Driven: 2019 Opel Combo Cargo
It was a Tuesday when I had been notified that my test car for the week would be the new Opel Combo. I haven’t heard of it before, so I proceeded to Google what it looks like. It was a panel van, and I was dreading the upcoming week. But something funny happened. After spending a few days with the Combo, I really liked it. I liked it so much that I chose to drive it over the Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 that was parked in our test car garage. Here’s why.
Let’s talk about the design. On first impression the Opel Combo Cargo is rather plain. It’s a big white van with black mirrors, door handles and bumpers. It’s only until you begin thinking like its business-owner target market that you begin to appreciate its simplicity. The large areas around the body of the Combo start to look less like blank spaces and more like open canvases for branding and signage, turning it into a source of marketing for a business. This is complemented by a set of 15-inch steel wheels and automatic halogen head lights. At the rear, there is a pair of double doors to access the 1000-kilogram loading bay, and a single sliding door on the left of the Combo. Buyers can choose to fit another sliding door to the right side as an optional extra.
The cabin of the Combo Cargo is simple and is built around utility. The raised seating position makes it easy to pilot the van and the large windows provide great visibility. As someone who has never driven a panel van before, I found it strange to drive a vehicle without a rear view mirror. Luckily, the side mirrors could help me with this. There are two cloth seats and a host of secret and not-so-secret storage compartments scattered around the cabin – up to 15 to be exact. I was also surprised to find a few creature comforts in here that you wouldn’t expect from a panel van. Automatic cruise control, heated seats and a heated steering wheel come to mind. Our test unit was fitted with the standard infotainment which still offered FM radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity. There’s also an optional 8-inch touch screen available for the infotainment. Some of the standard features include air-conditioning, driver and passenger airbags, hill start assist, ABS and an anti-theft immobiliser.
Let’s talk about the engine. Whenever I get to drive a car without knowing the specs, I go for it. It lets me get a good, unbiased feel of how the car performs. I did this with the Combo and it felt really strong. Power was always ample enough to do things like overtaking and reaching 120km/h on the highway and even bursting around town really quickly. I was surprised to learn that this was all possible from a modest 68kW of power from a 1.6-litre turbocharged diesel 4-cylinder motor. Perhaps it was the 230Nm of torque that made it feel quick, but one thing that for sure is that the Combo is no slouch.
Here’s the thing though. Buyers of cars like this don’t care too much about performance or luxury or comfort. They care about efficiency. The decision of which panel van to buy may rest solely on how many kilometres can be covered on one tank and the Combo scored exceptionally well in this area. I received our test unit with a full tank, and I expected to use about three-quarters of this by the end of the week. I covered a bit of mileage over the week that I had the car and only managed to use a quarter-tank worth of fuel. I even went out on a Sunday with the sole intention of trying to use more than a quarter-tank and I couldn’t do it – I couldn’t bring it below three-quarters of a tank. In fact, nearly every day that I drove the Combo I noticed the fuel range go up. Opel claims that it will do 4.8-litres/100km and I am certain this figure is very close to accurate.
After getting to understand how the Opel Combo Cargo behaves, I really began to like it. It soldiers on during any situation and is actually very pleasant to drive. It also justifies its price tag (from R319,000) exceptionally well and deserves to be considered if you’re looking for a good work van.