Vauxhall Crossland X
Vauxhall is getting serious about every area of the small SUV sector. Proof of that is delivered by this, its smallest offering, the Crossland X. It's compact yet surprisingly spacious, as well as being fashionable to look at and efficient to run. There's no pretence at off road capability but in all the areas that really matter, this car looks to be a strong proposition.
Thanks to its Peugeot-derived platform and light PSA Group engines, this Crossland X has a huge weight advantage over its Mokka X showroom stablemate - around 200kgs - and you really feel that the first time you turn into a bend with any sort of real speed. Don't get us wrong: this Vauxhall isn't any sort of driver's car, but it's certainly a lot more agile and chuckable than you might expect, something we experienced for ourselves on the undulating Norfolk roads we came across as part of our weekend family test drive.
Engine-wise, Crossland X buyers are offered a PSA-sourced range of three cylinder 1.2-litre petrol powerplants, plus that French group's 1.5-litre diesel developing 102PS. If budget is everything, there's a price-leading normally aspirated 83PS petrol unit, but easily the best option in the line-up is the mid-range 1.2-litre 110PS turbo petrol powerplant that most likely buyers will choose. It's the only engine on offer with the option of an automatic transmission, but this gearbox makes quite a dent in the efficiency figures. If you need more power, then your Vauxhall dealer will steer you towards the 1.2-litre 130PS model we tried as part of our test.
Buyers in the smallest SUV segment tend to prioritise aesthetics more than those in larger Crossover categories, so with that in mind, it's safe to say that this Crossland X starts off with something of a head-start. Provided you choose a variant with this contrast-coloured roof, there's something of the sophisticated, personalised feel here that you get with the Griffin brand's trendy little ADAM citycar.
Inside, the centrepiece of the smartly styled dash is a beautifully-integrated Intellilink infotainment screen which incorporates the usual DAB stereo, Bluetooth 'phone and informational functions. Include the optional satellite navigation system and the screen size increases from 7 to 8-inches and you'll be better set up to use this car's other key technical innovation, the OnStar 'personal connectivity and service assistant'. This includes a vehicle tracking system in case of theft, creates in your Crossland X an in-car wi-fi hotspot and will allow you to monitor key vehicle information via a downloadable 'MyVauxhall' smartphone app. 'OnStar' will also automatically alert the emergency services if the airbags deploy. In the back, there's the useful option of a sliding rear bench, behind which lies a 410-litre boot. This proved to be large enough for my family's weekend luggage and is accessed through a decently-sized rectangular aperture. Push forward the backrest and up to 1,255-litres of fairly flat space is opened up.
In the Crossland X, Vauxhall has at last delivered the kind of SUV Crossover that the supermini-based segment of the market really wants. Buyers in this sector who would previously have ignored their local Vauxhall showroom on their way to buy something like a Captur or a Juke will now find the brand much harder to overlook.Click here to find out more about our Vauxhall Crossland X range
The Ford EcoSport uses tried and tested Fiesta mechanicals to offer buyers a small SUV with added ride height and chunky good looks. Now it's got a more efficient 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel engine, sleeker styling and a much classier interior with more sophisticated infotainment technology. In short, it's a far better product all-round.
The EcoSport now gets a choice of five engines, three petrol units and two diesels. Petrol-wise, Ford's award-winning 1.0 EcoBoost three cylinder engine is available in 100, 125 and 140PS guises. The 125PS petrol variant can be ordered with the option of auto transmission. If you want a diesel, there's the choice of a 100PS 1.5 TDCi unit and front wheel drive or Ford's latest 1.5-litre 125PS EcoBlue powerplant mated either to front wheel drive or to the brand's 'Intelligent All Wheel Drive' system.
Intelligent All Wheel Drive measures how the car's wheels are gripping the road surface and can adjust torque delivery up to 50/50 between the front and rear wheels in under 20 milliseconds - twenty times quicker than it takes to blink. The system seamlessly transitions torque between all four wheels and provides a more secure footing on the road especially in slippery conditions.
We've yet to try the new EcoSport but Ford says that this model has been developed to deliver ride and handling tuned specifically for customers in Europe, with optimised springs, dampers, spring aids, steering gear, Electronic Stability Programme settings and steering assistance profiles.
The EcoSport's styling has been brought more into line with the look of Ford's larger SUVs, the Kuga and the Edge. A more sculpted bonnet with a central bulge delivers a cleaner front-end appearance and the front-end design is now dominated by a smarter trapezoidal grille design and distinctive angular headlights that incorporate LED daytime running lights. Angular fog light housings complete a front three quarter profile that was apparently inspired by the straps of a rucksack and was designed to reflect an adventurous character. The EcoSport's rear bumper and tail light designs have also been revised to deliver a cleaner, more sculpted appearance. Customers can continue to choose a boot-mounted spare wheel option.
