There’s no stopping the popularity of the compact SUV market at the moment with car manufacturers seeming to enter the sector left, right and centre with bold new offerings.
One of the more recent in the past few years has been Vauxhall with the Mokka which cuts a distinctive dash with unique looks and a decent quality interior.
It goes head-to-head with the likes of the Skoda Yeti, Peugeot 2008, Mitsubishi ASX and Nissan Juke. In terms of size, it sits somewhere between the Yeti and the smaller Juke and like a lot of other rivals, the off-road look makes the small car look a lot larger than it really is.
At launch, the Mokka was let down by a range of old engines but things improved greatly with the arrival of a 1.4-litre turbo petrol unit. Vauxhall will add a 1.6-litre CDTi diesel in the not too distant future, while the original 1.6-litre petrol and 1.7-litre CDTi diesel units are still offered.
You can choose from three trim levels: Exclusiv, Tech Line and SE. We’d be tempted to opt for the mid-range Tech Line as it has the well-equipped specification of the Exclusiv but adds sat-nav. There are also four-wheel-drive versions – but due to the Mokka’s limited off-load ability, the two-wheel drive versions are the better buys.
With so much choice in the marketplace, we’d suggest trying all rivals before you plump for the Mokka due to its high prices and so-so driving dynamics.
Our choice: Mokka Tech Line 1.7 CDTi ECOflex start/stop 2WD
The Mokka’s eye-catching bodywork strikes a balance between the rugged Skoda Yeti and grown-up Nissan Qashqai. As you’d expect, there’s plenty of tough-looking plastic body cladding, plus the underbody skid panels are finished in silver, while the raised ride height completes the off-roader looks.
Elsewhere, the Mokka takes its cues from Vauxhall’s Corsa supermini and Antara SUV. That means you get a bold chrome front grille, large, swept-back headlamps and muscular, pumped-up wheelarches. Like all models in the line-up, our Exclusiv test car comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, front foglamps and a distinctive stainless steel-tipped exhaust pipe.
The Mokka aims to rival premium brands for quality and upmarket appeal inside. There are plenty of soft-touch plastics and the finish is excellent. And while the array of buttons used for the infotainment system appears confusing at first, it all quickly becomes second nature – although the satin-finish switches soon show up finger marks.
Neat touches include the chrome on the instrument surrounds and the gloss grey panel running across the attractively designed dash and into the door trims. There’s plenty of kit, too, with Exclusiv models getting a DAB radio, dual-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rear view mirror and Bluetooth.
The biggest-selling engine in the Mokka range is expected to be the 1.7-litre diesel engine with 128bhp, and the engine has plenty of torque, so overtaking on the motorway is easy. It's fairly economical, but it can be quite noisy and it doesn't match the excellent diesels available in the Skoda Yeti.
The petrol engines are only really worth looking at if you will only be driving short distances (we don't recommend diesel engines for people who do this). The 1.6-litre engine is really underpowered and struggles up hills, and the more powerful 1.4-litre turbo is too noisy when pushed.
The Mokka’s relaxed nature is most evident through corners. While the electrically assisted steering is quick and precise, there’s very little feedback. And where the Skoda grips hard, the Vauxhall starts to slide wide. That’s not our only criticism, because as with the Qashqai, the Mokka suffers from a lot of body roll.
On the plus side, the soft suspension set-up results in a supple ride, which combines with the refined engine and low levels of wind and road noise to make the car a decent long-distance cruiser.
Unfortunately, the Vauxhall is less accomplished around town. While its controls are light and progressive, the thick A-pillars create large blind spots at junctions and roundabouts, while the small rear window limits rearward visibility. At least standard front and rear parking sensors take some of the guesswork out of parking.
Euro NCAP gave the crossover a five-star crash test rating, which included a 100 per cent safety assist score. Six airbags, stability control and adaptive brake lights are standard, while the cruise control system features a speed limiter function. For £750 you can add the Forward Camera Pack, comprising lane departure warning, a forward collision warning system and traffic sign recognition.
Vauxhall doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability and quality, but in recent years its cars have clawed their way up the results tables in our Driver Power satisfaction surveys – the Zafira Sport Tourer finished a very respectable 12th in our 2013 results. The Mokka didn't appear on the survey, but all of the engines are in use in other models and should prove to be fairly trouble-free.
The interior feels well made and should stand up to family life, but some aspects - like the seat material - feel like they could wear out with heavy use.
Although the Vauxhall Mokka is based on the same platform as the Corsa hatchback, it does offer a lot more interior space. The Mokka is comparable in size to the Nissan Qashqai, and there's plenty of room to seat five adults inside without complaints about headroom.
There's plenty of interior storage space, and the boot is one of the biggest in its class. Its 356-litre boot beats the Nissan Juke and MINI Countryman, which have just 251 and 350 litres respectively.
Larger rivals like the Yeti and Qashqai offer 416 and 410 litres, though, despite being comparatively priced. You can expand the boot to 1,372 litres by folding the rear seats down, while the wide and low opening makes loading luggage simpler. Flipping the seat bases over is easy too, thanks to some handy nylon tabs. Plus, there’s an integrated bike carrier that pops out of the rear bumper - a nice touch.
Traction and stability control are fitted as standard to the Mokka, plus Hill Start Assist, which prevents the car from rolling backwards on a slope and Hill Descent Control, which allows it to drive down steep slopes at a controlled speed. You can get the car in four-wheel drive, but it's not worth considering if you need a proper off-roader.
The best engine to go for in the Vauxhall Mokka is the 1.7-litre diesel, which gets 62.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 120g/km when fitted with the six-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive. Opting for four-wheel drive pushes this up to 129g/km, which doesn't affect how much you'll pay in road tax but does push it up one benefit-in-kind bracket for company car buyers.
Go for the automatic gearbox and the figures drop to 53.3mpg and 139g/km, as only the manual models come with a fuel-saving stop-start system. The petrol models will cost a lot more to run, with the 1.4-litre petrol returning 44.1mpg and emitting 149g/km.
Avoid the 1.6-litre petrol in base models as it gets just 43.5mpg and 153g/km - and it can only be fitted with a five-speed manual gearbox that feels dated compared to the new six-speed ones.
The main concern for private buyers will be the weak residuals – our experts predict it will retain just 40.2 per cent of its value after three years.
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