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GAUTENG – Launched in Europe to correspond with the discontinuation of sales of the characterful Meriva offering, the new Crossland X is a reinvigorated Opel brand’s answer to both a global decline in MPV sales and an ever-growing demand for compact SUV products. Denoted by their "X" suffix, the Crossland joins the Mokka X and soon-to-be-launched locally (March 2018) Grandland X as part of an extended family of Opel-badged SUVs aimed at strengthening its makers foothold within the South African market.

Operating locally after its divorce with GMSA under the experienced eye of Steinnhoff International and distributed by Williams Hunt, Opel South Africa is looking to make the most of its new global PSA partnership to re-establish itself towards the top of local monthly sales charts.

Built on a modified PSA PF1 platform that it shares in Europe with the new Citroën C3 Aircross, the Crossland X is 63 mm shorter overall than its more ruggedly styled Mokka X sibling. Yet, in keeping with its more family-focussed positioning, offers 50 mm worth of extended wheelbase. Unmistakably Opel up front, the Crossland features a similar floating C-pillar treatment to the Adam, which in the South African market allows owners to make the most of opting for a two-tone paint finish. That said, the Crossland X can be specced with either a black, white or grey roof colour to off-set a wide array of body colours; a neat touch that seems to have worked for one of this car’s closest rivals, the Renault Captur.

Further distinguishing the Crossland from its altogether more sporty-looking Mokka X sibling and, indeed, endorsing the newer car’s broader marketing appeal, is the fact that the Crossland’s largest wheel size is 17 inches, whereas the Mokka can be ordered with up to 19-inch alloy wheels.

Sliding into an all-important (for this market) raised driving position, an underlying sense of solid build quality is let down only slightly by the firmness of the plastics found lower down within the cabin. The option to raise or lower the cloth-covered driver’s seat is a welcome touch, while, certainly in top-of-the-range Cosmo trim, the list of complementary specification on board is relatively impressive. This includes a neat 8-inch touchscreen infotainment display incorporating navigation and a full suite of modern smartphone integration capabilities. Other nice-to-have features are auto wipers and headlights, parking sensors with a reverse camera and cruise control. A group of six airbags is also standard.

A welcome packaging-related inclusion is the ability to slide the 60:40 split second row bench within a 150 mm range in order to best accommodate either taller rear seat passengers or additional luggage. On the latter, the Crossland X offers a class competitive amount of luggage space.

While an entry-level Crossland X was not made available to drive during the local launch, experience suggests it’s worth taking this variant for a long test drive before committing to live with its humble, naturally aspirated 60 kW/118 N.m power plant, especially at altitude. That said, the PSA-sourced, turbocharged 1,2-litre three cylinder engine fitted to the rest of the range remains a solid performer. Mated with either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic, it’s an engine that offers good low-down grunt for town driving, while is also very capable of settling down to an otherwise refined thrum on the open road. While Opel claims 4,8 L/100 km for its top-of-the-range automatic model, I instead noted a figure just over the 6,2 L/100 km over the course of my test drive.

On road, the Crossland X impresses with its plucky, lightweight demeanour and otherwise compliant overall ride quality. While the steering feel could gain with some improved weighting and feedback, its nevertheless precise action proved welcome, especially while negotiating smaller urban spaces.

The Crossland X ticks plenty of boxes, most notably in terms of quirky, raised ride-height styling and clever packaging. While its overall dimensions largely mimic those of the Mokka X, it’s easy to see the newer car offering broader levels of appeal, including to young families that might otherwise be considering a Renault Captur, Mazda CX-3, Suzuki Vitara or ageing (yet still popular) Ford EcoSport.

One box that will have to remain unchecked for the time being  at least until we can sample a Crossland X directly alongside at least one of its closest rivals (notably the classy Captur) – is whether or not the Opel’s superior standard specification levels justify its relatively premium pricing compared with the competition...


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