Afflicted by both ‘difficult’ news and news of entirely new models, writes Iain Robertson, the brand formerly known as Vauxhall (of Luton; a division of General Motors American enterprise) is still Vauxhall but now with a PSA French accent.
It needs to be said that I feel a huge amount of regret about Gallic car group, PSA, which owns Peugeot, Citroen and DS brands, having taken over Vauxhall-Opel. Perhaps we (motoring scribes) were being shielded from innumerable pertinent facts, as there is no denial of a distinct change in attitude between the Vauxhall we used to know around four years ago and the ‘under-the-thumb’ French alternative that we think we know today.
Before you start screaming ‘Xenophobe!’ at me, I should inform you that I was born in France, although I am British (Scots, by my father), and I neither loathe nor fear ‘foreigners’. Yet, I am aware of certain traits that run deeper than the lightweight stories related to ‘Les Grenouilles’, or ‘Ros-bifs’. In fact, having worked on contract to Citroen, I am only too aware of the company’s sometime, more-than-apparent disregard of its British customers.
For not the first time over the years, I have remarked on Peugeot models being roomier in left-hand drive form than right-hand. The reason was simple: Peugeot and its sister brands produced model dependent platforms that had been set-up for a left-hand drive market. The dip in the floor for the feet of non-right-hand drivers was filled for our market but not mirrored for our feet space. Ergo: insufficient free space in the foot-pedal area. A similar but rarer situation existed for left-hand front seat height adjustment (higher in our market; while the driver’s seat could not match its range of adjustment). This is not zenophobic, it is just rude.
Of course, the difficult news to swallow lately is that the very plant, where all manner of Vauxhall Astras are produced (at Ellesmere Port, on the Wirral, across the Mersey from Liverpool) and which was described, by Vauxhall senior personnel, less than four years ago, as being ‘in a profitable state’, has been forced to endure ‘politicking’ of the highest order. As soon as PSA Group had confirmed its acquisition of both Opel and Vauxhall assets, using Chinese funds by the way, because it was running a little close to bankruptcy at the time, the French company announced that ‘not all is good’ at Ellesmere Port.
Not long afterwards, it was announced that the new Astra, which is soon to be launched in readiness for November deliveries, would be produced at Ellesmere Port, which, under normal circumstances would have presupposed that ‘things are good’ again. That was fine, until, a fortnight later, Boris Johnson assumed the PM’s role and the reaction from PSA Group was that a ‘No Deal Brexit’ would ‘make us relocate Astra production to a South of France factory’. None of this playing political football with one of its charges is doing much in respect of brand confidence-building, which is both sad and very myopic.
Yet, Vauxhall has girded its loins and continues to highlight various models that we have written about previously by confirming their list prices. Naturally, ‘list prices’ in this context are about as dependable a guide as Official MPG figures, because the various discounts that can be and are applied at both dealer and agent levels ensure that Vauxhall customers seldom ever pay full list price. Therefore, treat them strictly as a guide, because, as a business-user, you will NOT pay anything near to Vauxhall’s bottom-lines, as long as you apply your powers of negotiation. So desperate is Vauxhall (and PSA) to move metal, it is most definitely a ‘buyers’ market’, so you are urged to take fullest advantage!
Take the exciting Vauxhall Grandland X Hybrid4 that is set to arrive in dealer showrooms in January 2020, boasting a truly low 36g/km CO2 emissions, 176.5mpg and up to 32 miles of full EV potential, the plug-in model combines two electric motors and a 13.2kWh battery pack, with a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine for a combined 297bhp. It can blast from 0-60mph in just 6.7s and is low tax. The entry-level Business Edition Nav Premium is listed at £35,590, while the SRi Nav version is priced at £40,300, the Elite Nav at £42,200 and the top-of-the-shop Ultimate Nav at a pocket-bruising £45,450. For Benefit-in-Kind taxpayers, the Grandland X Hybrid4 is the first true rival to the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV that has ruled the PHEV roost for several years and acquiring the Vauxhall branded item will save a lot of cash over the Mitsubishi equivalent and will also benefit from better chassis dynamics too.
Next up is the new Vauxhall Corsa, also due in showrooms in January 2020. Available in a wide range of trim levels, with only PSA petrol and diesel engine options available and an all-new fully-electric model (due later, although early interest can be registered now), the new Corsa is 10% lighter than before, which pays dividends in overall efficiency. The entry-level Corsa 1.2SE (72bhp) is list priced from £15,550 and rises through SE Nav, SE Premium, SE Nav Premium, SRi and Elite (both with Nav and Nav Premium options), to Ultimate at a hefty £25,990. The engine choice is restricted to 1.2-litre turbo-petrol (72, or 97bhp), or 1.5-litre turbodiesel (99bhp), with CO2 ratings running from 85 to 99g/km across the range.
Finally, the new Astra, which is based on the former Astra platform and features several minor trim and styling upgrades, albeit with PSA engines powering the lighter and more efficient line-up, starts at £18,885, rising to £26,920. Thanks to a well-established handling and roadholding remit, the new Astra is able to continue its Ford Focus-beating stance, which would not be difficult, so faulted is the new Ford, while also giving the equivalent Peugeot 308, Citroen C4 and DS4 models a serious run for their money. It can be ordered now for deliveries commencing in November.
We urge you to ignore the PSA/French-instigated politics and consider instead Vauxhall’s keen pricing, which can be better at any level around the dealer network, to ensure that you obtain the best Vauxhall model to meet your business needs.