2023 Vauxhall Grandland GSe review
With better handling, boosted power and all-wheel drive, the Grandland GSe is now the most powerful Vauxhall on sale. But how good is it?...
On sale Now | Price from £45,850
In recent years, most powerful Vauxhalls have featured a badge saying something like VXR or GSi, but that’s no longer the case. You’ll now find them proudly wearing GSe branding – and this Vauxhall Grandland variant is the flagship model.
That’s right, the new performance-focused GSe sub-brand has taken a practical family SUV and cranked up the power output, putting a total of 296bhp at the mercy of your right foot.
There’s more to the Grandland GSe than just increased straight-line performance, though. Vauxhall has also worked on the suspension to improve its cornering ability.
There's more to the GSe ethos than being just a 'hot' version of an existing model, too. It looks to combine those performance improvements with the benefits of plug-in hybrid (PHEV) engine technology to reduce running costs, including low emissions and a short dose of electric-only propulsion.
That all sounds great, but it won’t be a cake walk for the Grandland GSe because there are plenty of other good plug-in hybrid family SUVs for car buyers to choose from. They include the Kia Sportage PHEV and even the Range Rover Evoque. There's also the Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV that promises a sportier drive than rivals.
So, does it really have what it takes to beat those accomplished rivals? Let’s find out...
What’s it like to drive?
The GSe range also includes hatchback and estate car versions of the Vauxhall Astra but you can definitely feel the changes more in this Grandland GSe. That’s true regardless of whether you’re sprinting away from the lights or driving along a winding road.
Its 1.6-litre turbocharged engine is a modest 20bhp more powerful than the standard PHEV, but it also gains an extra electric motor to propel the rear wheels. That gives you a total of 73bhp more than the standard front-wheel-drive version.
The combined total output of 296bhp is more than most rivals have, and you certainly feel the power increase when you plant your right foot on the accelerator pedal, with the extra torque pushing you firmly into your seat as you sprint from 0-62mph in 6.1sec.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox reacts quickly enough when you want a burst of power, but it does have a tendency to be quite jerky as it flicks through the gears. The hybrid system also takes a second or two to wake up if you ask for a sudden burst of acceleration, and when it does, the engine note is coarse rather than fun or sporty.
While the Grandland GSe is pretty quick in a straight line, it’s arguably more impressive when on a windy road. You see, as with the Astra GSe, Vauxhall has opted for stiffer suspension springs and fitted better damping, from experts Koni, giving the GSe much better body control.
Indeed, when you turn in to a corner, there’s very little lean and a good amount of grip. It’s safe to say that it takes the handling from simply being tidy to being quite enjoyable. However, the additional weight of the motor and batteries do hinder its overall agility, and it's certainly no match for any sports SUV in the corners, including the similarly priced Cupra Ateca. Sitting on 19in alloy wheels, the Grandland GSe struggles to settle down at any speed and gently tosses your head from side to side.
Unfortunately, the steering lets it down too. There has been an improvement over the standard car, especially when you flick into Sports mode for a bit more weight, but it feels quite artificial and you don’t get much feedback. In fact, it steals some of the enjoyment you'd otherwise feel on your favourite road in not just any sports SUV, but even some of its more engaging family SUV rivals, such the Seat Ateca.
The regular Grandland isn’t exactly the softest riding family SUV, but the GSe is far less forgiving through potholes and over imperfections than rivals, including the Sportage. Although it's fine when you’re driving around at normal country road speeds or in town (which may well be what you’ll spend most of your time doing in a family SUV), the firm ride gets a bit tiring.
When it comes to the efficiency part, you’ll find that the Grandland GSe can easily manage 70mph on electricity alone, and has an official electric range of 41 miles. That’s slightly less than the equivalent Sportage (43 miles) but more than the Evoque (39 miles).
What’s it like inside?
Disappointingly, the GSe doesn't have many interior changes to set it apart as a 'special' version, and everything seems a little dated. You see, while the Astra is a relatively new model, the Grandland has already had a fairly light facelift. You do find some soft-touch materials, but it lacks the wow factor of the Evoque's and doesn't look as modern as the one in the Sportage.
The best upgrade is the new suede-like Alcantara-trimmed sports seats. They’re comfortable on a long journey, and have bigger side bolsters to give much more support. Unlike in the Astra GSe, you don’t get electric seat adjustment, which is a shame.
Aside from the seats, you won’t find many other changes over the standard car, apart from a GSe-specific steering wheel, which is trimmed in thicker leather than the standard wheel. For more details about the interior, see our full Vauxhall Grandland review.
While the Vauxhall Grandland GSe has successfully turned the brand’s family SUV into something that’s moderately fun to drive along a twisty road, there are things that make it hard to recommend over rivals, including the brilliant plug-in hybrid (PHEV) Kia Sportage.
The biggest problem is the price. You see, while it’s £1340 more than the regular Grandland PHEV in top-spec Ultimate, it’s also far more expensive than the Sportage in our favourite 3 trim. True, you do get more kit with the Grandland, including matrix LED headlights and a 360-degree parking camera, but then you also have to live with the firm ride and slightly low-rent interior.
If you have to go for the Grandland, we can at least say the additional cost of the GSe is worth it over the Ultimate trim. It will make the most sense for company car drivers attracted to its lower tax rate over a petrol or diesel equivalent. However, the Kia Sportage is a much better family SUV overall.
What Car? rating 2 stars out of 5
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Vauxhall Grandland GSe
Price £45,850 Engine 4cyl, 1598cc, turbocharged, petrol, plus two electric motors Power 296bhp Torque 384lb ft Gearbox 8-spd automatic 0-62mph 6.1sec Top speed 146mph Fuel economy 235mpg CO2, tax band 27g/km, 8%
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