Wednesday 24 January 2018

Review: Opel Karl is a no-frills alternative to its trendy siblings

Sinéad McCann of

Opel introduce another addition to their city car range in Karl, a no-frills alternative to trendy siblings Adam and Adam Rocks. Frills are available at a premium with three trim levels and an impressive list of options to choose from.

Performance & Running Costs

The sole engine on offer is a one-litre three cylinder petrol with 75 BHP, which unlike the one litre on offer in the Corsa, is a non-turbo. It might not be fast – taking a leisurely 13.1 seconds to reach 100kph, but it is very economical with an annual motor tax bill of just €190, and a claimed MPG of 63, which wasn't too far off the mark on our week long test drive.


It feels surprisingly refined for a three-cylinder, with a nice little buzz but no overly intrusive engine noise and speed-sensitive power steering which weights up and down depending on how fast you're driving. The city mode button will lighten it up for in and around town and parking, and its compact dimensions and good all round visibility make it pretty easy to slot into most spaces anyway. It's definitely most at home in the city but can hold its own quite well on the motorway too, once any overtaking manoeuvres are planned well in advance.

What’s in the cabin

The interior is fuss-free and functional, some shiny black inlay around the centre console giving it a contemporary feel. It's surprisingly spacious inside, the boxy shape offering good headroom and the three seatbelts in the back offering an edge over some competitors who can often only carry two rear passengers.

Value for money

The three trim levels on offer range from the top-spec SE we had on test which gets electronic climate control, Bluetooth audio streaming and a leather steering wheel (as well as some slightly extravagant options such as heated leather seats/steering wheel, and a sunroof). While it was certainly gratifying to have these luxury features in such a tiny car – fully kitted out in this way pushes the price of the Karl north of €16,000 and possibly past the point of sense for many price-conscious city car customers.

The entry-level S may seem slightly sparse in comparison but will still get you all the basic necessities – a radio/CD player, trip computer and even some tinted glass and a rear spoiler. With a starting price of under €12,000 – for a brand new car with a five year warranty – it still represents great value for money in anyone's language.

The mid-spec SC offers a nice compromise in between adding a decent amount of extras including some exterior styling upgrades, cruise control, and the city-mode steering button to the S for a premium of €1700, and to where we suspect most customers will settle.


A four star NCAP crash test rating puts it on par with many small cars who failed to attain full marks under the stricter new 2015 rules. Standard features include six airbags and ESP stability control, with lane departure warning as standard on all but the base model.


It does a good job in all the areas that it needs to as a city car – without sacrificing on quality. The German badge and small, economical engine should help it hold its value well on the used market.


The neutral design, five-door/five seat advantage and competitive price tag combine to make Karl a promising young contender in a crowded city car market.

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