Johannesburg - After last year’s sale of the Opel brand to Peugeot’s parent company PSA, and the shock departure of General Motors from the South African market it’s fair to say the German marque’s been on shaky ground as of late. But thankfully for local fans of the lightning bolt badge, the Williams Hunt Group has stepped in to take over importation and distribution of Opel models, and it’s already busy rolling out new product.
On test here is the first car to land since the Williams Hunt takeover - the Crossland X.
It’s a compact crossover with its sights set on the popular Ford EcoSport, Hyundai Creta and Honda HR-V segment, though it’s Peugeot’s 2008 which most closely rivals the Opel; not only because they’re similar in size and shape but because they’re essentially the same vehicle under the skin.
But unlike other platform-sharing projects where common DNA is very noticeable, this Opel/Peugeot team-up is well cloaked. Basically, you’d never know unless you flipped both cars over to look at common chassis and suspension parts. Or, unless you’re familiar with the three-cylinder thrum of PSA’s 1.2 turbo - which the Crossland quite clearly inherited. More on that in a minute.
With its ‘floating’, two-tone roof design the Crossland X has an obvious link to the smaller Adam hatch in exterior design, and it’s closely related to the Astra inside.
Technically the Crossland X is categorised as a crossover SUV, but if it weren’t for its slightly elevated 124mm ground clearance we’d have no problem calling it a hatch; maybe even a wagon considering its elongated body, generous 500 litre boot and decent rear legroom.
It feels smaller than it is from behind the wheel, thanks mostly to its especially light steering and tight turning circle.
At just over 4.2m long and 1.6m high it’s slightly smaller than its sibling Mokka X - a model we’d bank on being discontinued in our market soon. Besides the fact that the Mokka was developed before the PSA partnership, there just won’t be space for it in the line up once the upcoming Grandland X (based on the Peugeot 3008) is launched.
Opel’s done well to give the Crossland’s interior an upmarket feel with classy chrome accents and neat painted trimmings in the dashboard. Switchgear feels solidly made and dark, soft-touch materials dominate the dash, though there are some hard plastics if you go scratching around in the door panels and seat bases. Competitors mentioned above would struggle to match the Crossland X’s overall interior quality.
A flip-down driver’s armrest, normally found in much grander vehicles, is a welcome touch and adjustable rear seat backrests will be appreciated by third, fourth and (at a push) fifth passengers.
I also like the double-tier boot floor which allows for two stowage levels on top of a spacesaver spare tyre. I do wish however, that the panoramic sunroof’s electrically retractable blind was made from a darker material and was better at blocking out our African sun’s blistering rays.
The top-of-the-line Cosmo version tested here comes with a 20.3cm Intellilink touchscreen infotainment centre complete with navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. For the most part it’s a user friendly interface with one well-placed rotary volume control knob (thank you Opel) and some clever shortcut buttons underneath.
Cosmo also means upsized 17” rims (from 15 in the base and 16 in the Enjoy), and they look great but make for a rather firm ride. On smooth roads the Crossland cruises along with a steady stride, and we just might consider it sporty on perfectly tarred bends, but as soon as a ripple is introduced it jitters and hops uncomfortably. The cheaper derivatives with higher-profile tyres will likely come with softer ride qualities.
Don’t let the badge mislead you. This is no adventure vehicle despite what ‘Crossland X’ might have you believe. This is strictly a front-wheel drive urban runabout, even with its elevated clearance. That said, it is nice knowing you can shortcut the occasional domed roundabout without scraping a front bumper lip or the underbelly.
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The 1.2 turbo up front is a wonderfully torquey thing. Paired with a six-speed auto there’s the slightest trace of lag on pulloff, but once on the go it delivers its 81kW and 205Nm with plenty of gusto. The rev counter reads a 6500rpm redline, for what we don’t know, because it gets all its work done well under the 4000 mark. It’s very much like a small turbodiesel in character, calmly purring away even when asked for a burst of acceleration.
Opel claims a 5.4 litre per 100km average petrol consumption, but that figure is simply unattainable. In stop/go traffic our trip computer shot up to nearly 10l/100km, and settled at 7.8 after a week’s worth of mixed routes including plenty of long highway stints.
Pricing, for this derivative in particular, falls at the upper end of the segment but keep in mind it is quite rich in features. Auto headlights and wipers, cruise control, full LED lights, six airbags, a reverse camera and parking sensors are included for R366 900.
The Crossland sets a high benchmark in its segment for cabin quality and layout. A firm ride in Cosmo spec might not be to everyone’s liking, and it can be thirsty as a commuter, but its convenient dimensions and packaging more than make up for it.