David MottonSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Tow cars’ written by David Motton
If you want a small crossover or SUV with a Vauxhall badge you now have two choices. Alongside the Mokka X, Vauxhall has now launched the Crossland X.
On the face of it, the two cars do seem to tread on each other's toes.
The Crossland X is slightly smaller, but we're only talking about a 6cm difference in length.
And although the Crossland X starts from £16,555 – some £1900 less than the cheapest Mokka X – much of that difference is down to the Crossland's less powerful entry-level engine.
Vauxhall argues there's method, not madness, behind this. The Mokka X is the more aggressive-looking, style-led choice, and is available with more powerful engines and four-wheel drive. As such, it has more convincing SUV credentials.
Finding its place
The Crossland X fills the gap left by the old Vauxhall Meriva MPV, but with more SUV-like styling.
Compared with the Mokka X it has a roomier, more airy interior and there are no 4x4 versions. It's more of a family car than the Mokka X.
Which is right for a caravanner?
They're both light cars, but the Crossland X has very low towing limits, ranging from just 650kg for the entry-level 1.2 petrol to 870kg for the range-topping 1.6 diesel.
So, rather disappointingly, even a Swift Basecamp or an Xplore 304 will be too heavy for the Crossland X. It's only worth considering as a tow car if you own a trailer-tent or a very light tourer like a Go-Pod.
There are five engines available, and we've had the chance to drive all but the entry level 81PS (80bhp) car.
Vauxhall expects the 110PS (108bhp) 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol to be the most popular choice, and we can see why. The three-cylinder engine is happy to rev and always feels eager.
We drove a five-speed manual, but this engine is the only one in the range which is also available with an automatic. The 110PS manual achieves a commendable 58.9mpg on the combined cycle (when fitted with 16-inch alloys).
There's also a more powerful, 130PS (128bhp) 1.2 turbocharged petrol variant. It's similar in character to the 110PS model, but with a little more zip to it.
The official combined figure is 55.4mpg, so there's not a big penalty at the pumps for the extra performance, and the six-speed manual 'box shifts gear more smoothly than the 110PS car's five-speed.
The diesel options
As a rule of thumb, diesels make better tow cars, but that's not necessarily the case with the Crossland X range. The 99PS (98bhp) diesel performs well enough, but its towing limit is just 840kg.
That is exactly the same as that of the 110PS and 130PS petrol models. Given that the petrol cars are cheaper and more engaging to drive that's where our money would go.
Admittedly, the 99PS diesel is heavier, with a kerbweight of 1289kg. But that's only a little more than the 1245kg 110PS petrol and the 1274kg 130PS car.
The model which really ought to make the best tow car is the range-topping 120PS (118bhp) 1.6-litre diesel.
With 221lb ft of torque it has significantly more mid-range pull than any other model in the range, it's the heaviest with a kerbweight of 1319kg, and returns 70.6mpg on the combined cycle.
But its legal towing limit is still only 870kg, and it costs £1285 more than the 130PS petrol. Unless you cover a lot of miles, we'd stick with one of the petrol-powered cars.
Compact yet practical
Even the most powerful diesel comes with relatively small 17-inch alloys. The small wheels and tall tyre sidewalls contribute to a reasonably comfortable ride, although the Crossland's suspension can be caught out by sharp bumps.
Tighter control over body movements would be welcome on twisty country roads, and the light steering doesn't feel sharp or alert. If you're looking for a sporty crossover, you'll have a lot more fun in a Mazda CX-3.
However, the CX-3 is nothing like as practical as the Crossland X. Vauxhall has done a good job of squeezing a reasonably spacious cabin into a car that's just 4.21m long.
And there's enough head and legroom for adults to be reasonably comfortable in the back. It's a shame there are no air vents between the front seats or in the door pillars, though.
The seats split and fold 60:40, just as you'd expect. An extra £300 buys the Versatility Pack, which adds sliding rear seats, a centre rear armrest and a centre rear head restraint.
With the seats all the way back the boot has a 410-litre capacity, which compares well with the Mokka X's 356 litres and the Mazda CX-3's 350 litres. With the rear seats moved forwards that increases to 520 litres.
It's a well-equipped car as well as a practical one. Even the entry-level SE model comes with dual-zone climate control, 16-inch alloys, a seven-inch touchscreen, cruise control and in-car wi-fi.
The Vauxhall Crossland X doesn't yet have a safety rating from Euro NCAP, but it will be available with autonomous emergency braking on 2018 model year cars, which can be ordered from June.
A missed opportunity?
It's a shame the towing limits are so low – the 120PS diesel in particular feels like it could handle caravans weighing more than 870kg, but there's no getting around the legal maximum.
And if the ride and handling were a match for the lively engines, the Crossland X would be much more enjoyable to drive.
However, it is reasonably priced, well-equipped and practical for such a small car. If you own a micro-caravan or a trailer-tent, the new Vauxhall shouldn't be overlooked.