A company introducing a car that is almost exactly the same as one it already makes is a curious move and one that had me a bit mystified when I had a brief introduction to the new Opel Crossland X. Some Opel folk had already stressed that the Crossland X was a different car from the Mokka. The Crossland is geared towards urban and suburban drivers, while the Mokka is aimed at those seeking an experience closer to that of a four wheel drive SUV. I don't think I'd have thought of a Mokka as a real contender in the off-road segment, so it seems to be a matter of cosmetics.
In reality, the Mokka and the new Crossland X are differentiated by little more than 0.1 of a metre in length. However, such is the demand for crossovers - as distinct from standard cars - that Opel must have decided to double its chances in its catch-up game with other manufacturers. It still has a long way to go - many other companies have had the crossover SUV wind behind their backs for a few years now.
The other thing I found curious was the fact that the Peugeot 2008 was never mentioned by the Opel folk, despite the fact that the Crossland X is actually based on the 2008 and is the first major joint venture between the two companies, in advance of the merger of both by the end of this year. And there is quite a lot of the 2008 about the Crossland that can't be overlooked. For example, the Crossland X will start at €21,995, while the 2008 costs from €19,400.
The Crossland X is aimed at city and suburban drivers.
In fairness, it is not the case with the Crossland that you are getting a re-worked Peugeot 2008 badged as an Opel. The car is a welcome replacement for the boxy Meriva, which did not age well and was swept off the re-design schedule as not being anywhere near what the market now wants.
There is quite a lot of development work in evidence and the car looks more German in profile. As a package, it generally works. In particular, I liked the sculpted flow of both front and rear doors and the SUV skirting also adds a distinctive touch. A panoramic roof is an extra option and, if the price is right, would add a lot to families' enjoyment of the Crossland.
The other good thing about the Crossland, like its rivals, is that it has height and it is easy to jump in and out of.
There will be three engine options when the car arrives here next month. The entry level will be a 1.2 three-cylinder petrol with 82 horse power which is followed by a 1.2 petrol turbo (110 horse power) and a 1.6 diesel, which will likely be the big seller. This has an output of either 99 or 120 horse power, depending on your requirements.
The engines are all from Peuegot and are agreeably mated to the Opel. The 1.2 turbo petrol is impressive but a little thrashy when pushed. Around town it has the right amount of pep but it takes a little time to smooth out on the open road. On twisty roads the car leans a little too much and the ride can be a little choppy too. The diesel has already proven itself for Peugeot and offers perhaps the best overall compromise of good pulling power and economy.
The steering is predictably light for city work but a little vague otherwise. Taller drivers may have, as I had, issues with the rake and tilt of the steering wheel and it took quite a bit of adjustment to get it into the best position. Even then a degree of compromise was required and it never seemed to sit exactly as I wanted it, an issue that is not evident with other cars in the class. Another issue was Opel's much-vaunted ergonomic seats, which do not provide enough side support at hip level for the taller driver. Odd one, that.
The automatic gearshift has an odd shift pattern.
With more and more people considering the option of an automatic, I wondered how Opel's very curiously designed automatic shift gate was designed. Automatic gearboxes work best with a straight pattern but the one on the Crossland involved shifting over and back to engage - presumably to avoid any confusion in selection. It is fussy and irritating though.
Overall, the Crossland is a pleasant experience and its main attraction will be in the pricing rather than the engineering. The interior is well finished and the rear space is generous. The boot is roomy with a standard 40/60 rear split of the rear seats to add load space. However, the rail-mounted system that can allow the rear seats to be moved forward and back looks like it will be available at an extra cost.
The Crossland's addition to the rapidly expanding crossover segment means it will have to come in with a fairly decent level of standard equipment to make a mark. And then there is the issue of its closeness to its Mokka sibling. Let's see what the customers think.