Motoring

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Opel Crossland X 1.2T Cosmo AT: Nice try, no cigar

The Opel Crossland X subcompact SUV is effectively a badge-engineered Peugeot 2008, but it still looks and feels like an Opel. The big question is whether that’s a good thing …

 

The Opel brand hasn’t had an easy time of late. For long-time owner General Motors, the German company’s perennial losses finally became too much to bear, and it was taken over by the PSA Group, makers of Peugeot and Citroën, in 2017.

GM’s focus on its core US business also had local ramifications: the auto giant divested from South Africa, sweeping Chevrolet – that quintessential braaivleis, rugby and sunny skies brand – off the local map in the process.

The GM manufacturing base in Port Elizabeth has since been sold to Isuzu. And Opel has been left to fend for itself, albeit under the auspices of the Williams Hunt dealer group.

For Opel, the timing is particularly unfortunate. The German brand’s product line-up is one of its strongest in recent years, and its alliance with the PSA Group, itself on an upward trajectory, is likely to yield increasing returns in technology and innovation.

Yes, Opel deserves to do better, but it has struggled to define and project a distinctive identity for years now – and that’s a problem when you’re competing in one of the world’s most closely contested markets.

Simply put, Opel just isn’t top of mind when it’s time for SA consumers to buy a new car, regardless of the attraction, the diversity and the capability of its model range.

Which brings us to the Opel Crossland X. This most recent addition to the local line-up provides a first look at the brand’s future direction – but it enters a segment already filled to capacity with talented contenders.

The list not only includes the Peugeot 2008, on which the Crossland is based, but also the Suzuki Vitara, Renault Captur, Ford Ecosport, Mazda CX-3 and Hyundai Creta, to name just a few. It also reflects just how popular small crossovers and SUVs have become.

The Crossland X cuts a figure typical of small, wannabe SUVs: a modestly raised stance, stylised scuff plates slotted into the front and rear aprons, and contrasting protective cladding for the sills and wheel arches.

Depending on model (we have the flagship 1.2 Cosmo Auto on test here), you also get neatly integrated roof rails, a two-tone paint finish, snappy alloys shod with medium-profile rubber, and chrome detailing. The result is city-slicker smart, rather than great-outdoors adventurous.

The front end, with its large grille, Opel “lightning” insignia and bold headlights with daytime running lights, looks almost too pugnacious for the rest of the car’s slender proportions, while the accentuated D-pillar, sculpted flanks and short rear overhang add some welcome eye candy.

The interior approach is more conservative, and while fit and finish are exemplary, the monochromatic treatment feels like an opportunity lost. Given that this is where Crossland X owners will spend their time, the execution could have been more inspiring.

Shades of grey, charcoal and black dominate, lifted somewhat by metallic accents and inserts. The seats feature cloth inserts that look upmarket and durable, while the leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel looks after the cruise control, hands-free telephony and the audio system.

For those who enjoy letting the sun shine in, there’s a panoramic roof that does a lot to brighten up the cabin. A motorised blind provides welcome respite when the light gets too bright – and the cabin too hot.

Indeed, as far as standard equipment is concerned, the Crossland X Cosmo has it all – and then some. Climate control, electric windows, remote central locking and a raft of active and passive safety systems are all on the comprehensive list.

A generous 20cm touchscreen provides an intuitive control centre for the infotainment system, which includes satnav, Bluetooth for audio streaming and hands-free telephony, Apple CarPlay, FM/AM tuner, and more.

The front bucket seats are partnered by a rear bench seat that is split 60:40 and can be folded down to increase luggage space. You can also opt to slide the bench seat fore and aft (by up to 150mm) to either benefit legroom, or boost cargo capacity.

The Crossland X Cosmo is powered by a charming 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo engine (sourced from Peugeot) that delivers its urge with entertaining gusto. It’s surprisingly strong off the mark, and the six-speed auto gearbox swaps cogs with equal enthusiasm.

The result is unexpected get-up-and-go: the Crossland X always feels frisky, zipping its way through city traffic, and keeping up a brisk pace on the open road. The ride is firm without becoming harsh, while handling is agile.

Real-world fuel consumption is way off the claimed figures, however. While the factory specs suggest 5.4 litres/100km for average use, we only just managed 8.9 litres/100km, admittedly in mostly urban use. Clearly that will improve at steady highway speeds.

It’s an easy car to drive, regardless of conditions, with enough urge to ensure safe overtaking, while it’s also an adept cruiser over longer distances. The raised stance contributes to good all-round visibility.

That little bit of extra ground clearance means that the Crossland X is quite capable of dealing with poor tar or decent gravel, but an all-terrainer it certainly isn’t. Rocky tracks and slippery mud are best left unchallenged.

There’s very little that’s wrong and a lot that’s right about the Opel Crossland X. Depending on model and spec, it compares favourably to its rivals across almost every parameter – including value.

The Crossland X’s biggest problem, though, is that there are so many other, similarly talented contenders in this category, while Opel lacks the presence and cachet to stand out from the brands it’s competing against.

GM’s abrupt departure has not helped the Opel cause either, making life for its new custodians even more challenging.

Opel deserves better, as does the Crossland X. But until the brand can shed its innocuous image, it’s not going to earn any cigars. DM

PROS

Surprisingly nimble dynamics. Full-house features list.

CONS

Brand lacks vital cachet.

VITAL STATS

Opel Crossland X 1.2T Cosmo AT
Engine In-line three-cylinder, 1,199cc, turbo
Power 81kW @ 5,500rpm
Torque 205Nm @ 1 500rpm
Power-to-weight ratio 62,83 kW/ton
Gearbox Six-speed automatic, FWD
Wheels/tyres 17-inch alloy, 215/50 R17 tyres
0-100 km/h 11.8sec
Top speed 187km/h
Fuel tank capacity 45 litres
Fuel consumption (claimed/tested) 5.4/8.9 litres/100km
Operating range (claimed/tested) 830 / 505 km
CO2 emissions 123 g/km
Retail price R370,118
Gallery

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