Vauxhall’s new Mokka crossover doesn’t directly rival jacked-up superminis like the Nissan Juke or new Renault Captur, nor fully-fledged family tools like Nissan’s popular Qashqai or the likeable Skoda Yeti. The Mokka splits them on size, space and price, but does that leave it falling between two stools, or as the best of both worlds? Read on for the CAR review.
Another decent-looking Vauxhall, another silly name…
We’ll let the Mokka moniker lie – no coffee puns here, thank you. Styling-wise, the bluff little Mokka is appealing in the metal, marrying supermini cuteness with an air of chunky pugnaciousness, like a more grown-up Fiat Panda 4x4. Following the shamelessly trendy Adam city car, rakish Astra GTC and new soft-top Cascada, it’s good to see Vauxhall’s designers stringing together a run of handsome cars.
Is the Mokka as attractive inside?
Unfortunately not – that button festooned centre stack isn’t easy on the eye, though unlike Ford’s similarly fussy interior designs of late, the Vauxhall does at least become intuitive to use with familiarity. Another boon of that heavy button count is the sheer amount of equipment it controls. All Mokkas (the range starts at £17,995) get standard DAB digital radios, cruise control, Bluetooth, climate control, electrically folding heated mirrors and rain-sensing wipers, and ride on 18in rims. Top-spec SE models get big-car goodies like heated leather seats and a heated steering wheel: Mokka SEs start from £22,705.
Which engines can I choose from?
You can have a 1.4- or 1.6-litre petrol engine, with either six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes, and front- or part-time four-wheel drive. Our Mokka test car (in SE 4x4 trim) boasted the only diesel currently available: a 1.7-litre unit with 128bhp and 221lb ft. As tested, with optional sat-nav added on, the price of our manual-gearbox test car came in at £24,595.
What’s the Mokka like on the move?
Several members of the CAR team noted what a bad first impression the Mokka makes before you’ve even left your parking space. After inserting the key into a horribly cheap-looking ignition barrel, twisting it wakes a grumbly, unrefined diesel motor that chunters like a throwback to the bad old days of dervs. Next, you grasp the awkward L-shaped gearknob, and fumble for reverse through the notchy gate. Finally, you’re off, via dipping the handbrake, which has been needlessly fiddled with to migrate the release button on top of the lever. Considering these are the first contact points you interact with every time you set off, it’s quite an own goal to get all three wrong.
Once underway, things do improve. The engine remains unruly and loud, but it pulls strongly from very low revs and feels good for its claimed 10.4sec 0-60mph run. More importantly, it’s pleasingly frugal: during our tests we saw an average of 49.5mpg, with a peak of 50.2mpg. That’s still 7.4mpg off Vauxhall’s claimed economy figure, but the margin is far less than some carmaker’s wildly optimistic calculations. You’ll pay £105 annually in road tax for the Mokka’s 129g/km of CO2 output.
Any surprises in the Vauxhall’s handling department?
Nope – none of Vauxhall’s current range stands out as the sharpest steer in its class, and the Mokka doesn’t rise above the rest. Its steering is so light around the straight-ahead it’ll wander disconcertingly on below-par UK roads, and doesn’t offer anything in the way of egg-you-on directness. The ride is well-judged, with the high-riding body resisting extensive body roll, but it’s predictably no real entertainer from behind the wheel. If you want warm-hatch style B-road chuckability, you’re better off in a Nissan Juke, or, ahem, buy a warm hatch. A top-spec Juke will set you back much less than the Mokka at £18,120, but eschews much of the Vauxhall’s desirable kit, like leather, DAB, 18in wheels, and rear occupant space fit for adult humans.
The Mokka’s 356-litre boot has a flat load sill, and the rear quarters feel more spacious than they look: knee and headroom is fine for one six-footer behind another, but the high beltline and thick C-pillar make for a slightly claustrophobic feel. Also, rear wheelarch intrustion into the door aperture doesn’t help access. You’ll receive no complaints for three little ones back here, but if you’re wanting to transport adults more often, plump for a larger crossover. Vauxhall does offer one – the Antara, released in 2007 and tweaked 2010.
Compact crossovers are seriously hot property right now, and the Mokka should find plenty of happy punters, who’ll appreciate the commanding driving position and rough-and-tumble looks, plus the distinctly un-SUV-like running costs.
But the Mokka isn’t a keen driver’s cup of tea, and its diesel engine, though frugal, is disappointingly coarse when you give it the beans. Still, if you’re after a well-equipped kid-friendly runabout that cuts a dash above simple supermini-dom, the Mokka should suit your daily grind. And look, we only made three coffee-themed jibes about the name in the end.