Daily Maverick

Opel Grandland X 1.6 AT: SUV – Suitably Urban Vehicle

The axing of Opel from the General Motors portfolio left the brand’s South African operations in the lurch. Now, under the auspices of Unitrans Motors, the marque is looking to regain the limelight – and the Grandland X SUV is part of the turnaround plan.

Helping feed the world’s obsession with big-but-not-always-tough everyday cars is an almost risk-free turn on the road to sales recovery. That’s especially true in South Africa, where the SUV is an aspiration, if not a first consideration, for many.

It’s not because we have around 500,000km of dirt roads, and some pretty rough tarred roads to match. No, the combination of an elevated ride height and a relatively imposing size has contributed in no small way to the success of the SUV category.

That’s also the starting point of the Grandland X’s offer. At 4.48m long and 1.84m wide, the Opel comfortably meets the size requirements, but not at the expense of real style — something that hasn’t always been a genuine consideration for buyers in this class.

Front-on, the large Opel badge sits high up on grille, with chrome accents leading away to the striking LED daytime running lights that frame the headlights. A pair of recessed, round fog lamps complete the picture.

The overall execution is clean, and manages to successfully migrate Opel’s latest design language from its smaller models – not something that every manufacturer has achieved successfully.

In profile, the big Opel continues the SUV theme with protective cladding for the lower body, positioned between sculpted wheel arches, which on our entry-level test car house 16-inch alloy wheels.

The rear of the Grandland X manages to disguise a lot of the car’s bulk by pairing wide, slim LED taillight clusters with a sculpted tailgate. Higher-spec models get extra chrome detailing in the lower part of the rear bumper.

Crack open the driver’s door, and you’ll find an interior that, at first, doesn’t seem to offer much more than decent design. However, its straightforward set-up belies its tech-heavy spec, underlined by good comfort and ease of use.

Analogue dials in front of the driver frame a colour screen displaying trip information. The centre stack is dominated by the 8-inch colour touch screen infotainment set-up. Dual-zone climate control is standard, as is the auto gearbox.

Placement of the controls is spot on, and all the interactions with the Grandland X’s various systems are intuitive and have a solid feel. The plastics are generally high quality, although the textured finish might not be to everyone’s taste.

No complaints on the tech front, though — Opel has given even this entry-level Grandland X the grand treatment. The IntelliLink infotainment system includes Android Auto as well as Apple CarPlay, with satnav an option.

The sculpted seats deliver long-distance comfort that goes beyond a good driving position, while the multi-function leather steering wheel is tilt and reach-adjustable. In short, there’s no doubt that the interior is top-class, both in terms of comfort and value.

There’s plenty of the requisite practicality, too. A 60:40 split rear bench seat and split-floor boot create a versatile cargo space, with a total load area of 1,652 litres.

The upside of having a model competing for sales in a lucrative segment is the potential for profit. The downside is that a lucrative segment is almost always crammed with lots of competition.

And so it is for the Grandland X. It goes up against the likes of the Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5 and the Peugeot 3008, among others.

The last example is particularly interesting, as the Peugeot and the Opel not only have a common platform, but are built in the same factory and share an engine.

Just one engine, though: while the 3008 is offered with both petrol and diesel options, Opel has limited the engine choice in its SUV — at least for now.

It means the Grandland X is available in three spec levels, but all sharing the same 1.6 turbo petrol motor, with drive to the front wheels via a six-speed auto gearbox.

Opel Grandland X

That may seem humble for a capacious SUV, but the Grandland X is one of the lightest in its class, allowing for sprightly performance. It also makes for good efficiency: combined cycle fuel consumption is a claimed 7.0 litres/100km.

In a mix of urban conditions, the Opel SUV is generally effortless. Power delivery is smooth from pull-off, with the auto transmission providing easy shifts, even when selecting gears via its manual mode.

Highway cruising is similarly enjoyable, and the Grandland X always feels like there’s enough in reserve for a quick overtake.

The steering is a particular highlight, not because it has any genuine feedback worth mentioning, but because of its keen responses and direct nature. Together with the front and rear park distance control, it makes manoeuvring easy — a definite bonus in a larger car.

The Grandland X is underpinned by a composed and comfortable suspension set-up that would have you believe it’s not afraid to get a little sporty. However, putting it through a corner at anything beyond normal pace will have you parking that belief, and reverting to one centred around a more civilised drive.

That also goes for when you swap tar for gravel. Driving the Grandland X on dirt isn’t quite as bad as asking your cat to walk around in socks on your laminate floors, but it lacks confidence on loose surfaces.

It’ll take on a polite dirt road or a game farm trail at low speeds, but any significant distance on rough roads underlines this Opel’s preference for city life. Around town and on tar, it delivers an easy drive, enhanced by standard features like cruise control and hill start assist.

Opel is pinning its hopes on the Grandland X raising the fortunes and profile of the brand locally — ideally to early 1990s levels, where it was in a fierce rivalry with those other Germans, Volkswagen.

Given the car-buying public’s almost rabid consumption of anything wearing an SUV label, the Grandland X is a good way to at least get Opel started on the path back to winning ways.

Fortunately, the brand hasn’t relied solely on sentiment. Its latest offering may not be a thrilling performer by any stretch, but it is stylish and comfortable, laced with tech and delivering an enjoyable drive — all linked to a competitive price tag.

The Grandland X may not be the adventurous type, but it has the size and the space that SUV fans expect, together with a solid dose of value. In short, this Opel has all the makings of an urban champion. DM

PROS

Style, comfort and tech in abundance. An enjoyable daily drive. Good value.

CONS

The SUV label doesn’t mean it’s an adventurer — its preference is for urban living.

VITAL STATS

Opel Grandland X 1.6 Turbo AT

Engine

In-line four-cylinder, 1,598cc, turbo

Power

121kW @ 6,000rpm

Torque

240Nm @ 1,400rpm

Power-to-weight ratio

87.55 kW/ton

Gearbox

Six-speed automatic, FWD

Wheels/tyres

16-inch alloy, 215/70 R16 tyres

0-100 km/h

8.9sec (estimated)

Top speed

201km/h (estimated)

Fuel tank capacity

53 litres

Fuel consumption (claimed)

7.0 litres/100km

Operating range (claimed)

757km

CO2 emissions

156g/km

Retail price

R429,000

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