The brand that dominated the local Group N circuit in the early nineties with the fire-breathing, teeth-rattling GSi 16 S has taking a sho’t left to delve into the ever-expanding, cash-generating, global rush for SUVs. When Opel departed our shores early in 2017 and then re-emerged backed by the Williams Hunt group, there was a slight pause in the local market as the consumer assessed whether, like Triumph, which beat a similar retreat last year, the German lightning bolt would actually stay its course and provide the back-up service and dealer network it did before.
Lo and behold, Opel hatched 37 dealerships and an entire range of cars that ends with the Grandland X — a promise of German engineering with competitive pricing. We thought it would be fun to start with the largest model and work our way down.
Opel’s philosophy is pretty much on point with current trends; they speak of global changes and the need for technology to be freely available to all in order to benefit humanity. Technology, by its very nature, is a fluid and evolving system. The IQ of the average modern device is often smarter than its human counterpart, and this presents an interesting challenge to the car manufacturer: how to combine helpful innovations with ease of use while keeping the costs low.
The entry-level Opel Grandland retails from around R441 870 and for this you get a large cabin, solidly built switches, a rather bland interface and actual clocks that show speeds and revs interspersed with the usual spattering of tech buttons and options. We received the Opel Grandland X 1.6T A/T Enjoy, which starts at R478 950.
This SUV segment is a fast, growing, cannibalistic space. There’s a slow migration away from saloon cars across the entire planet, and one can easily see why most manufacturers are investing in these more spacious, elevated and dual-purpose vehicles. This trend is not isolated to the transport sector — I’ve noticed this shift on the two-wheeled side as well, as superbikes rapidly give way to dual-purpose tourers.
The external design characteristics of the Grandland X with its Golden Sunstone tone leads one to believe the car is actually lower than its physical dimensions, but you will find it’s on par with its rivals. This group of pretend high-riding 4 X 4s do better slightly better than a saloon would on dirt, but you will not be chasing Oom Piet with his Land Cruiser down old Platteland farm roads. Optional stick-on mud is available though.
The Opel is built on the same platform as the Peugeot 3008, but is distinctly “Opel” in its appearance; it has element of the previous generations of Opel Astras, just with a beefier, slicker and raised appearance.
The 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine produces a respectable 121KW, which is 4KW short of the legendary Super Boss. Strange but true. It’s responsive enough for a car that weighs almost two tons. It revs freely and you will not think for a moment that it’s only 1600cc plus a blower (turbo). The global pattern towards lighter, smaller engines that offer better fuel consumption with quick response works well in the Grandland X.
The automatic box shifts smoothly and quietly, and the freeway commute is quieter than expected. It does create some noise as the speed increases, but this SUV is not aimed at the 100mph-plus per hour club. The raised seating position allows you a smidgen of aristocracy and the six-speaker sound system keeps you well entertained.
When you up the pace, the SUV starts to sway a bit, although the 17-inch rims do keep the ride comfortable over bumpy surfaces. The FWD system can be allowed its faults with faster cornering, because it’s predictable and gives you ample warning that you pushing the adhesion limits.
The Enjoy has a load of features: electronic stability programme, hill-start assist, traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning and blind spot assist in the top model.
The cabin is graced with a centre touchscreen with access to navigation, radio stations and other features and although it’s not the most appealing looking system, it gives you an idea of where infotainment is heading. I would rather have the upmarket Navi 5.0 system on the high-end model, but I’ve become spoilt. The ability to use one button to configure your speed setting and other features make it easy to apply. The entire display system can be figured out without the need to attain a degree in info technology, so this German Toyota keeps things on the level.
The Enjoy seats are roomy and accommodated my lanky frame with ease, and presenting no issues on long drives. If you want to be fussy, the Cosmo model seating has been approved by German back specialists, and if you want to spend extended shifts in a car, this model would be your chiropractor’s suggestion. All the models have the ISOFIX points and with ample legroom in the back; the Grandland can transport five reasonably sized adults and their luggage.
The Opel Grandland X presents a competent, well-built, easy to drive and solid package. Perhaps there are a few refinements that can be added to this SUV’s roster, but when I drive all the others in this arena, I’ll be better able to provide a better opinion. For now, it is good to have Opel back in South Africa, and at least consumers can rest assured that the brand is staying and making sure that the future is everyone’s.
Engine: 1.6-litre Turbo Enjoy
Top Speed: N/A