ROAD TEST REPORT AND REVIEW: Vauxhall Mokka
Aimed squarely at trendy young folk, DAVID HOOPER says the new Vauxhall Mokka will attract plenty of buyers when they wake up and smell the coffee!
The strangely-named Mokka is the first of three new Vauxhall models which are set to propel the brand into new market sectors.
On sale now, this ruggedly-styled compact SUV is leading the way, soon to be followed by the equally strangely-named Adam, which the company is pitching at the sector of the market which is home to those who like to personalise their cars with a raft of options, along similar lines to the Mini, the Fiat 500 and to a lesser extent, the VW Beetle. The difference here is that all these three cars are based on old favourites with a long heritage, while the Adam is a completely new car.
The third new model will be the Cascada which will give Vauxhall a convertible offering again, something the range has been lacking for some time now.
The compact SUV sector in which the Mokka will be competing is currently one of the fastest growing in the UK, with sales up 140% on last year and appealing to people with active lifestyles who enjoy making the most of their leisure time.
Featuring a raised ride height and “rugged” styling, I think the front end looks a little truck-like from some angles, while Vauxhall’s characteristic sweeping blade styling is in evidence along both flanks.
There are three engines to choose from at launch, a 1.6 petrol, a lively 1.4 turbo-charged petrol, and a 1.7-litre CDTi. These can be ordered with various combinations of two-wheel-drive, all-wheel-drive, six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions.
These are combined with four trim levels, and all models get a full complement of eight airbags, hill start assist and even a hill descent control system – even on the front wheel drive only models. There’s a forward facing camera which recognises speed signs and when the sat-nav system is installed, there’s a rear view camera as well.
Another impressive feature for a car of this size is the forward collision alert and lane departure warning systems, and the Mokka even comes with forward adaptive lighting which is often only found on much more expensive cars.
Inside, digital radio is also a standard fixture, but Bluetooth is not available on the lower spec models, which I think is a must-have these days, especially if the car is aimed at younger buyers who nearly all have smartphones.
The rear seats feature a 60/40 split-folding system, while at the back, Vauxhall’s clever Flex Fix bike carrier system is built into the car’s rear bumper and in standard form can carry one bike, but with an optional adapter can carry up to three.
It’s a clever system, and any cyclist will know that a rear-mounted cycle carrier can be a mixed blessing if you need to get into the boot, but with this system, the bikes can be tilted away from the car to allow you to open the hatch, which is brilliant.
Vauxhall expects 75% of sales to go to private customers, with the remainder being accounted for by the fleet and business sector.
I travelled to Hamburg, on the northern coast of Germany for my first encounter with the Mokka. Being quite a small, narrow car sitting in an elevated position above the ground, I wondered whether driving the car might be a bit of a grind, but Vauxhall’s engineers have worked hard to make the car work on the UK’s roads. Much of the development and fine tuning has been done at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire, where the little car apparently performed well off-road, although we didn’t the chance to try it for ourselves during the launch exercise.
The All Wheel Drive system operates on an “on demand” basis, so the car runs in two wheel drive most of the time, only bringing the rear wheels into play when those wheels start to lose traction. It can divert up to 50% of the drive to the rear wheels.
Our test route was pretty much limited to a sprint up the autobahn and back, which didn’t give us much of a chance to really get to grips with the cars dynamics. The ride was definitely on the firm side to ensure stability, but it was comfortable and for a car with a short wheelbase, was not too bouncy.
The steering is electrically powered, and I didn’t particularly like the feel I got at the wheel. It was a bit like a switch, either on or off, and in traffic at low speed, which we had plenty of experience of in the Hamburg rush-hour which was compounded by roadworks, it seemed to almost switch itself off and go quite dead at times in the 1.4-litre Turbo model we drove on the return leg.
That engine was the better of the two we tried by far. The other was the 1.7-litre CDTi, which although economical, returning an average of 55.6mpg, is actually quite an old engine now and is noisier than some of its rivals, especially at low speeds.
However, when we gave the Mokka plenty of beans on the autobahns (we were cruising at 190kmh at times) the car felt stable enough in a straight line and there was very little wind noise at speeds which are way in excess of what most owners will drive these cars at, so that’s good news.
Reasonably priced and cleverly packaged, the Mokka is sure to claim a big chunk of the market currently occupied by the likes of the Skoda Yeti, Nissan Juke and Qashqai, sitting somewhere between the latter pair in size.
Being a Vauxhall, it is sure to sell well.
THE VITAL STATISTICS
MODEL: Vauxhall Mokka
BODY STYLES: 5-door hatchback
ENGINES: 1.6 petrol (115PS), 1.4 Turbo (140PS), 1.7 CDTi (130PS)
TRIM GRADES: S, Exclusiv, Tech Line, SE
PRICES: From £15,995 on the road
IN THE SHOWROOM: Now
ο All data correct at time of publishing.
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