First Drive: New Vauxhall Mokka X – 7/10

Mike Humble:

Hardly the most scintillating or pulse racing model I grant you, but the aforementioned car has done really well for Vauxhall in terms of sales numbers. After quite a few years sitting in the sector of journeyman cars, it seems Vauxhall have found their mojo one again. Whether we will witness those halcyon days of the `80s whereby everyone seemingly drove a Vauxhall in a retail or fleet scenario remains to be seen… but things are certainly looking positive for the brands popularity. If future new models have the capability and sector leading prowess of the current new Astra and Astra Sports Tourer then anything is possible for Britain’s longest serving manufacturer of cars and commercial vehicles now in their 113th year of vehicle production… its been a long time coming and certainly well deserved in my opinion.

But getting back on track. I was recently invited up to Edinburgh to attend the media and press launch of the new Mokka X and Zafira. Firstly, lets look at the Mokka X.

The New Vauxhall Mokka X

mokka-lake
More than just a tweak here and there. New engines, styling and added tech aim to keep the Mokka chokka on our UK roads.

 

Since the models original 2012 launch, the Mokka has exceeded 120,000 sold units and currently sits in the number 9 slot of the UK top ten sales table. The compact SUV sector is one that groans with competition from the likes of Ford, Nissan and Renault not to mention fringe competition from the likes of MG with their recently introduced GS model. I sampled the 1.4 turbo with 140PS in the Mokka X with all wheel drive. Its an all new engine seen in the first in the Astra that features Vauxhalls recently adopted central fuel injection system. This feeds atomised fuel straight into the combustion chamber via the injector that sits next to the spark plug. This system means not only can you have simplified manifolding but also that the fuel vapour has virtually no wasted journey en route to its final combustion.

Performance wise, the Mokka X seemed to have plenty of urge and for most of the time seemed refined – especially with the 6 speed manual gearbox. Its clever all wheel drive system that engages through an electronic twin plate clutch seamlessly splits the drive from 100% front wheel drive to a genuine 50/50 four wheel drive system. No driver input is required, its all activated from no less than nine different electronic sensors and during a “soft road” forest route the system unnoticeably just gets on with keeping the traction in place. For sure its no Land Rover Defender in terms of go anywhere ability but for what most of its owners will experience, the Mokka X will present to issues – it feels very safe, very solid and extremely well engineered. The manual gearbox shifts up and down with a slick defined feel and allied to a nicely weighted clutch pedal makes the car rather enjoyable if a bit unexciting to drive.

mokka-rear
New rear lights and deeper bumper along with a whole new front end styling for the new Mokka X. Its still a good looking car in my opinion thanks to a restyle that was the result of a design team with Brit stylist Mark Adams at the helm. It certainly feels robust enough to cope with life’s knocks and I gave it some stick in the Scottish highlands on roads, motorways, lanes and even in a forest… nothing fell off, rattled or broke.

 

The new facia is a vastly improved affair over the outgoing car. The original Mokka had more buttons than a Saville Row tailor but thanks to an Astra inspired dash with new infotainment system, a lot of the incidental controls have been moved over to the touch sensitive screen. The end result gives the Mokka a pleasing driving environment thanks to a clutter free dashboard that also happens to feel of very high quality. In fact, the quality feel is apparent throughout the car. One or two items of course feature the new trend of being made of cold hard plastic but overall the Mokka is a noticeable improvement over the old model – it really does seem to be robust and solid enough to take and fend off most of life’s hard knocks.

Other noticeable items include a new front end and grille, new rear bumpers and the option of Vauxhalls Adaptive Forward Lighting system or AFL. This extremely clever LED system, again, first seen on the new Astra uses no less than nine differing pools of light to provide optimum range and night time vision. Its far too wordy and complicated to explain, but if you get the chance to experience it you WILL be impressed. OnStar and 4G LTE Wi-Fi is again carried over from the Astra allowing seven device connections to the car, this gives Mokka a distinct advantage over other rivals in terms of safety and technology. Overall the new Mokka will do well in the marketplace and its new restyle carried out by a UK team with Mark Adams at the helm hasn’t spoilt its pleasing looks.

mokka-int
The Mokka X is practical and very well built overall. Dash vents felt flimsy but we were told these cars were pre-production models. New facia is de-cluttered over the old one thanks to the intelligent new infotainment unit. General refinement is very good but rough surfaces bring in a great deal of road noise. Manual car is smooth to drive but the automatic (seen here) is notably coarse and unrefined when you press on hard. Elite models feature full hide trim and those seats proved to be really comfortable.

 

Reservations? well they are few really. Rough roads did bring a noticeable excess of road noise from the rear and an automatic model I drove felt a bit lethargic to kick down and nowhere near as refined as the manual – shame that. But all in all the Mokka X will continue to sell in healthy numbers I’m sure. Its practical and still stands out from the crowds thanks to its curvy looks and the addition of Vauxhalls clever and helpful OnStar system allied to competitive pricing… makes it a model to be on the short list for any SUV buyer.

Prices range from £17,590 for the 1.6 petrol “Design Nav” model with front wheel drive rising to £26,765 for the diesel “Elite NAV 4wd” the new cars go on UK sale in October.

Models on offer: Active / Design Nav / Elite / Elite NAV

Engines: Petrol – 1.4 turbo 140 or 152Ps / 1.6 non turbo 115Ps. Diesel – 1.6 110Ps or 136Ps

Gearbox: 6 speed manual or 6 speed automatic / Front wheel drive or electronic all wheel drive

Economy: 37mpg average from the manual 1.4 turbo 140PS on test

 

Likes: Cute styling that hasn’t been spoiled by recent updates – Impressive class leading technology – General quality feel inside and out – Refinement and driveline installation vastly improved upon – Good range of trim and engine options – Good value – Easy to drive and bound to be easy to own thanks to a good spread of dealers – Tidy road holding.

Dislikes: Automatic petrol model very noisy and harsh when pushed  – Lots of cabin noise on rough roads – Test car had flimsy feeling facia vents (pre production model tested) – Still a bit unexciting to drive.

 

 

 


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