Opel Combo Cargo gets down to business

Amazing, the wisdom one can pick up from unlikely sources. Friends of mine recently undertook a field trip in Angola.

They came across a male traveller who was striding along the road with just a panga in his hands, with his female companion behind him, bowed under the weight of many goods and chattels. Asked about these travel arrangements, he said his job was to protect her. “She must walk behind, so that I can identify danger first. She must carry our possessions, so that I can be unencumbered when violent action is called for,” he said.

A month later they met him again. This time, still carrying all their possessions, the wife was walking in front. Asked why, the husband said: “Landmines”. Makes total sense – you have to think logically about stuff like that. Like with Opel’s Combo Cargo van.

Sold as a delivery workhorse, this vehicle trumps almost all others in that market sector when it comes to looking after its human cargo. Oh, it comes with all the mechanical basics expected of a load carrier – a 1 000kg payload of 4.4m2, a sturdy, fuel-efficient diesel engine, a strong chassis, sensible steel wheels and rear sliding doors on both sides.

The four-cylinder, 1 560cc diesel engine produces 68kW of power at 4 000rpm and 230Nm of torque at 1 700rpm. This goes to the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox. The strong steel wheels sit in 205/60R16 rubber and the van has a proper, full-sized spare wheel.

The brakes – discs front and drums rear – have an anti-lock braking system and electronic brakeforce distribution. The headlamps are halogen, with automatic on/off control. The seat trim is in sensible grey cloth, with the front designed for two people, each with a three-point seatbelt and airbag.

Other safety equipment includes an electronic stability programme, hill start assist and a high-mounted rear stop lamp. There is an anti-theft immobiliser, remote-controlled central locking and a separate interior electronic lock for the rear door.

There is also an air-conditioner, electric front windows, electrically adjustable and heated side mirrors, intermittent windscreen wipers, plus a particle and odour filter, to keep the toxic gases of Gauteng traffic from poisoning the driver. Add a radio with four speakers, Bluetooth, plus USB and MP3 ports, and you have an unusual beast of burden.

This kind of attention to detail is generally absent when it comes to delivery vehicles. But, we can see the logic – a comfortable, happy driver is less likely to make mistakes, get angry or distracted and crash your business investment.

All of which made the Opel Combo Cargo a pleasant vehicle to drive around town. A racer it is not, but the diesel engine gets the van around at the same pace as normal city traffic. The gearbox is smooth and a pleasure to use, the steering surprisingly direct for a delivery vehicle, the ride hard but reasonably comfortable and the fuel efficiency sensational.

Using the Combo Cargo exclusively in the city, we recorded an overall fuel usage figure of 5.2l/100km. True, we did not transport any heavy loads, but this van should sell many examples simply on the strength of our insane fuel prices.

It is a shame to call out the Combo Cargo’s two glaring faults. It comes with no rear vision. There are no windows in the rear, neither is there a camera. There is absolutely no way of telling what is behind the vehicle. It means, simply, that you are guaranteed to reverse your van into something solid and unforgiving sooner or later.

I had to reverse it out of a tight spot between two transporters at the Rock Raceway and eventually resorted to the shouted commands of a car guard, rather than risk denting it. Then there is the loading bay. It has no rubber cover. The test vehicle had less than 900km on the clock and the loading bay already sported several deep gouges.

In a delivery vehicle, that makes no sense at all. If I had to buy this Opel, I would suggest swapping the electric windows and fancy radio for a rearward facing camera and a rubber-coated loading bay. Sometimes, you have to think logically.

The Opel Combo Cargo costs R315 675 that includes a three-year/120 000 km warranty and roadside assistance, a three-year/60 000 km service plan, plus a 12-year/unlimited distance anti-corrosion warranty.

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