Aesthetically, the Karl has a strong identity, but its drivability is what most will concentrate on – in this regard, it doesn’t disappoint, at least for general use

LAUNCHED as part of Opel’s small car expansion last year, the Opel Karl seemed like the sensible older sibling of the dinky and expressive Adam and Adam Rocks.
While the Adam range sold itself as the ultimate customizable city car, the Karl focuses on function – and while it may not be as eye-catching, it doesn’t altogether scrimp on style.
From the outside, the Karl looks solid, friendly, and compact. Five door comes as standard and there is a surprising amount of room in the back seats, making it perfect for kids or occasional passengers.
But, practical and safe does not necessarily mean dull; a nice, staggered line running along the doors, pinched rear windows, and a vivid range of available colours gives the Karl a bit of an aesthetic bite, or at the very least, a considerable nibble.
The trend continues inside, where there is plenty of room up front, and a large glass sunroof increases the sense of space.
There are three levels available, fluctuating the price from a very affordable €11,995 for the basics up to around €16,000 for the SE model and the full rigout.
There’s a tidy control panel regardless, as seems to be the norm with the new range of Opel’s small cars – and plenty of safety features packed in.
Cornering lights bend into the turn and make a considerable difference driving in the country at night, and there is a lane departure warning for the motorways.
Rear parking sensors are options, but handy for smaller spaces, and a hill start assist as standard adds to a range of nice features that make driving easier and safer – which makes a lot of sense, given the Karl’s low price point and inevitable appeal to beginner drivers.
Like the Adam and Corsa, a one-button press will free up the steering in city mode, making the Karl even more versatile in tight surrounds which is, in fairness, where it performs best.
The 1-litre (non-turbo, unlike the Corsa) engine is small but surprisingly powerful; you can really feel the Karl go in the low gears.
In its natural environment, the Karl is a pleasure to drive – zipping around the Dublin suburbs, or even hugging the tight streets of Kinsale were a doddle.
Getting between the two was a little less so – capped at five gears, the Karl is not designed for long-distance cruising.
While the car manages comfortably, you can feel some of the limitations of the engine once you pick up speed.
But, given that the Karl is aimed at people who want a reliable and stylish runaround, that can’t be seen as too much of a criticism.
Besides, even on the longer journey, despite the lack of a sixth gear, fuel use stayed very reasonable.
The Karl enters a crowded small car market, and even with Opel’s range it will have to compete alongside the meatier Corsa and the more stylish Adam, but it has a place – a low price point, low tax, and low emissions will make this car appealing to a lot of suburbanites.
The Karl values safety, practicality, and affordability, and it delivers those with gusto.