Opel Combo Cargo LWB

Remember the three bears and the porridge nursery story? The one bowl was just right. Not too hot or too small. Well Opel has pulled off a similar beautiful story.

Enter the new Combo Cargo Long Wheel Base, a van that is not too big, nor too little. I checked with an electrician, plumber and a carpenter, and they all thought it was just the right size and also priced right.

A bigger sister, the Zafira will be launched soon and will be similar in size as the previous Opel Vivaro van.

Opel Combo Cargo LWB

It is rated for one ton and offers two metres in length and 1.2 high, with 1.2 between the wheel arches in the cargo area. And yet the outside is small enough to fit into a normal parking bay or garage. Braked towing capability is 850kg, while unbraked is 720kg.

The other excellent feature is the cabin. Clever, in one word. It is the World Van of the Year after all.
Above the window is a ‘ledge’ or shelf which would be ideal for a clip board or A4 diary. In the dash is an old fashioned cubbyhole, a slot for something like an order book and a cubicle above the instrument cluster which has a lid and is ideal for keeping petty cash and slips and finally two cup holders. Forward of the gear lever is a space for your phone or tablet, slots for coins, a cavity for a remote and small circular holder.

The doors have the normal space with place for a water bottle and between the seats there is a receptacle for a wallet and a further two cup holders. There is also an additional 12v socket.
The bluetooth telephone system is geared to serve both driver and passenger.
I found the seats to be comfortable and the driving position good. The steering is adjustable for rake and height. The instrumentation and controls are functional and effective.

The cargo area is large (3.9m³) and long enough to hold two motorcycles or four or more mountain bikes. There are six tie down anchors and plenty of notches and holes to attach permanent fixtures and brackets. Fixing points for a roof rack are standard. There is a sixty/ forty full height rear door and doors on both sides in the LWB model. The Short Wheel Base has only one door and a few other minor differences.

Performance is good with a smooth five-speed manual box coupled to a willing 1.6L turbodiesel mill doing service. This van has more than enough power and 230Nm torque. Combined cycle fuel consumption is claimed to be 5L/100km and I think you will get under 6 in general driving and less than 5L/100km on the highway. This van is easy to drive and is more car like than commercial. The speed sensitive steering is almost too light for my taste but is a pleasure in town and makes manoeuvring simple. Speaking of which, I would have liked a rear view camera, but I am sure one would get used to the length very quickly.

It is actually comprehensively equipped with for example hill start assist, stability control, aircon with pollen filter, halogen lights, bluetooth and radio.

Opel have hit the sweet spot with this van, getting the price point, size and capability just right.

The five-seater bus version known as the Life will be available in September.

Warranty is three years or 120 000km and a three year or 60 000km service plan is included.

The direct competition is probably the VW Caddy Maxi and the Nissan NV200. All the other vans are smaller or bigger and easily R100 000 more expensive.
The Opel Combo LWB is listed at R350 000. The little sister short wheel base is R315 000, but remember it only has one side door and can handle a payload of 650kg.

The official website is: https://www.opel.co.za/cars/combo-cargo/model-overview.html

Originally published in Autosold.

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2012 small van review

2012 small van review

A number of models have been discontinued since our last small van review. It would seem that having tested the market, many manufacturers have decided to whittle away at their selections. VW Caddy currently offers the most variants and also sells by far the most vans locally (as of December 2011). The smallest van in our line-up is the Toyota Avanza, which also has a very narrow load area. The biggest is the Maxi version of the Caddy. A very practical solution is the Caddy Crew Bus with its second row of seats resulting in a 1.6m³ load volume (there is also a seven seater).

Because vans are used in mainly urban settings, all the manufacturers offer petrol models, which are more fuel efficient in stop-start conditions and for very short trips. Diesels are, of course, more efficient over longer distances.