Inside, there are easier to use controls and soft-touch materials, plus a new centre console featuring fewer buttons. New seats designs improve long distance comfort and there's an optional adjustable interior lighting system that can be set to one of seven colours. Smart stowage solutions include a new height adjustable boot floor that can be raised to provide concealed storage, or lowered to increase luggage capacity to 334 litres. That new centre console features a built-in folding, sliding passenger armrest with a storage compartment ideal for tablet computers or snacks. That side-hinged tailgate still accesses a load space that Ford reckons is big enough to swallow a 560-litre washing machine - once the 60/40 split rear seats are folded, that is.
And in summary? Well in this guise, the Ford EcoSport seems to be a much more promising prospect. It looks a more serious product - and is - in almost every respect. Plus, as before, it's practical and decently equipped. Ride and refinement are now very good by class standards too - and the SYNC 3 connectivity system is brilliant.
All these reasons will combine with the small SUV segment's current popularity to ensure that Ford will probably sell as many of these as they can import. My daughter, for example, would love one. It is, as ever, a case of giving the market what it wants.Click here to find out more about our Ford EcoSport range
Hyundai fills a conspicuous gap in its model range with this Kona, a little SUV aimed at the many supermini-based models now populating the smaller part of the quickly-growing Crossover segment. It's more extrovertly styled than you might expect a Hyundai to be and ticks all the right boxes in terms of safety and media connectivity.
Kona buyers get a choice between two petrol engines. The entry-level 1.0-litre T-GDI three-cylinder turbo is borrowed from the i30 and puts out 120PS and 175Nm of torque. It's manual only, using a six-speed box, and drives through its front wheels only. The other unit on offer is a 1.6-litre four-cylinder variant with 175PS, available only with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto box and the only derivative in the Kona line-up offered with 4WD. This top petrol model can make 62mph from rest in just 7.9 seconds on the way to 127mph flat out. For the 1.0 T-GDI, the figures are 12.0s and 112mph.
There are 2WD-only petrol hybrid alternatives too, using a 1.6-litre petrol unit with a 105PS power output, electrified assistance and a 7-speed dual clutch auto transmission. There's also an all-electric version, available in either a base 39kWh/135PS form or an uprated 64kWh/204PS guise. Hyundai claims a driving range of up to 300 miles.
Small Crossovers in this class need to be able to offer fun, agile handling, something Hyundai says is delivered in the Kona thanks in large part to an advanced multilink rear suspension system - though this is only fitted to the higher output models. Lesser-powered versions get the kind of cheaper torsion beam rear set-up that features on less advanced rivals. There's also an 'Advanced Traction Cornering Control' package to improve traction and damping in bends.
Aware that it was late launching a model into the smallest sector of the SUV segment, Hyundai felt the need to make a bold statement with the design of this car. Hence the aggressive body styling with its two-tone roof, unusual twin headlamps and distinctive 'Cascading' front grille. Short rear overhangs and a low roofline add to the purposeful silhouette, plus contrasting exterior accents and standard-fit roof bars inject a bit of all-important SUV flavour.
Inside, there's a cabin you can colour co-ordinate in a choice of different shades and lots of the switchgear is borrowed from the company's i30 family hatch. Plusher models get a floating 8-inch screen at the top of the dash. Lesser models get a 7-inch set-up. Either way, the infotainment package is compatible with the 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' systems. A head-up display is being offered for the first time in a Hyundai and audiophiles can opt for a thumping Krell stereo system. As for practicalities, well the Kona is a little longer than a rival Nissan Juke, something that really tells in terms of back seat space. Plus there's a 361-litre boot that you can extend in size to 1,143-litres when the 60:40 split-folding rear backrest is flattened.
With the Kona, Hyundai has clearly benchmarked what buyers want in this class, then ruthlessly set about providing it. Aggressive styling: tick. Trendy media connectivity: tick. Class-competitive safety: tick. Potential for fun handling: tick. It's hard to argue with the finished result. Surprise, surprise, it ticks a lot of boxes.
You can't always create a great product through this kind of process. We'd argue, for example, that the class-leading Nissan Juke has an extra dash of emotive spirit that doesn't come from working through a spread sheet. If you don't care about that though, the Kona makes a strong case for itself. We think it's a car the segment will like.Click here to find out more about our Hyundai Kona range