Picture: Jason Woosey.

Johannesburg - Many South Africans adore diesel engines for their punchy low-down torque characteristics and the fact that they can chug along on just a sniff of fuel, but these days there aren’t a lot of oil burning options in the compact car and SUV segments.

But that isn’t stopping Opel from fighting for a following in this space with the recently introduced diesel version of its Crossland X crossover, which joins the 1.2-litre petrol models that hit our shores almost two years back.

At R348 450, the new Crossland X 1.6 TD Enjoy model sells for exactly the same price as the equivalently specced 1.2-litre turbopetrol version, something that could lead to some head scratching indecisiveness on the dealer floor.

One thing that could sway your choice is your preferred transmission - the diesel comes with a five-speed manual gearbox only, while the petrol is fitted with a six-speed automatic as standard. 

The 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine musters 68kW and 230Nm, while the 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbopetrol gives you 81kW and 205Nm. However, there isn’t too much use comparing outputs, given the different characteristics of the two engine types, with diesels producing more torque lower down, so it really depends on which you prefer.

We’ve just spent a week with a Crossland X 1.6 TD and we were impressed with its overall performance. It has more than enough gusto for everyday avenue sprinting as well as for effortless highway cruising. If we have to nitpick, it is a touch laggy at low rpm; that and the long top gear ratio mean that when driving in town you can’t always change up to fifth as quickly as you might want to.

Did I tell you it’s economical? Of course I don’t need to… it’s a small diesel engine pulling a smallish car, but for the record the 1.6 TD consumed 6.7 litres per 100km during a few days of purely urban driving, and after resetting the trip for a short highway stint, the readout hovered around 4.5 l/100km.

We don’t have comparative figures for the petrol model, but expect it to consume a few l/100km more, although it must also be said that modern turbopetrol engines are closing the gap to diesels in terms of efficiency and low-down twisting force.

A practical choice

Regardless of which version you choose, we can tell you that the Crossland X impresses with its practicality and all-round cabin vibes.

There is some serious versatility on offer here. The split-level boot has a capacity of 410 litres, and because the back seats have a sliding mechanism, you can extend the luggage area without having to fold everything down - that’s provided your passengers are willing to squeeze up to the front seatbacks.

With the rear seats in their normal position, there is a bit of stretching space for those in the back, but three adults in the back might be a bit of a squeeze, although it is doable.

It’s easy to get cosy behind the wheel, and it helps that Opel included foldable centre armrests for the front occupants - a nice touch that you don’t often get at this level.

The view is good too. Opel has invested in some classy looking materials to plaster this crossovers dashboard with, including dimpled soft-touch upper surfaces, and satin chrome trim elements. This is quite possibly the smartest looking cabin in the small SUV class right now.

At the centre of it all is Opel’s Intellilink touchscreen infotainment system. There’s no nav here (you get that in the Cosmo model’s upgraded system) but it can hook up to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and if you pay a little extra Opel will give you a reverse camera too.

The midrange Enjoy also comes with cruise control, front and rear park assist, six airbags, Hill-Start Assist, ESP stability control and a somewhat over-sensitive Lane Departure Warning system. 

VERDICT

There isn’t a lot of direct competition in the small SUV diesel game but at R348 450, the Crossland 1.6 TD Enjoy is a bit more expensive than its two closest competitors, the diesel-powered Peugeot 2008 and Renault Captur models, both costing around 320 grand, but the Opel is somewhat cheaper than the admittedly larger Hyundai Creta 1.6D, which retails for R427 900.

Providing you’re not tempted by the lower price tags of the French rivals, the Opel Crossland X is actually a really desirable offering, with good looks, economy, decent performance and a cabin that’s both classy and practical. 

IOL Motoring