At the time of his death from throat cancer in 2014 he had planted more than one million trees. His huge wealth has ensured that the planting will continue.
This and more was imparted at the press debut of a new Vauxhall, the Crossland X. Why? Vauxhall, it transpired, has embraced tree hugging, endowing the Vauxhall Wood, where employees rooted 5,000 deciduous shoots on one day in March.
The woods lie almost midpoint on a line drawn from Vauxhall’s car factory in Ellesmere Port, near Liverpool, and its van factory and HQ in Luton. Employees can meet there socially on their annual free corporate social responsibility day – if they wish.
They have more than trees on their chattering agenda because in March it was revealed that Vauxhall is being merged into Peugeot Citroën (PSA), along with Opel of Germany, as American owners GM (General Motors) get rid of the loss-making European brands.
The Crossland X is already beating with a French soul. The hatchback is a re-bodied and slightly tweaked version of the Peugeot 2008, using PSA engines and gearboxes and chassis components. Don’t expect them to volunteer that in the showroom. Vauxhall says it has its own engine tuning and suspension settings but really we are driving a Peugeot.
Crossland looks nowt like a Peugeot. It has the curious rear pillar shaping seen on the Adam – resembling the strut assembly on an old-style pram hood. You can check the similarity if you ever see an Adam, a model which wasn’t much needed in Britain and gets high marks in any car spotting game.
The other talking point at the press launch (other than Mr Dennis’s eclectic collection of modern art and sculpture) was the Vauxhall Mokka X. Crossland X is similar in size but lacks the ground clearance and the 4x4 option of the Mokka X – the UK bestseller in its sector. Model overlap? You decide. Whatever, the X after Crossland is misleading.
We were told that Crossland would appeal to both the 35-50 family age group and the 50 to 75 group of couples. Let’s just say it will suit anyone who wants a compact five-door car with 4/5 seats and can afford to pay at least £16,555 and can’t afford a Mini Countryman. That sum buys the S with an 80-horse-power, three-cylinder, 1.2-litre petrol engine and most things you want apart from navigation, which is offered on the SE Nav model, from £17,255 with the 80bhp engine – the only Crossland motor without a turbocharger. If you don’t want the Nav models you can get navigation through your smart phone, but this means plugging in with a cable rather than using wireless connection – a messy, outdated system.
Staying with the SE Nav model, the price rises through the 108bhp, 1.2-litre petrol turbo, with manual or automatic gears, to the 98bhp, 1.6-litre diesel turbo at £19,735.
Move to the Tech Line Nav, from £16,650, to get the full engine line-up, adding the 128bhp, 1.2 petrol turbo and the 118bhp, 1.6 diesel turbo. The same engines are offered on the Elite (from £17,755) and Elite Nav (from £18,455).
We were given the 118bhp diesel Elite Nav (£21,380) and the 128bhp petrol Elite Nav (£20,095). These are the only models with a six-speed manual gearbox. Even at these prices, cost saving was evident in some brittle surfaced plastic and undamped grab handles which smack back against the roof. I thought they were banished years ago.
Performance was adequate, with a sub-10-second time for the 0-62mph sprint. The petrol engine was quieter and quicker and I preferred it to the diesel. On paper the diesel rates a combined 70.6mpg and 105g. The petrol rates are 55.4mpg and 116g, meaning the same annual road tax of £140, which applies to all Crossland models. On our test, the diesel model returned 53mpg and the petrol averaged 49mpg so you may not be minded to pay an extra £1,285 for the diesel model.
The Crossland is expected to reach more private buyers than fleet buyers – 65 per cent to 35 per cent, says Vauxhall, compared with just 45 per cent of Mokka buyers being retail. It is the predominance of fleet and SUV buyers which has swelled the diesel car population this century.
Our drive in the Crossland was unremarkable, mostly. It will be a perfectly acceptable family vehicle, with the attraction of its style – if indeed that appeals. You can specify sliding rear seats which allow variations of leg room and luggage capacity. You can have a panoramic roof. There is a 180-degree option for the rear camera, giving a prismatic side angle picture which is just too confusing. The standard rear view is clearer. There is, though, a vertical view which is helpful for close-ups when reversing.
Verdict: Does the job. Smart family runabout with room for the holiday luggage.