Way, way back in the 1950s and ’60s, my parents raised me to the best of their ability, doing as well as possible with what they had. Before you ask – yes, they did believe in corporal punishment, and so did all of the schools I attended.
Being an unruly little so-and-so, I got caned a lot, and I do not think it affected me adversely. I can certainly not lay the blame for now being old, fat, ugly, full of scars and poor at the door of my upbringing, and I carry no resentment about the various punishments I received as a child.
What I do remember with resentment was my parents’ habit of saying, when they were really angry: “Why could you not turn out more like your cousin Jimmy?” My cousin Jimmy, you see, died at birth.
To this day, I do not like unfair comparisons. For instance, how dare the liars, fraudsters and parasites in parliament compare themselves to decent people by addressing one another as “The Honourable”? To my knowledge, Guy Fawkes was the only man in history who entered the doors of parliament with honourable intentions. And now, I am going to compare two vehicles in a manner that could well be construed as unfair.
A month ago, I test drove the Opel Combo Cargo. Being a beast of burden, it did not have rear windows or adequate front legroom and I criticised it for having no rear vision and an uncomfortable driving position. Last week, I test drove the Opel Combo Life.
It brought all its labourer cousin’s best traits to the party, plus some other really good points – like ease of operation and luxury. Like its cousin, the Opel Combo Life comes powered by a four-cylinder, normally aspirated diesel engine of 1 560cc, that produces 68kW of power at 4 000rpm and 230Nm of torque at 1 700rpm. The grunt and twist go to the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox. Said wheels – and their rear counterparts – are 16-inch by 6.5-inch alloys in 205/60R16 tyres, as opposed to the Combo Cargo’s steel items.
The wheels also contain disc brakes all round, with an anti-lock braking system, electronic brakeforce distribution and traction control. The Combo Life is much more handsome than its cousin, due to stuff like body-coloured bumpers all round, plus door handles and side mirrors. Its rear sliding doors have large windows, protective side mouldings and roof rails. Being a people carrier, it has five cloth-covered seats, with the driver’s perch blessed by lumbar support and height adjustment.
Other additions that make life better for the vehicle’s occupants include hill-start assistance, air conditioning, power front windows and side mirrors, intermittent windscreen wipers, cruise control with a speed limiter, an infotainment system with a seven-inch touchscreen and smartphone connection, a sound system with six speakers, remote control central locking and an anti-theft immobiliser. And, always a plus with this writer, it has a full-sized spare wheel. Safety features include front and seat side airbags for the driver and front passenger, plus curtain airbags front and rear.
Like its commercial cousin, the Combo Life was a pleasure to drive. Fast it is not, but the little bus could easily keep up with Gauteng traffic. The speed-sensitive power steering was direct and accurate, the gearbox slick, the pedals, controls and gauges arranged where you would expect to find them, and the side sliding doors made getting in and out of the rear seats a doddle.
We did not try to corner the Combo hard, but it showed little evidence of body lean, and the brakes were excellent. We made no efforts to conserve fuel, and an average diesel consumption of 6.2l/100km came as a pleasant surprise. Its 52-litre fuel tank should give it a pretty useful range.
In general, we believe this vehicle will transport many kids to school, while making their mothers believe they are actually good drivers. It will set you back R369 900, which includes a three-year/60 000km service plan, a three-year/120 000km warranty and roadside assistance, plus a 12-year/unlimited kilometre anti-corrosion warranty.
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