Published on Sunday 21 September 2014 19:07
Ten Second Review
The Vauxhall Mokka represents an extremely promising first stab at the compact crossover market. With a choice of three engines, auto and manual transmissions and front or four wheel drive chassis, the Mokka looks to have plenty of bases covered. Let's see how it stacks up in 140PS 1.4-litre petrol turbo form equipped with standard 4WD.
For a mainstream manufacturer, Vauxhall has been notably absent or virtually absent from quite a few profitable market niches in recent years. They've had no hybrids, instead waiting for the Ampera to arrive with its range-extending technology. The sports car provision flatlined with the demise of the VX220. And there hasn't been an SUV smaller than the rather unloved Antara. For the most part, Vauxhall's success has relied on bread and butter stuff like the Corsa, Astra and Insignia, with MPV people carriers like the Meriva and Zafira also doing good business.
That's pretty much the polar opposite of Nissan, a manufacturer who ditched mainstreamers like the Almera and Primera to concentrate on SUVs, sports cars and crossover models like the Qashqai and Juke. It's had huge success with the latter pair and Vauxhall wanted in on that party. Hence the Mokka, the first compact crossover to carry the Griffin emblem on its nose. And unlike the Juke, this car is affordably available with 4WD. Let's try it in 1.4-litre petrol turbo 4x4 form.
The Mokka has clearly been designed for the urban environment but that's not to say the ability to be driven off-road has been totally neglected. To this end, Vauxhall wisely offers both front and four-wheel drive chassis options, with the all-wheel drive mechanicals we're looking at in the 140PS 1.4-litre petrol turbo model on test here being fully adaptive. When the vehicle's being driven on smooth, dry surfaces, all drive is sent to the front wheels for optimum efficiency but when the road surface is slippery, as much as 50 per cent of the drive is automatically diverted to the rear axle. There's not even that much of a weight penalty for choosing the four wheel drive version as the mechanicals add a mere 65kg, which isn't going to put too big a ding in emissions and economy figures.
If you can stretch to it, I'd suggest that the 1.4-litre turbo petrol Mokka is a much better bet than the entry-level 2WD 115PS 1.6-litre petrol variant. Sixty is just 9.4s away enroute to 118mph, so it's usefully more rapid, and there's a healthier 200Nm of torque. Despite all this and the standard inclusion of 4WD, the provision of a 6-speed gearbox and more modern mechanicals mean that this pokier 1.4 is actually cheaper to run than the feebler 1.6.
Design and Build
The Mokka rides on the General Motors Gamma II platform, which will also underpin the next-generation Corsa and which is currently available beneath a Chevy Aveo. With a 2,555mm wheelbase, there's only room for two rows of seats but that's what the market likes, so that's what it gets. It measures 4,280mm from stem to stern and is 1,645mm high. The bluff front end features a very high grille and bonnet treatment, with some very neat and unusual design work on the headlamps and the dark petal sections beneath them. There's a lot of shape in the flanks while the rear end is nicely finished with a metallic bash plate. The short overhangs hint at some off-road ability but the ride height isn't that generous. That wedge-shaped profile contributes to a respectable drag coefficient of 0.36, which is good for this class of vehicle.
The interior isn't overly adventurous, which might just mean it mops up sales from people left a bit cold by the sheer extravagance of the Nissan Juke. The dash is cleanly styled, with a wing effect atop the main dial pack, and the rear seats benefit from wide opening doors that simplify the fitment of a child seat. That sharply rising waistline might well mean that smaller rear seat occupants don't enjoy much of a view out though. Out back, there's a decently sized boot and if you fold the rear bench, there's up to 1,372-litres of load space.
Market and Model
So, this Mokka's a small, trendily-styled five-door little SUV/Crossover isn't it? Well yes. So it'll be priced directly against the other car we tend of think of in this market sector, Nissan's Juke, won't it? Well, no. Vauxhall points out - correctly - that their car is a significantly larger thing - hence the slight premium over an equivalent Juke. When it comes to this 140PS 1.4 16V Turbo 4x4 Mokka variant though, which is priced from just over £18,000, there simply isn't an equivalent Juke model to compare it too - unless you count the 190PS 1.6-litre petrol turbo version of the Nissan which costs a couple of thousand more and is very expensive to run.
If, having considered all of this, you decide that it is indeed a Mokka that you actually want, then you'll be pleased to find that it'll come well equipped. Look at the entry-level 'S' model and it doesn't seem that way, this variant lacking things that'll be pretty important to potential trendy buyers - alloy wheels, Bluetooth 'phone-compatibility and a leather-covered steering wheel for example.
But Vauxhall has thought of that, offering a well kitted-out 'Tech Line' version that your dealer can offer at entry-level pricing with all these niceties present and correct, as well as others like auto headlamps and wipers, high beam assist that'll automatically dip your lights in the face of oncoming traffic at night, folding door mirrors, front foglamps, parking sensors, satellite navigation and, for the stereo, the all-important USB and iPod connectivity.
Cost of Ownership
As far as cost of ownership is concerned, it would be fair to call this Mokka 'class competitive'. As you'd expect these days, a start/stop system is fitted across the range (though only on manual gearbox models) to cut the engine when you don't need it, stuck in traffic or waiting at the lights. As a result, even the oldest engine in the line-up, the 115PS 1.6-litre petrol unit, doesn't lag too far behind its 1.6-litre petrol Nissan Juke or MINI Countryman rivals, returning 43.5mpg on the combined cycle and 153g/km of CO2. As for the 140PS 1.4-litre petrol turbo 4x4 Mokka we've been looking at here, well despite the extra power and weight, the figures are nearly as good - 44.1mpg and 149g/km of CO2. Much pricier all-wheel drive petrol Juke and Countryman models use much bigger, thirstier, dirtier engines that don't ultimately take you much faster.
What else? Well, to help you get somewhere close to the quoted fuel and CO2 figures on a day-to-day basis, there's an ECO section of the trip computer that includes a gearshift indicator, shows you fuel results over the last 30 miles and offers a graphical display that's supposed to encourage eco-minded driving. That only leaves insurance groups that range between 5 and 14 on the 1-50 groupings scale. And the peace of mind of a huge ten year/100,000 mile warranty - though bear in mind that this does only apply to the first owner.
There's a lot of promise about the Vauxhall Mokka. It looks good, it's well equipped and it offers buyers a number of well thought out options. Some may be disappointed that pricing wasn't a bit lower and although the design is handsome, it's not what you'd call head turning. Still, it looks to be one of those car shapes that will age very well while more radical competitors date rapidly.
Vauxhall has had the benefit of coming late to this compact crossover segment and has watched the market mature a little, shaking out some credible rivals along the way. All of them will have to take this car very seriously indeed, a design possibly at its most appealing in the 1.4-litre petrol turbo 4x4 form we've been looking at here.