VW Caddy

Volkswagen has four models on offer. This line-up includes a standard panel van, which can carry 741kg, and has a 3.2 m³ carrying capacity. It is available as either a 1.6-petrol or a 2.0-TDi diesel. The Maxi is 1m³ bigger in the back than the standard model, while the Crew Bus has two rows of seats and features a 2.0-TDi diesel engine.

Toyota Avanza

The Avanza is quite a bit smaller than the others vans here and is much narrower. On the Highveld the performance is adequate, but at the coast quite good.

The cabin is not as geared to working when compared to the interiors of many of its competitors, nor is it as well appointed as the rest.

Opel Combo

The Combo has ABS and a driver airbag, and speed-sensitive power steering making for a very safe small van.

Renault Kangoo Express

The Kangoo uses space brilliantly, both in the cabin (which is very comfortable) and at the back. The central storage module allows you to keep essential items at your fingertips. A central in-dash storage compartment is ideal for A4 documents. Or for bulkier objects, you can use the overhead parcel shelf. The Kangoo has by far the best warranty.

Peugeot Partner

The new Partner is a good looking and well designed van. The cabin is very practical and comfortable.

Citroen Berlingo

The Berlingo has just been re-launched at a special price of R160 190 for the 1.6-petrol model and R 192 690 for the diesel. It is very similar to the Peugeot Partner in all respects. A snag for most small business owners is that the Berlingo is sold and serviced through Citroen’s commercial vehicle network at their relatively few and far between Business Centres and so access could be quite inconvenient.

So, what should you buy?

The Opel Combo will be an excellent choice for small in-town deliveries, for everything else VW has an answer

  VW Caddy VW Caddy Toyota Avanza Opel Combo Renault Kangoo Peugeot Partner Peugeot Partner
Price* R155 175 R182 719 R147 300 R155 940 R164 900 R174 680 R188 680
Engine 1.6i petrol 2.0 TDi 1.3 petrol 1.4 petrol 1.6 petrol 1.6 petrol 1.6 Hdi
Power (kW) 75 81 67 66 64 80 66
Torque (Nm) 148 250 120 125 128 147 215
0 – 100 sec 13.3 12.1 14.2 14 15.8 14 19.6
Top speed (km/h) 164 170 160 164 158 167 150
Consumption combined (?) 8.2 5.6 7.2 6 8.2 8.4 5.8
Urban (?) 10.7 6.8 11 8.0 10.9 11.2 7
Volume (m³) 3.2 4.2 1.2 2.39 /3.2 3 3.3 3.3
Payload (kg) 741 813 600 735 800 850 850
Warranty (yr/km) 2/unlimited 2/unlimited 3/100 000 5/120 000 5/150 000 3/100 000 3/100 000

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*All prices correct at time of going to print.

Small van review, VW Caddy, Fiat Doblo, Opel Combo

Originally published in Your Business magazine in December 2010.

Getting the right wheels for your business is not such a simple decision.

A few years ago it was simple.

Which bakkie to get? And there were only four possibilities. But times have changed. Not only must we now consider the purchase price, but the cost of ownership over the life of the vehicle which includes the cost of fuel and the type of fuel and the overall efficiency needs to be considered. We also need to think about security, image and driver comfort and behaviour.

Bakkie vs Van

A base petrol bakkie with a basic canopy will cost you around R115 00, while a base model petrol van will cost around R 150 000. So what do you get for the extra R35 000?

For starters the specifications of the vans are more in line with the middle trim, if not top model of the bakkies. This includes little but important details like a place to keep your clip board, much better seats and so on. If you compare bakkies with vans of a similar specification then the price difference is about R10 000.

Secondly you get much easier access to your load. Remember the vans have a door on the side as well as fully opening doors at the back. The load bed is normally lower. At around 800 kg payload capacity the vans can carry more than the bakkies, except for the Nissan.

Thirdly and probably most importantly security is in another league entirely. The vans are safer to drive and your cargo is safer in the back.

Finally the cabs of the vans are as a rule better designed for a delivery vehicle and more ergonomic. If you need to keep your load cool you need to get a van with air conditioner like the Doblo.

