2002 Opel Concept M

This is Opel’s - and Vauxhall’s - answer to the Ford Fusion mini-MPV. Admittedly you can’t buy this Opel Opel yet, and it has plenty of the stylistic flourishes worn by most concept cars, but when it does arrive it promises to be a rather better thought-out thing than the Ford. Prettier too. Enthusiastic chief designer Stefan Arndt explains, "this is the small brother of the Zafira - it’s a Zafira package in a mini size, and it’s for people who like the height and space but don’t need the Zafira’s extra pair of seats

The concept is powered by a turbocharged 1.6 litre dual-fuel engine that runs on compressed natural gas or petrol, and it drives through the Corsa’s Easytronic five-speed gearbox. Power output is 150 bhp, top speed 126 mph and 62 mph is reached in 9.8 seconds - good stuff for a practical machine like this. An eco-friendly CNG engine won’t be fitted for the car’s launch, but GM is planning to offer it in the relatively near future.

Being a showcar the Concept M predictably presents a fairly zany dashboard, this painted turquoise, but close inspection suggests that this tidy structure is not so far from the production version. Where it differs is in the provision of a Compaq iPac personal digital assitant (PDA) in the centre of the dash. It’s removable for the driver’s use, but when installed in the car does duty as the display for the climate control, the navigation system and the stereo, as well as providing information on the car’s servicing requirements. You can surf the net if you hook it up to your mobile too. Less radical are the LCD digital instruments. GM has dallied with digital dash displays in the past, notably on the 1984 Astra GTE, but these differ in being programmable to suit the whim of the driver - though you cannot eliminate essentials such as the speedo - and also includes navigation directions. Again, this is near-future technology.

Outside, the M wear many fashionable style details, but the most useful innovation is a high-mounted strip of LED stop lights, which illuminate progrssively as pressure on the brake pedal is increased - an excellent safety feature on motorways, when it’s difficult to tell whether the vehicle ahead is slowing severely or gently.


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