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►296bhp PHEV tested
► GSe-specific suspension tweaks
► 41-mile EV range
There’s an awful lot going on with the Vauxhall Grandland GSe. To get the headline 296bhp there’s a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine and electric motor driving the front wheels, and another e-motor for the back axle. A 14.2kWh battery gives this plug-in hybrid an official electric-only range of 41 miles.
If all that sounds oddly familiar, it’s because a version of this powertrain was available in the old Grandland X Hybrid4, albeit with a slightly smaller battery. Don’t think GSe is just a rebadge and restyle, though. Yes, there’s more aggressive styling and some big, flashy 19in wheels, but you also get reworked suspension to make this a proper performance flagship. In theory.
Spring and steering rates are up to improve agility, and there’s Koni Frequency Selective Dampers (FSD) as standard, too. Shared with the Astra GSe (and versions of the Abarth 500), they’ve got a special valve that opens should you hit a nasty bump, reducing damping force and improving comfort.
A family affair
Like the Astra GSe, the Grandland’s hybrid system isn’t model specific. Found also in the Peugeot 3008 and DS 7, this is an effective if not enjoyable powertrain. It’s certainly brisk with both power sources chiming in, but a hesitant eight-speed auto ‘box and thrashy engine note put you off driving quickly.
The handling is no doubt improved by the chassis tweaks, with better body control over challenging roads and less lean in the bends. It’s tidy up to a point, but the eco-biased tyres, numb steering and front-biased four-wheel drive system generate fewer smiles than a Volkswagen Tiguan R’s relatively strait-laced 4WD system, let alone what you’d find underneath a Porsche Macan. A crazy reference point? Not so much when you consider Macan prices start at only £7k more than the £43k Vauxhall!
So it’s not that much fun, and it’s not the easiest SUV to live with day to day, either. While the Astra GSe blends ride and handling very well, the Grandland quickly irritates. The stiffer springs mean you’re always being jostled around, even on smooth-looking roads. It deals with bigger ruts and bumps more gently than you might expect, but this is always a firm-riding SUV.
Does it at least look sporty inside?
The GSe’s interior follows the ‘how to make a new car appear sporty’ playbook pretty closely. Up front are GSe branded Alcantara-wrapped sports seats that are certainly comfortable, but could do with a bit more side support. You also get a GSe-branded perforated leather steering wheel and a few metal-look trims, but this is still quite a dour interior.
Two big digital displays for instruments and infotainment dominate, but look past these and the interior is starting to look rather old. Both the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage PHEVs have much plusher interiors and are more spacious, too.
While the Grandland will seat four adults with a bit of space to spare, the Hyundai and Kia have more lounging space and far bigger boots at well over 500 litres each. The Grandland GSe’s 390-litre capacity is hatchback-sized, with the Astra GSe Sports Tourer (read estate) having a far more generous 516-litre boot.
If you want a bit more detail on space and practicality, have a look at our main Vauxhall Grandland review.
Combine an all-electric range of more than 40 miles with CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km, and you get a tempting company car. Indeed, the Grandland GSe sits in the 8% tax bracket, making it a tempting choice for those looking to cut BIK costs.
It also means a triple digit mpg figure, although this as always should be taken with a liberal sprinkling of salt. Keep it charged and only cover short distances, and you’ll see some very impressive figures. Use the voltage to boost performance and economy drops significantly, especially if you’ve triggered Sport mode.
Vauxhall Grandland GSe: verdict
Put simply, the Grandland GSe makes a better company car than performance car. Despite the stiff-limbed ride it’s not actually that much fun in the bends, and you can go even faster for similar money. If you can ignore the small matter of company car tax, a proper performance SUV like the Cupra Ateca or VW Tiguan R will be more fun.
If CO2 and BIK are considerations, then we’d point you towards the far more liveable Kia Sportage. It’s still quick enough, has four-wheel drive and is even more spacious inside. Alternatively, a rear-wheel drive Tesla Model Y cost much the same as a Grandland GSe…
|Price when new:||£43,700|
|On sale in the UK:||Now|
|Engine:||1.6-litre, 4-cyl petrol plus two electric motors, 296bhp, 384Ib ft|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed auto, four-wheel drive|
|Performance:||6.1sec 0-62mph, 146mph top speed, 75g/km CO2, 235.4mpg, 41-mile electric range|
|Weight / material:||1867kg/steel|
|Dimensions (length/width/height in mm):||4477/2098/1609mm|