Millennials may not know this, but the German automaker Opel used to have a presence in the Philippine market. And no, I’m not referring to those really old times of the Rekord and the Manta, but rather to the late 1990s, when Pinoy car buyers could drive home an Omega, a Vectra, a Zafira, even a Tigra. That was thanks to the local subsidiary of General Motors, which at the time owned Opel.
The brand would eventually withdraw from our market, and has since been acquired from GM by the PSA Group (the parent company of Citroen and Peugeot). With the less-than-impressive sales performance of stablemate Peugeot in our territory, it’s highly doubtful Opel bosses could be convinced to make another comeback.
My fondest memory of Opel somehow involves Brod Pete (yes, the comedian Isko Salvador). One day in 1999, I had just parked and alighted from a Tigra test unit within the CCP Complex in Manila when Salvador walked past my slot, craning his neck. “Nice car, brad,” he said.
But if anyone found the ’90s Tigra remotely nice, he’d be even more delighted to see what Opel has to offer now in other markets. Below, I list down five current Opel models I wish were sold in the Philippines.
1. Opel Astra. This compact model (in sedan form, if I remember it correctly) was likewise made available in the Philippines when GM brought the brand here. But it lacked the oomph to competitively wrestle with Asian rivals. Now check out the car in its modern iteration—as a hatchback this time around. At 4.37m long, it’s just 100mm shorter than the Mazda 3 hatchback. Exactly the right size for us. There are several engines available, but I prefer the 1.4-liter four-cylinder, direct-injection turbocharged Ecotec gasoline powerplant rated at 150hp.
2. Opel Insignia. This is a midsize (or large, depending on who makes the classification) model that has several body types (the sedan and the fastback are about the same size as the Toyota Camry), but I like the wagon version the most. It boasts a sporty design that could give Mazda 6 Wagon buyers second thoughts. Like the Astra, the Insignia has an array of engine options, but I’d go for the 2.0-liter turbo petrol with 260hp and 400Nm. With this ride, you could go straight to the track after dropping off your kids at school.
3. Opel Mokka X. With the popularity of subcompact crossover SUVs in our market like the Nissan Juke and the Suzuki Vitara, I believe this model will find a lot of fans here. It will be a very crowded market, sure, but one that still holds so much potential. The Mokka is based on GM’s Gamma II platform that also underpins the Chevrolet Trax, so it would simply be a battle of styling and equipment when the estranged cousins got to be pitted against each other. Under the hood is a 1.4-liter, 152hp turbo gasoline engine, which is about a dozen horses more potent than our local Trax’s propulsion.
4. Opel Vivaro Tourer. It’s really just a rebadged Renault Trafic, but who cares? I kind of like the overall exterior vibe of this spacious-looking van, which should make you stand out on the parking lot next to Super Grandias and Urvans. Opel describes the Tourer version as a “traveling lounge” with versatile and luxurious seating—including 180°-spinning second-row chairs—that would help you and your colleagues (or family members) happily endure Ortigas Avenue Extension traffic.
5. Opel Adam Rocks S. Of course we’ve saved the best for last. Here’s the rock-star twin of the Adam city car, dressed to turn heads at your monthly club meet. Its 1.4-liter turbo Ecotec engine produces 150hp and propels the diminutive three-door hatchback to a top speed of 210km/h. At 3.75m long, this pocket rocket is just a tad longer than the Honda Brio, meaning it would probably drive like a go-kart. If only for this one model, the Opel brand is worth bringing back.