First Drive: Vauxhall Mokka
SECTOR Crossover PRICE £15,995 – £23,490 FUEL 43.5 – 60.1mpg CO2 120 – 153g/km
Of Vauxhall’s recent newcomers, Mokka has perhaps the most logical name. Rather like a menu board at your local coffee house, satisfying the modern car buyer means offering as much choice as possible. Sometimes, even, finding wants and needs even the end user didn’t know they had.
The latest buzz niche is the compact crossover, a sector in which you’re soon to find most mass-market manufacturers as they launch products to compete for a slice of what’s hoped will be a growth area. Nissan got the sector rolling with the Qashqai, now a runaway success, and followed it with the Juke. Vauxhall has sized Mokka to fit neatly between the two.
While it’s a new market for Vauxhall, Mokka is expected to hit the ground running. Vauxhall expects it to be the second biggest seller, after Corsa, among retail customers. The fleet model mix is slightly different, but 25% of UK Mokkas will be bought by the corporate market.
Beneath the bodywork is a stretched version of the new Chevrolet Aveo’s platform, shared with the forthcoming Chevrolet Trax, and both cars are built in South Korea. Mokka gets its own, arguably better looking, bodywork but isn’t unique to Europe – North America will get it badged as the Buick Encore.
Despite this, there are plenty of differences under the skin. Chevrolet and Opel use entirely different suspension settings, and Vauxhall has developed its own specifically for UK roads and tastes. The UK chassis wasn’t available to test, but engineers said it will feature slightly lighter and more linear steering than the heavily-centered Opels, and a more compliant suspension setup.
Trax will be offered cheaper than the Mokka, but Vauxhall has the better cabin. Interior quality has improved dramatically over the last five years in Vauxhalls, and its newest model features Ampera-like dark glossy panels in the dashboard and door cards which feel suitably upmarket. There’s plenty of room front and rear, helped by the high roofline, but the rising beltline does result in a large blind spot.
For drivers, though, the dashboard is let down by a cluttered instrument panel. There are far too many buttons around the infotainment system, and it’s not always obvious what each one does. Many manufacturers are migrating to touchscreens or rotary controllers, and as with most cars in its range Vauxhall could really benefit from following suit to keep drivers’ eyes on the road.
Engines comprise an entry-level 1.6-litre and 1.4 Turbo petrol available with two or four-wheel-drive respectively, and 1.7 CRDi diesel with optional four wheel drive and automatic gearbox. It’s the diesel which is predicted to be the big seller with fleets, offering CO2 emissions as low as 120g/km, and it’s also the better of the two higher-powered units to drive. The 1.4 Turbo, despite being more powerful, can feel a little blunt.
Mokka feels as solid to drive as the chunky looks suggest. It’s not as agile as a Corsa or Astra, but there’s limited body roll for such a high-sided vehicle and it feels almost as refined as a C-segment car at motorway speeds.
Ultimately this is likely to be more of a user-chooser car than a core fleet offering like Astra or Insignia, but its chunky looks and compact size should make it a popular choice with the lifestyle set. But, much like the coffee it’s named after, there are plenty of choices on the high street if you’re in the market for this particular blend of coffee.
Mokka is timed just soon enough to beat most competitors, but late enough to enter an established sector rather than an unknown. Solid looks and optional four wheel drive may tempt user choosers out of an Astra, but Trax will offer similar attractions and the same economy for less money.