Johannesburg - It’s been an eventful year for the Opel brand in South Africa, to put it mildly.

First came the news that the Opel brand had been sold to Peugeot’s parent company PSA abroad, and not long after that General Motors announced plans to pull out of South Africa altogether. But while there won’t be any more Chevrolets under SA’s sunny skies for the foreseeable future, the Williams Hunt Group, long synonymous with the Opel brand at a dealer level, has stepped up to the task of being the German brand’s local importer and distributor and this week saw the South African launch of the first new product under the new dispensation.

So let’s meet the Crossland X, a new compact crossover based on the Peugeot 2008 and set to take on the Ford EcoSport and Renault Captur in that mushrooming segment. 

But doesn’t the Mokka already compete in that neck of the woods? At the upper end, yes, but as much as Opel SA insists that having two products in that segment is a good thing, I’ll put money on the Mokka X being quietly retired at the end of its current product cycle as Opel shifts its focus to products that were co-developed with Peugeot.

For the record, the Crossland X measures 4212mm in length and 1765mm in width, making it 66mm shorter and 1mm wider than the Mokka X.

The Crossland X was actually developed before PSA bought Opel, through an earlier collaboration agreement, but this is certainly no badge-engineering exercise as the Opel has its own distinctive design inside and out. Its two-tone roof (on flagship models) and C-pillar arch are a clear salute to the Adam, while the front end design takes inspiration from the Insignia Grand Sport.

Inside there are plenty of Astra vibes and the textures look suitably upscale, with a decent assortment of chrome garnishes and soft-touch upper surfaces. 

It’s also more spacious than its compact exterior dimensions suggest, with generous rear leg and head room and the rear seat can slide in all but the base model, allowing the ratio of boot to passenger space to be varied depending on your needs. Even with the rear seat all the way back, the boot still swallows 400 litres worth of luggage. All in all, the Crossland X is big enough to be a family car, providing that your needs are not too extreme.

On the road the little Opel has a taut, slightly sporty feeling about it, much like the Peugeot that it’s based on. The suspension is a little on the firm side, resulting in nimble road holding, but the ride quality - though certainly leaving room for improvement - is comfy enough on most surfaces.

The Crossland X is offered with two PSA-inherited 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engines in South Africa.

In the case of the entry level model there is no turbo, and as a result the little three-pot puts out just 60kW and 118Nm, which doesn’t sound like enough to move a vehicle of this size at a comfortable pace, particularly at altitude. Needless to say, this model was not available to test drive at the Gauteng-based local launch on Wednesday.

We did get to sample the turbo version that powers the rest of the range. With 81kW and a far meatier 205Nm on tap, the force fed motor delivers reasonably strong performance and can overtake with relative ease, but you will need to gear down at times to get the turbo spooling.

All models put their power through the front wheels, via a five-speed manual gearbox in all but the range-topper, which comes with a six-speed autobox.

As mentioned, there are three basic trimlines on offer and specification is notably generous across the board:

1.2 Crossland X 

Price: R265 000

Standard features: Automatic climate control, electric windows, cruise control, 17.8cm Intelilink touch-screen infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity, multi-function steering wheel, Lane Departure Warning, six airbags, ABS brakes and ESP stability control.

1.2 Crossland X Enjoy

Price: R305 000

Adds: Front and rear park assist with reverse camera, rain sensing wipers, auto dimming rear view mirror, front foglights, leather-covered steering wheel, 16-inch alloy wheels (replacing the base model’s 15” steel rims) and as mentioned, a proper engine.

1.2 Crossland X Cosmo

Price: R345 000 (manual), R360 000 (auto)

The key difference here is the fitment of Opel’s Navi 5.0 Intellilink infotainment system, complete with a larger 20.3cm touchscreen, 3D map navigation with bird’s eye view and Siri voice control. The Cosmo also adds 17-inch alloy wheels as well as AGR Certified ‘Ergonomic’ front seats and a more upscale cloth/vinyl seat upholstery combo.

The Cosmo also opens the door to a wide range of options, including two-tone roof designs and driver assistance features such as Advanced Park Assist, Head-up Display, Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Driver Drowsiness System and LED headlights with Adaptive Forward Lighting.

All Crossland X models are sold with a five-year/120 000km warranty and roadside assistance subscription as well as a three-year/60 000km service plan, with service intervals pegged at 15 000km.

What the rivals cost

Ford EcoSport 1.0T Trend 92kW/170Nm R283 900
Renault Captur 1.2T Dynamique 88kW/205Nm R294 900
Jeep Renegade 1.6 Sport 81kW/152Nm R299 900
Peugeot 2008 1.2T Active 81kW/205Nm R299 900
Opel Crossland X 1.2T Enjoy 81kW/205Nm R305 000
Suzuki Vitara 1.6 GL+ 86kW/151Nm R307 900
Kia Soul 1.6 Start 91kW/152Nm R309 995
Mazda CX-3 2.0 Dynamic 115kW/204Nm R310 700
Opel Mokka X 1.4T Enjoy 103kW/200Nm R317 500
Nissan Juke 1.2T Acenta+ 85kW/190Nm R317 900
Hyundai Creta 1.6 Executive 90kW/150Nm R324 900

IOL Motoring