First Drive: 2017 Opel Crossland X

First Drive: 2017 Opel Crossland X

Opel as a brand is streamlining its product offering following the acquisition by PSA Group (Peugeot-Citroen) from General Motors earlier this year.

The waters have been a bit murky for the German brand as its future has for a long time been hanging in the balance, but following the launch of the Crossland X in SA, the brand will continue trading locally under the auspices of Unitrans as its local distributor from 2018.

The smallest member of the marque’s X models, which encompasses crossovers and SUVs, the Crossland X fits in just below the Mokka X in the company’s hierarchical structure. In the first quarter of 2018 the Grandland X, assuming a higher pedestal than the Mokka, will be offered for those seeking more passenger and utility space.

Crossover appeal

Loosely based on the Corsa platform, the Crossland X effectively replaces the MPV-like Meriva to satisfy the crossover appetite that continues to grow globally. It does seem rather bizarre that Opel is offering two vehicles so close in size though, with the Crossland X measuring 4.21-metres and the Mokka X 4.28-metres but it seems to be more about price.

The Crossland range starts at R265 000 while the Mokka range extends into R400 000 territory to compete with the likes of the Hyundai Tucson and Toyota Rav4. The Grandland X will then pick up from where the Mokka X pricing ends and stretch into R500 000 territory.

The Crossland X comes into a growing and rather feisty segment where the likes of the Hyundai Creta, Mazda CX-3 and Renault Captur are already jostling for position, so it will have its work cut out.

Thankfully, there is some substance to the model as we found at its launch in Gauteng.

The styling takes cues from the brand’s tyke, the Adam, with its colour contrasting floating roof, while the front has a similar visage to the Mokka X, with its LED daytime running lights.

The cabin has relatively good space, thanks to the 2.6-metre wheelbase, while the boot measures a decent 400-litres. The cabin architecture has been borrowed from the Corsa for the most part and some of the materials are of the hard plastic variety. It is perhaps here that the CX-3 and Captur just feel plusher.

Trim Levels

At launch, two petrol engine derivatives are available; a three-cylinder, 1.2l normally aspirated powerplant with 60kW and 118Nm and a turbocharged variant of similar displacement and configuration pushing out 81kW and 205Nm.

Trim levels come in Base, Enjoy and Cosmo with a five-speed manual transmission as standard, while the Cosmo can be specified with a six-speed automatic. We spent time at the helm of the Cosmo manual variant and the turbo engine displayed some eager get-up-and-go, thanks to that 205Nm on tap from around 2 000rpm.

However, I did find the five-speed manual gearbox rather sloppy on shifts with fairly long gearing, although the upshot is that it manages to cruise quite admirably on the open road with little in the way of engine buzz.

Cabin appointments are fairly good with a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system (eight-inch on Cosmo models) with dual USB ports and Apple CarPlay while Cosmo models also get navigation.

Much like Peugeot, Opel has good products in its arsenal and the biggest hurdle now is to market these aggressively. With a starting price of R265 000 it is keenly priced, although it does have to contend with the Renault’s competitive pricing.

The thing is, General Motors dropped the ball a few years ago when it paid more attention to Chevrolet, placing Opel on the back burner and not pouring money into research and development. That plan backfired as the Chevrolet products were, for the most part, good, but not what one would call aspirational.

Thankfully, it looks as though PSA will not be culling the Opel brand as many pundits had speculated and there will be a great deal of product coming into the market in the coming years. In addition, by 2020, the brand says it will have four electrified cars in its range, including the next generation Corsa and Grandland X. By 2024 all European passenger cars will have electrified options and all vehicles from the brand will continue to be engineered in Russelheim, Germany.

It looks like the Peugeot and Opel brands will mutually co-exist on the market and will share many components, which should prove favourable for economies of scale. All the Opel brand requires is robust marketing to gain market traction as the products have great appeal. – Lerato Matebese