Opel’s Combo panel van is available in this short-wheelbase version with a 600kg payload, and also an LWB which can carry one ton. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
Opel’s Combo panel van is available in this short-wheelbase version with a 600kg payload, and also an LWB which can carry one ton. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

The Opel Corsa half-ton bakkie is long gone, as is its successor the Chev Ute, but Opel recently re-entered SA’s light commercial vehicle market with its Combo panel van.

The two-seater is available in standard and long wheelbase (LWB) variants measuring 4,403mm and 4,753mm in length and respectively able to carry payloads of 600kg and 1,000kg.

A low load floor height allows easier loading of cargo through dual-opening back doors, or through the sliding side doors located on both sides. Built-in hooks in the load floor allow goods to be safely secured, and a towing capacity of up to 1,250kg with a braked trailer completes the Combo’s useful workhorse credentials.

Hauling this van along is a compact but surprisingly spirited 1.6l turbo diesel engine. We drove the Combo for a few days and there’s more performance on offer than suggested by the relatively meagre-seeming outputs of 68kW and 230Nm. 

The van pulls with gusto in a stop-start urban environment, and delivers decent cruising power and overtaking poke on the open road.

It’s a refined engine that hums along smoothly, and it starts up instantly on cold mornings.

The five-speed manual shifts smoothly and the gear stick is mounted high up on the fascia, bringing it close to hand.

The two-seater cabin has exceptional headroom and it’s well stocked with safety and comforts. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The two-seater cabin has exceptional headroom and it’s well stocked with safety and comforts. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

Overall it’s a relaxed, easygoing driving experience, causing minimum distraction for a driver going about their urban delivery rounds. It’s fairly quiet too, although with an empty load bay it is somewhat “boomy” with no soft materials to absorb sound; the walls of the cargo hold are just bare steel.

The cabin takes just two people but they enjoy a lot of room, especially the head space which is roomy enough to wear top hats if one is so inclined. There are plenty of cabin oddments nooks too, including a large tray above the windscreen and a lidded binnacle on top of the dash.

It’s a fairly highly-specced van that comes well loaded with features including aircon, hill-start assist, remote central locking, and electric windows.

It also has a radio/Bluetooth/USB audio system, a simple-to-use effort with real buttons that direct-access functions, instead of a touchscreen with hidden menus. Another thumbs-up in the minimal distraction stakes.

Safety is in good supply too with dual airbags, ABS brakes and electronic stability control.

However a notable omission is that there’s no rear parking sensor, which makes for a huge blind spot when reversing a vehicle that has no back windscreen. Side mirrors are all you get, and for once I appreciated the assistance of car park pests attendants to guide me in and out of bays.

Load bay has floor hooks for securing loads. The lack of a rear windscreen or rear sensor makes reverse-parking a tricky affair. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
Load bay has floor hooks for securing loads. The lack of a rear windscreen or rear sensor makes reverse-parking a tricky affair. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

The Opel Combo scores well on running costs, one of the major factors in a delivery vehicle. The test car averaged 5.6l per 100km, one of the most economical vehicles we’ve yet tested and not far off Opel’s 5l claim, although we didn’t haul any heavy loads.

The regular-wheelbase Combo is priced at R315,675 and the LWB at R350,400, supported by a three-year/120,000km warranty with roadside assistance, and three-year/60,000km service plan. Service intervals are 12 months/15,000km

Although the Combo is available only as a commercial vehicle for now, in the third quarter of this year the line up will be extended by the family-focused Combo Life offering up to seven seats.


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