If you’re a business owner, entrepreneur or a self-employed technician one of the many key components to ensuring your success is your choice of preferred workhorse. It’s a vehicle that’d need to carry a heavy load, be easy on the wallet at the pumps, not be a headache to repair and most of all be a durable robust machine to run for years racking up some serious mileage.
There is no mistaking that these days there are very few inexpensive options available on the new car market. Businesses and individuals who are looking for a workhorse have a plethora of bakkies to choose from but only a handful of tried and tested panel vans to consider. So then, you want to make sure that you do your homework.
It seems as though Opel and the PSA group specifically have done their homework regarding its newest range of commercial vehicles. All based on the EMP2 platform with identical engine options the Peugeot Partner, Citroen Berlingo and Opel Combo (badged as the Vauxhall Combo in the UK) collectively won the coveted International Van of the year for 2019 award. We find out why as we’ve spent the past week testing the Opel Combo LWB (long-wheel-base).
If you’re familiar with the current crop of Opel products including the Corsa, Crossland X and Grandland X you’ll feel right at home once you step inside the Combo. The driver’s instrument panel is practically straight out of the Grandland X with a digital LCD trip-computer in the centre. Its colour scheme is classic Opel finished black, red and white dials. The trip-computer is operated from a rotary dial on the indicator stalk as you would in the Corsa. The three-button remote keyfob and one-touch electric window switches are straight from the Crossland X. All of this borrowing from other Opel products has given the Combo a convincing car-like cabin with all the necessary creature comforts as standard. Something workhorse bakkies struggle to offer without ticking a few options.
It’s a basic interior with few luxuries but it has all you’d expect a modern vehicle to have. Bluetooth mobile connectivity, a USB charging port and a 12V socket for your dash-cam. Automatic headlamps, heated mirrors, one-touch electric windows for the driver and passenger and no less than four speakers and six cup holders if you were to include the large door bins are all part of the front quarters. The loading area is separated from the cabin by metal partition. This means that you’re protected from the goods moving around in the back and it also means that there is no rear view mirror.
It’s not the interior that impresses the most though it’s the way it drives. Powered by a 1.6-litre turbodiesel producing 68 kW and 230 Nm the Combo Cargo has sufficient punch to carry its large body. It may be down on cubic centimetres but maximum torque is available from a low 1 700 rpm and if you do need to get the revs up the manual shifter is a pleasure to use.
Having experienced a heatwave in Cape Town with 35 degrees recorded on the Combo’s radio interface, the air-conditioning was worked constantly. This seemed to not affect fuel consumption in the slightest. We averaged an impressive 5.7 l/100 km over some 700 km during the seven days the Combo LWB was with us. Not bad at all for a vehicle nearly five metres long and the capability to carry a 1 000kg payload.
The Opel Combo manages to turn the stereotypical workhorse experience into a drive that you’d not feel embarrassed to enjoy thanks to very car-like driving characteristics, a smooth and satisfying gear shift and an interior that fits in with the current Opel family. Just make sure that you anticipate traffic with the large blind-spots created by the lack of rearward visibility, all the better for your company branding though. We look forward to experiencing this efficient new turbodiesel motor in Opel’s new passenger cars.
In a nutshell
Opel Combo Cargo 1.6TD LBW M/T
Highly efficient engine, it drives like a car thanks to its low centre of gravity and is a practical alternative to a single-cab bakkie
Rearward visibility is compromised, a steering wheel with finger-tip controls would be nice
Engine: 1 560 cc, 4-cylinder
Power: 68 kW @ 4 000 rpm, 230 Nm @ 1 700 rpm
Fuel Tank: 52 L
Tyres: 205/60R16 steel
Economy: 5.0 l/100 km
Transmission: 5-speed manual
CO2 emissions:131 g/km
Price: R354 000