Johannesburg - The Opel Grandland X finds itself slap-bang in the middle of one of the most competitive new car segments in the country. Just observe the traffic around you for a few minutes next time you’re on the road and note the sheer number of SUVs running around. Some are big, some small, some fast and some built for the dirt.

The Grandland X is relatively big, it’s not that fast, and it’s sufficient for the odd dirt expedition. In fact, that word - sufficient - seems to sum up my experience with the Grandland X1.6T Enjoy.

Based on the PSA EMP2 platform, which is code for - it’s a Peugeot 3008 underneath - the Grandland X has much to offer in terms of specification and build quality. Styling wise, it’s quite conventional-looking. Big, boxy body with chunky 17” alloy wheels and a comprehensive glasshouse make it pleasing (less awkward?) to look at every day compared to say a Kia Sportage or the very Peugeot 3008 that the Grandland X is based on.

If you’d like to blend in with your SUVs instead of stand out - consider the Grandland X the ultimate in anonymous motoring.

Styling aside, the Grandland X (in 1.6T Enjoy guise) offers more features than you will find in entry-level Audis, BMWs and Mercs. A few of the items that caught me off-guard with a ‘wow, cool, it has that’ moment include: Traffic Sign Recognition, Headlamp High-Beam Assist - Auto Control, and Lane Departure Warning. These are some of the things that you’d have to tick options boxes for on more premium brands.

Our test car was fitted with an optional 5.0 Intellink Infotainment System that offers built-in navigation and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity for calls and music streaming. You can even authorise the infotainment system to use your smart device’s data streaming capability to ensure you receive live traffic updates. The unit can also broadcast Wi-Fi, turning the Grandland X into a roaming hotspot to access the Internet.

Jump into the driver’s seat in the 1.6T Enjoy and you’ll immediately feel that the seat is a little more comfortable than others. Why? Because Opel says the driver’s seat on this car is ‘AGR-certified’ to reduce strain on the driver over long distances. AGR is an independent association that works on preventing back problems, and Opel was the first OEM to receive the AGR stamp of approval for its seats.

Four elements come together to enable seating comfort: Four-Way Lumbar Support, Cushion Tilt adjustment, Cushion Length adjustment, and Contour and Body Support. I managed to find an extremely comfortable seat position, so much so that on the bumpy R512 and roads around Hartbeespoort Dam, I didn’t feel shaken and stirred.

While on the subject of being shaken and stirred, don’t expect any sort of fireworks from the Grandland X - even though it has a TURBO badge on the back and the spec sheet reads 121kW. The combination of a lazy auto transmission that’s geared for economy rather than sprints and some turbo lag from the engine make it more suited to cruising than bruising. And that’s fine, because the Grandland X isn’t meant to light up the tarmac. There’s (hopefully) an OPC version hidden away in some skunkworks that’s being developed for that.

The engine and transmission combo, and a rather wallowy ride because of comfort-focused suspension tuning, will please drivers who prefer to sail along rather than feel things happening in a car. It’s really well-suited to highway journeys. In these instances, if you need to pass, simply floor the gas and you’ll have enough power and torque in reserve to quickly move around a slower vehicle.

However, at his juncture it’s about time we circle back to the ‘sufficient’ nature of the Grandland X. It’s really well built, has enough power and torque to carry a family of four and luggage on a highway sojourn, and is laden with some technologies that aren’t even options in some of its competitors. But it feels like it just needs a little more sharpness in its tuning or set-up to move up a notch from being a ‘sufficient’ vehicle.

Perhaps, if the body rolled a bit less and if the car pulled away cleanly and quickly away from a stop, it would be more of a ‘want one’ car.

At R465 000 the Grandland X 1.6T Enjoy is a little more expensive than a Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace 1.4TSI Trendline (R463 400), but slightly cheaper than a Toyota RAV4 2.2D-4D AWD GX (R476 700). But the Opel is quite highly-specced, and comes standard with a 5-year/90 000km Service Plan and a 5-year/120 000km Warranty.

If you’re wondering how it does on unleaded, Opel claims 7.0l/100km in a combined cycle, and our test car achieved 8.4l/10km over the week long test period. Oh and you can fit ISOFIX baby seats in the front and the back, which is ideal for moms or dads that move their seats around quite often or travel alone with a baby (just remember to turn the front airbag off if you do put a child in the front).

VERDICT

It’s nice to drive, with a pleasant interior, and it’s feature-rich. One could argue that the Opel Grandland X is probably your best buy under R500 000 in the mid-size SUV segment, but then again there’s the Mazda CX-5, and the aforementioned Tiguan and RAV4 within a stone’s-throw of this car’s asking price.

Drive360