With the diesels it looks a little different, but the difference is also around R30 000. If you compare the diesel vans and bakkies of the same trim levels the difference is around R5 000.

Fuel consumption is generally better for the vans.

Bakkies under one ton

There are broadly five makes available on the market. The smallest is the Chevrolet which used to be the Opel Corsa and the biggest the Nissan NP200.

Generally speaking you will need to add the cost of a canopy to the price of you bakkie. The most basic canopy from Canopy King is R5 200. Beekmans have a slightly more robust canopy which has a high roofline and full door at R6 600.

Cheapest Petrol Cheapest Diesel Canopy
Ford Bantam R101 950 R141 250 5200
Chevrolet (Corsa) R107 600 R151 300 5200
FIAT Strada R107 400 n/a 5200
Nissan NP200 R103 100 R143 600 5200
Proton R88 995 5200

The biggest selling small bakkie in recent years has been the Opel Corsa. In May it was facelifted, become slightly more expensive and is now badged  as a Chevrolet. It is a great little all rounder but has rather limited carrying capacity.

The Ford Bantam has also recently had a mid-life upgrade. It’s a great little bakkie and handles extremely well. The diesel engine is very smooth and effective.

The Nissan NP200 is the biggest of these bakkies concerning both the cabin space and the carrying capacity. Its also the newest design and shares a platform with the Renault Sandero.

The Fiat Strada has an ace up its sleeve in the form of the X-space an extended cab version. These Fiats are extremely economical.

The Proton Arena is made in Malaysia and offers a three year warranty.

Vans under one ton

Five manufacturers offer small vans. The best selling is the VW Caddy, the most versatile and the biggest is the FIAT Doblo. The Toyota is basically the MPV without the seats and windows.

Petrol Diesel Load volume litres Payload
FIAT Doblo R151 400 3200 850
VW Caddy R147 632 R175 351 3200 730
Toyota Avanza R140 100 955 600
Puegeot Partner R155 900 R168 200 3300 850
Opel Combo R155 940 2390 520

The Toyota Avanza is not quite in the same league as the others. It is more of a replacement for the previous Corolla Tazz micro van. If all you want is a very small delivery van then it’s quite a cost effective solution. I drove one in Johannesburg and can confirm that it is powerful enough to get the job done.

The Peugeots seem to be quite expensive although their cabins are well equipped and it is a recently introduced model with all the latest safety kit. One snag is the distribution of branches and service points.

The Opel Combo has been available for a few years. I have not driven one as they are quite rare and cannot comment on it. It is a little smaller than the Caddy and Doblo.

Fiat Doblo

I am quite a fan of the FIAT Doblo. It’s got a roomy well thought out cabin with lots of handy pockets, holders and storage spaces. All the doors open the way they should and the load area is actually quite big. I drove the previous diesel model and found it to be superb with a brilliant air conditioner. I am told the present petrol model is an upgrade. It certainly seems as comfortable and is well appointed but does not come standard with air conditioner. These vans come with all the modern safety equipment and ride enhancement tools fitted. Take one for a test drive.

VW Caddy

The VW Caddy is an efficient small commercial vehicle. It’s cab is a bit smaller and less well equipped than the Fiat’s but still comfortable and practical. They sell around a hundred a month of them. It reminds one a bit about the Polo of two generations ago.

You also get the Caddy Maxi which is 300 mm longer, has a capacity of 800kg and a load volume 4200 litres and costs R183 509.

There is also a Maxi crew bus which is a van with a second row of seats at just under R200 000. Safety features include disc brakes front and rear,  ABS / TCS / EBC, electronic power steering and rear fog lights.

If you want rubber floor covering it will be an extra R1570. Cruise control is R1 700 and air conditioning is R8 400 extra.

Conclusion

The side door together with the wide opening rear doors make these vans very efficient business vehicles. Add to that the added security and the comfort of the cabins and they become a real option to the old school bakkie with a canopy.