating flexibility, boot
Finding it hard to gauge whether these SUVs are too small, too big or just about right for you? We’ll do our best to un-muddy the waters. In terms of length, they’re pretty much halfway between a Volkswagen Golf and a Passat, and when it comes to height they sit midway between a Golf and a Range Rover Sport.
They’re hardly behemoths of the road, then, but plenty big enough that you won’t have to worry about feeling cramped in the front, even if you’re well over six feet tall. The Kadjar’s standard-fit panoramic sunroof means it has the least head room, but you’d have to be a Harlem Globetrotter to find your bonce brushing the ceiling.
The rear seats in the Kadjar and Grandland X are completely conventional; that is, they don’t slide, recline or do anything clever, other than folding down in a traditional 60/40 split. The Karoq’s back seats? Well, they’re positively ingenious by comparison; you can slide them back and forth, adjust the angle of the backrests and even completely remove the seats from the car.
Assuming the seats are slid all the way back, the Karoq has the most rear leg and head room. The Grandland X has the least room for knees, while the Kadjar’s panoramic roof again does head room no favours – this time to the point that 6ft-somethings might need to slouch to fit. A word of warning: adding the optional panoramic roof to the Grandland X makes rear head room even worse than it is in the Kadjar.
Even with the rear seats slid all the way back, the Karoq still has the biggest boot; it’s slightly shorter than its rivals’ but significantly taller. We managed to squeeze in nine carry-on suitcases below the tonneau cover, compared with the eight that fitted in the Grandland X. The Kadjar’s relatively shallow load bay explains why it could swallow only six cases.
The least viable boot here, although it’s still plenty big enough for a short family holiday. False floor can eliminate lip at the boot entrance.
- Boot 537-1478 litres
- Suitcases 6
SE L models gain sliding and reclining rear seats but lose the height-adjustable boot floor. That means there’s a hefty lip at the boot entrance.
- Boot 479-1810 litres
- Suitcases 9
Vauxhall Grandland X
Grandland X has the longest load bay, both with the rear seats up or folded down. It’s also the only one of the trio with a powered tailgate.
- Boot 514-1652 litres
- Suitcases 8