First Impressions Review: 1997 Opel Omega Caravan 2.5 TD
In this new, hopefully series, I give some of my initial thoughts on cars that I got to drive for a limited time only. I still reserve that full car reviews should require days or ideally weeks of living with a car, and I only wrote them like so in the past. However, I hope that even short exposure and the ideas it spawns in my head might be entertaining and/or informative, so here goes.
This 1997 Opel Omega Caravan 2.5 TD belongs to a student of mine, and after having undergone some repairs, he said it is now at its peak and I should try it. I am not one to turn down a test drive in anything, so off we went, spending an hour or so with the car. He showed it off to me, I drove it, and I get why he loves it so much now!
If you are a teen on a low budget, yet with an active lifestyle, who likes to travel to new cities, maybe even into neighboring countries with the mates or your girlfriend on the weekends, going camping, or just sleeping in the car when you are thrown out of the house for doing pot, this is the perfect cars for you. Let me elaborate.
They are literally worthless. You can pick one up for around or under 500 Euros, which is a very good thing, especially in a country where minimum wage is around 460 Euros a month! This means that if it is indeed your first car, you are not grinding the gears or reversing into a pole in something much nicer. It also means that you can find salvage parts anywhere for no money whatsoever, and because the car is old and mechanically simple, chances are, you can repair it yourself with some basic tools and get some mechanical expertise in the process.
As a young but not so well-off owner, you would also want some performance, and also fuel efficiency. Again, this Omega delivers. This straight 6 TD unit offers 130HP (97Kw), and 250 Nm (184 lb ft), and takes you from 0 to 100 in 12.5-13 seconds. Not fast enough to hideously kill yourself, but you’ll be leagues ahead of the little economy cars non-car teens buy or get. (like the Hungarian people’s car, the ever so popular Suzuki Swift. And I drove that so much over the years when my nice cars broke…review coming one day!) All at a consumption of around 10 litres/100kms (just under 30 MPG city) and 8 litres/100 (35 MPG) highway. This is the diesel to have, apparently, because a 2.0 4 cylinder job with 100HP is also available, but you need to push this heavy car a lot harder with that unit, so it doesn’t really yield an increase in fuel economy. So, definitely worse than the fuel sipping superminies, but very livable. The engine is also bulletproof, my student’s car had 400.000+kms on it, very smooth for a diesel, and offers so much torque down low that it is almost completely impossible to stall. Again, not a bad thing if it’s your first car. It is also worth mentioning that with a few simple, mechanical mods, like fuel pump, injestors, decat, and upping the turbo pressure, you can easily get around 170HP out of this unit, if you don’t mind worse economy, rolling coal, and not passing your next MOT unless you pay someone off or reset it. My student had his car in this state of tune for the summer and he enjoyed it a lot. :)
Another mod he did in the interior is the red LED mood lighting. :) The car is very comfortable for the class and money, you hear few vibrations, the seats are comfy, you have good storage room in the cabin and an enormous boot. You can really shortshift the manual gearbox, the car doesn’t struggle. Almost all examples sold here have the 5 speed manual, another bonus point for aspiring petrolheads. You barely need to downshift for a smooth overtake, you can just ride the torque anywhere in the rev range. It has long throws and feels leisurely, but that is in character with the car.
As for equipment, you get all the essentials for your very little money. Most Omegas are equipped with AC (I mean it doesn’t work in this one, but it’s there!) and a quirky dual zone solution, with old fashioned twist knobs. :) Rear window and side view mirror heating is also nice, as are electric windows, and a CD radio, which my student also replaced to go with his red theme and have an aux input. Nothing fancy, but nothing you couldn’t live without.
So, in conclusion, I think this humble Omega is a perfect first car if you are on a budget, want some performance, reliability, and lead an active lifestyle. I am not a huge diesel fan, but I have to admit, in this shape and form, it makes perfect sense in this car.