DRIVE: ROAD TRIP
VAUXHALL’S Grandland X, a mid-size SUV, will be the first new model to leave showrooms in 2018. It arrives about 10 years after the Qashqai, the car credited with founding this segment. The Grandland X, although a wholly new Vauxhall car, sits on the same platform as Peugeot’s 3008, suggesting the merging of the companies had been on the cards for some time. It uses Peugeot engines and is built at a Peugeot factory in France.
This circumstance is no bad thing for the Grandland X as its underpinnings are from arguably the best SUV around.
I took this model in Elite Nav, the top specification, for a good test run over a variety of roads that eventually arrived at Kirkcudbright, the only port on the Scottish side of the Solway.
The drive comfort on all roads was excellent, especially once I had disengaged the intrusive lane departure warning. A ghostly hand tugging at the steering wheel on icy roads is scary. I should also point out this Grandland X does not come with four-wheel drive in any current model: this despite its overall stance and cladding suggesting an inclination for adventure.
Under the bonnet a three-cylinder 1.2-litre turbo-boosted engine with an output of 130ps could certainly at times have benefitted from some extra beans but you can’t have it all ways and a fuel gauge needle that appeared stuck was a fair compromise.
I would have preferred the car to have automatic transmission rather than its sixspeed manual.
Eliminating the clutch pedal would have provided more space in the footwell. I constantly snagged my foot on the footrest when using the clutch. Perhaps a driver with narrow feet and not wearing brogues will have a less irritating experience but for me the pedals are too close.
Kirkcudbright came at last and on this wintry day the sun was struggling to cast some light over the bleak mudlands of the River Dee estuary. This town has a mixture of fine stone buildings. Streets of Victorian, Georgian and Edwardian townhouses are prevalent and I’ve always admired how owners have painted the house facades. Pastel shades line up together, giving Kirkcudbright an edge over any other place I have visited in Scotland. A sign on the information centre’s door says “open all year” but on this day it was locked up, with no way forward for the inquisitive tourist. Also closed was Broughton House, a restored Georgian mansion in the High Street. It is worthy of a visit on its open days. On display are paintings by Kirkcudbright-born artist E A Hornel, who owned the house and also created a Japanese garden there to remind him of his time spent in that country. The house also contains one of the largest collections of the works of Robert Burns.
Kirkcudbright also has a wide variety of independently owned shops, an active little harbour and, as its historic past in the Old Jail, MacLellans’s Castle, the Tolbooth and Greyfriars Church begins to unfold, I can understand why its position off the beaten track has become popular.
The Vauxhall Grandland X in front of MacLellan’s Castle in Kirkcudbright, above and below left