Brian Joss – South Africa has traditionally been ‘bakkie crazy’ – and many of us grew up with ome’bakkie’ or another in the driveway.
Many businesses requiring a versatile workhorse or delivery vehicle, would own a sub-one tonner ‘bakkie’ or two as part of their fleet. It’s no wonder that Opel’s Corsa bakkie, later to be re-badged as the Chevrolet Utility, was for many years the best- selling bakkie in its class – selling well over 1 000 units a month!
In Europe however, and you will be hard-pressed to see a ‘bakkie’ on the roads. But there many businesses have a fleet of ‘combos’ or vans.
Which is better, the combo or a van.
“In South Africa,” Opel said, “you no longer dare to leave anything ‘in the back of the bakkie’ as you could in the past. So most commercial owners opt to fit a canopy to their ‘bakkie’. Unfortunately the loading bay and canopies don’t form part of the alarm system of the ‘bakkie’ (if fitted), and break-in thefts are common.”
The canopy (usually made of glass fibre) is also an extra expense and is secured by only a few clips – the first element to break in the event of an accident. Hinges and gas shocks often give problems or rip out, the load bay is not part of the air-conditioned space, often has to be sprayed (for the more discerning bakkie owner if the bakkie is not white), offers little headroom and has little to no second-hand value.
In contrast, cargo vans are designed as versatile load-carriers, offer much more space as a result of lower load beds, keep your valuable cargo and equipment out of sight and enclosed in an alarmed and secure shell that is – an integral part of the vehicle’s body. The sides and back are also blocked out with metal sheeting, keeping your contents safe from the preying eyes of criminals.
The cab of Opel’s new Combi is a comfortable place to spend time, and there’s an abundance of great safety kit available to make working life easier. The 1.6 turbo diesel engine delivers enough pulling power to not only keep pace with traffic, but also for overtaking maneuvers and pulling a substantial additional load, such as a bike-trailer, boat or additional cargo, Opel said.
The car-derived running gear means the Opel Combo feels good to drive, too.
Standard safety kit includes a driver’s airbag, a full-height steel bulkhead to separate the cargo and passenger areas, Electronic Stability Control, Traction Control, Hill Start Assist and Emergency Brake Assist.
The Combo has a massive 3.3 cubic metres of load space, which is not only substantially more than a light commercial bakkie with canopy, but also equates to substantially more real estate for branding and advertising. With most companies or fleets having vehicles on the road throughout the day, vehicle branding of a single Combo can be seen by upwards of 70 000 pairs of eyesa day in busier metros, and let’s face it, a tailor-made business panel van (especially if it was just awarded “International Van of the Year) simply looks a lot more professional or ‘business like’ than a bakkie, Opel said.
The Opel Combo further creates a mobile and weather proof working space for drivers or operators. The van’s lower load floor height can be a blessing for technicians who are accustomed to pulling tools, equipment, and cargo out of a pick-up bed. Think of the number of cycles these drivers go through – having to load and unload cargo between twenty and sixty times a day!
The squarer body shape means there’s ample space inside, while a low floor makes access easy. The Combo also allows for up to 600kg of cargo in the back.
Bakkies are generally sold with a bare steel load bin. Items such as rubberizing and canopy fitment are for the customers’ account. Even once these items have been added to the bill, ‘up-fitting’ possibilities are limited, expensive and time-consuming. The protected steel box created by the Combo’s body shape allows for endless and simple ‘up-fitment’
opportunities such as shelving, storage bins, tool boxes, refrigeration, compressor and Air Line Fitment.
The Opel Combo has already scooped up the coveted title of International Van of the Year and it will be available in South Africa in May, “in limited numbers at first because of international demand”.
The vehicle was designed as part of a cross-business programme in which services were systematically tailored as closely as possible to the needs of Business-to-Business customers around the globe in terms of convenience, Driving Assistance Systems and safety.
With this new offering, Groupe PSA (the Opel holding company who also owns Citroen, DS, Peugeot and Vauxhall) intends to consolidate its leading position in the European commercial vehicle market.
CAPTION: Opel Combo vs the bakkie: weighing up the pros and cons. Picture: Quickpic