Opel Karl out to make its mark
No Bling Bling, just good value for money. That was the message from Opel at the international launch of their new city car, the Karl, which will be in showrooms in a matter of weeks. It is one of the best looking small cars around but it enters a crowded market place where Hyundai i10 is notching up big sales and models such as Skoda Citigo, Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1, Seat Mii and VW up! have established themselves.
The arrival is bad timing for Karl as the busy few weeks of the 152 registration sales rush will have passed before it gains attention. About 100 sales are expected this year growing to about 400 in 2016. The A-segment market is small here, with 3,200 registrations last year but with new and better kitted-out models arriving this is expected to expand considerably.
The Karl comes to market with an entry price of €11,995 and just one petrol engine on offer. It gets the well-established Opel face with big headlights and a short bonnet, high roof line with short overhangs. The almost vertical cut-off rear end is a bit disappointing yet Opel engineers have managed to allow for 205 litres of space which can be expanded to 1,013 litres when the split rear seats are folded flat - more space than several rivals. A practical and versatile interior there's room for a six foot passenger in the rear behind a six foot driver. This is a five-seater with three seat belts in the rear but three passengers in the rear would be for short journeys only.
Up front the driver gets good visibility with a well laid out dash but there are some hard plastic parts around. The speed-sensitive power assisted steering is light which will suit city driving and the controls are easy Doors open wide and there is a reasonable amount of storage spaces but while the cabin is practical it does not have the same feeling of 'upmarketness' as an i10.
The one-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine gives 74bhp and 95 Nm of torque which gives nippy around town driving through a five-speed gearbox . Travel is smooth and easy with good suspension settings but under hard acceleration it becomes a bit noisy and on open road driving it shows its limitations with some snappy gear changing required to get the best performance. Cornering is good with little body roll. Opel claim up to 4.3 litres per 100km (65.5mpg) in mixed driving which means that urban travel should be very economical. A Stop/Start system will be on offer later and this should push the consumption down to 4 litres per 100km and an automatic transmission will be available later in the year. The 0-100kph sprint takes 13 seconds.
The entry level 'S' specification includes six airbags, an alarm system and engine deadlock immobiliser and with a steep step up to the 'SC' version at €13,695 there is a lane departure warning system, 'City Mode' light steering, electric front windows, cruise control, multi-function trip computer and driver's seat height adjustment. The top trim level, 'SE' at €14,695 adds electronic climate control, USB connection, Bluetooth and music streaming, two-tone dash and door panels, leather steering wheel, dark tinted rear windows and 15" alloys.
A new lightweight Astra will be launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. It has sharp new lines with Apple CarPlay technology a line-up of fuel efficient turbo-charged engines.