by Seán Creedon
With new versions of old reliables and several electric cars on the way, could the good times be on the way back for Opel in Ireland?
Around 30 years ago when the Republic of Ireland soccer team was qualifying for European Championship and World Cup finals, the ‘Boys in Green’ were sponsored by Opel.
Arnold O’Byrne, who was the MD of Opel back then became almost as well known as Irish manager Jack Charlton as he was seen on Irish television screens as often as Big Jack.
The German brand has had several different bosses since then and unfortunately while they continued to make good cars, somehow their share of the Irish market really shrunk.
Recently, Opel in Ireland became part of the Gowan Group, who already hold the franchise for Peugeot and Honda cars in Ireland. So will we see James Brooks, Opel’s new MD become the ‘new’ Arnold O’Byrne.
James is a big sports fan, but I don’t think we will see him become the face of Opel’s television campaigns just yet.
Last week I drove the new version of the Opel Corsa, which was a favourite back in the eighties and nineties. The Corsa was launched in 1982 and I bought a skinny looking version around 1988.
Now the designers have managed to make this new model look bigger, despite the dimensions being much the same as the previous version.
The sixth generation of the nameplate is longer, lower, and has a longer wheelbase than its predecessor and is 108kg lighter than the previous version. This is the first new Opel produced since the marque was taken over by the PSA Group.
Nice splash of colour
Inside there was a nice touch of red and white stitching on the seats and the dash had a touch of red and grey which looked very tasty. Those touches of colour are needed in the interior as the roof is very dark.
We drove the car from Gowan’s headquarters in Bluebell to Kilkenny and took the scenic route which meant less motorway driving.
I found the car very sturdy and there wasn’t much road noise. The digital instrument cluster is well placed to ensure that you only have to take your eyes off the road ahead for a second or two to check your speed.
There is room in the back seat for three people, but leg room is a bit tight. The boot is average, but the good news is that you get a proper spare wheel.
Meanwhile, the electric Corsa-e is due here in April and will have a range of around 337km. Along with the recently renewed Astra and the Corsa, a new Grandland X hybrid is due here in April and it will be followed by a facelifted Crossland and a new generation Mokka in December.
For the Corsa there will be three trims – SC, SRi and Elite – with prices starting at €17,975 for the 1.2-litre petrol; also available in 1.5-litre diesel with the top price of €25,445. All come with LED headlights and auto-dip as standard.
The Corsa faces stiff competition in the supermini class from the likes of the Ford Fiesta and Renault Clio, but at least they are now back in the game.
With Brooks now in charge and Emma Toner joining their marketing team from Peugeot, I think we will see Opel compete in the top league once again.