Car Reviews: Opel Agila

For three weeks I had the pleasure of driving a car to a client. The good bit was, the car was provided by the employer. Not wanting to let this beautiful experience go to waste, I wrote up a little review.

Now first, some points to be made. Opel is a German car manufacturer, in Britain distributed as Vauxhall, in Australia as Holden. I might be a bit harsh on the car, but nevertheless, remember it is a European car. Therefore, any complaints should be scaled to the European market. You can't really compare European, or Asian cars with American products. American cars are horrible pieces of bolts and metal with all the technological refinement of a broomstick. Non-American cars are by default much cleaner, safer and more economical with fuel.

Looks

As you can see, It's a minty shade of green! The car has a pretty high profile. This makes it very easy to find on the parking lot, and you can slide inside quite easily. This is excellent in the morning, when you haven't consumed enough coffee yet. The bonnet is pretty short, and the headlamps make it look like someone punched it in the face. It had really cute tiny wheels.

Usability

After the shock of the outer appearance of the car, you might raise another eyebrow over the interior. In complete contrast with the outside look, the interior is grey, with dark blue seats. After you get seated, It's pretty easy to figure out how it works. I could go on about the equipment, but there wasn't really any. There was a radio, a heater, a steering wheel, the usual buttons and dials, and a gear shifter (manual, of course, automatic is for Americans).

Experience

I was pleased to find out the car didn't have a diesel engine, like most lease cars. This gave the car some more power with its 1.2 litre engine (That's right, you actually can't shove a V8 in any piece of metal you see!).

The first time you drive it, it can be a bit confusing. At first you think "wow, a racy sound", but soon you discover it sounds more like a go-cart or a lawnmower. Still, combined with the extremely low weight of the car, the engine has enough power to let you pull away with plenty of wheel spin.

However, the screeching tires highlight another problem: the tires are to small, and don't deliver enough grip on the road surface, particularly in wet conditions. This results in dangerous amounts of over steer, making the rear of the car try to break out in corners with speeds as low as 30km/h. If you don't know how to handle that, it can be a frightening experience.

Another problem entirely, is the car's image. It's a car mainly bought by old ladies (with those handling problems? Oh my, indeed). This results in dangerous situations on the highway. People react very differently to this car then, for example, a BMW 3 series. I drove a BMW 320 once, and you immediately notice everyone trying to get out of your way. Its battleship-like build quality might attribute some to that. The Agila, however, has the exact opposite effect. Everyone assumes the driver can't drive properly, and try to pass, or even cut you off at every opportunity. Best not to loose your nerve.

Overall

The Agila's engine is through its size pretty economical. The "In Car Entertainment" may be basic, the sound is actually pretty good. You have a pretty good view, and no real blind spots. The high driving position gives you a good view of the road, but the high profile of the car coupled with the low weight makes it very hard to drive at speeds above 120km/h, when experiencing windy conditions.

Conclusion

For the cost (free, or very low), the Agila is a fine car. I would suggest saving some more money though, and go for a VW Polo or a Ford Fiesta. You can get it in The Netherlands for 11000 Euro (which is too expensive, I might add).