The Opel Karl is powered by a new 1.0-liter turbocharged Ecotec three-cylinder making 74 hp, a bit less than the outgoing Chevrolet Spark’s 84 hp from a 1.2-liter four-cylinder. The three-cylinder engine is part of GM’s new global, small-displacement Ecotec engine family, so it’s possible that Chevrolet may offer a slightly larger turbocharged engine for the Spark in the U.S. The European-market Opel is also available only with a five-speed manual, while the Spark will almost surely be offered with an automatic transmission option.
The handling and ride are basically fine, but are all but invisible from the point of view of a keen driver. The Crossland is tidy through corners, with reasonable steering weight but no actual feedback, and the body tilts over only to a reasonable angle. The ride is a touch stiff in its damping, especially around town (which is disappointing, given that any Crossland will probably spend most of its life in town) but it does improve on the open road. Refinement is only average though with quite a bit of wind and road noise. There’s little point in having Opel’s phone-based OnStar concierge service fitted if you can’t hear what the operator is saying . . .
It had some crazy mechanical issues. At one point it stumbled and stalled because the carburetor had come loose from the intake manifold and I had to tighten it back down! Another time, my brother was driving it and the brakes failed. Somehow the end of the brake shoe that meets the brake cylinder piston had become worn on one side, causing the piston to slip off the end of the shoe when the brakes were applied, losing braking and squirting fluid all over.