Sometimes spanning genres is a bridge too far. We test the new Opel Crossland X 1,2T Enjoy…
When you hear the phrase “Jack of all trades”, your likely instinct is to tack on the less-than-flattering suffix of “master of none”. It’s an unenviable label applied to those with a tendency to overtax their skills, leaving a mess of broken plumbing, sparking electrical points or even botched surgeries in their wakes. But that wasn’t always the case. Back in the 14th century, it described an often-unremarkable, everyday man who could ably turn his hand to many things.
Fast-forward to the present day and, with the departure of Opel’s quirky Meriva MPV, it’s the Crossland X small crossover that’s been cast as an automotive Jack of all trades, tasked with covering both the increasingly popular SUV and dwindling MPV bases. Given the pedigree and popularity of more established players in its segment – the likes of Kia’s trendy Soul and the entertaining Renault Captur among the number – Opel’s newcomer has its work cut out. Will bridging the crossover/MPV gap be a stretch too far for poor old Jack?
The Crossland is underpinned by a slightly reworked version of new owner PSA’s PF1 B-segment platform, foundations that it shares with Peugeot’s 2008 and the new Citroën C3 Aircross small crossover that, like the Crossland, is assembled at Opel’s Zaragoza plant in Spain and will also replace its ailing MPV stablemate, the C3 Picasso.
While it sports the lower-body cladding that’s requisite of all contemporary crossovers and the brakelamps are stylish-looking items that sweep into the C-pillar á la Opel Adam, the Crossland’s proportions – accentuated by a high roof, bluff nose and a profile with an uneasy wheel-to-sheetmetal ratio – lend it an air of aesthetic indecision between crossover and MPV. This is furthered by a wheelbase that, although 60 mm shorter than that of the Meriva, sits underneath a shell that’s a further 28 mm shorter, lending the car a somewhat stretched-looking midsection. It’s a modern, neat but otherwise inoffensive design that, as evidenced by our test unit’s unflattering burgundy paintwork, would be better served by brighter hues. Pity, then, that the two-tone roof option is the preserve of the more expensive Cosmo models; this feature would further lift the Crossland’s visual appeal.
Step inside and the usual small-crossover touches, such as jazzily patterned seat panels, brightly coloured trim accents and the like, are absent. Were it not for a well-sited seating position that affords you a good view of your surroundings, you could be sitting in just about any compact Opel. Build and material quality are a mixed bag, with pleasingly upmarket-feeling slush moulded upper-facia sections vying for attention with hard, scratchy plastics elsewhere.
While the interior isn’t characterful, it is fairly versatile. Sliding the 60:40-split rear bench 150 mm rearward bumps luggage space up from a handy 288 litres to a generous 384, albeit at the expense of rear kneeroom that’s minimally aided by cut-outs in the front seatbacks. Thankfully, shoulder space and headroom are generous, and the rear-door apertures are large enough to make access and decanting kids and pets a cinch. Lifting the boot-floor panel reveals an additional 20 litres of storage space in which to stash valuable goods away from prying eyes. With said panel in place and the rear seats folded, you’re presented with a level load floor that forms part of a respectable, but not MPV-cavernous, 1 040-litre utility space.
On the road, there’s that typical sense of surefootedness that’s a hallmark of Opel’s cars. Despite its fairly utility-biased packaging, the Crossland is impressively nimble and composed when pressing on. The light steering and progressive clutch lend themselves well to round-town driving and the eager little three-cylinder unit is punchy. It also returned a respectable 6,4 L/100 km on our fuel run and chimes in with a handy 205 N.m in the middle of the rev range that makes keeping up with motorway traffic drama-free. There is a weak link, though, and it comes in the guise of the Crossland’s five-speed ‘box.
While Opel’s manual gearboxes have perennially exhibited a rubbery feel in their shift actions, they’ve nonetheless been direct and felt robust. The same cannot be said of the Crossland’s ‘box. There’s a degree of bagginess about the shift action that makes it feel like a high-mileage unit, and the ergonomics mean that shifting to odd-numbered (higher-sited) gears requires a significant stretch of the arm; something that doesn’t lend itself well to smooth driving.
Suspended on a MacPherson front/torsion beam rear arrangement, the Crossland’s ride is supple and well damped, although owing to a ride height that, at
124 mm, is a millimetre up on the Meriva’s, it’s unlikely that many examples will be tackling anything other than graded dirt roads.
At R305 000, this Enjoy model lands squarely among a number of talented rivals, including lower-rung Renault Kadjar and Mokka X models. Thankfully, this mid-tier model is generously equipped, with such niceties as a smartphone-compatible touchscreen infotainment system, 16-inch alloys, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers and parking assist with a reverse camera among the standard features. Even more impressive is the suite of safety features: lane-departure warning, electronic stability programme and six airbags standard across the entire Crossland X range.
No doubt, the folks at Opel will disagree with our reluctance in labelling the Crossland X a bona fide crossover. There’s also little fundamentally wrong with the car, as solid build quality, generous standard specification and good road manners stand in its favour.
However, in attempting to fill the small-crossover hole in Opel’s model range, while also taking on some of the most popular crossovers out there, it’s seemingly over-extended itself, becoming neither quite as practical as an MPV nor characterful enough to wear the crossover label. And personality – looking at its rivals – is certainly a desired quality in this segment. So, in playing the role of Jack, the Crossland is a likeable sort; just don’t expect it to entertain or multitask with aplomb.
*From the March 2018 issue of CAR magazine