Funny one this. Ever known one of those cars where on face value it lacks some of the minerals that rivals have in abundance, and yet still remains endearing? I found this to be the case of the Vauxhall Mokka X – a car that just has that something to win your heart.
Allow me to explain…
“…Mokka X is far from being a poor car, in fact sales figures will certainly confirm this, its problem is being up against some tough and talented competition”
In what turned out to be an incredibly busy fortnight, some serious mileage was thrust upon Vauxhalls compact SUV – the Mokka X. The last time I drove one was at the media launch in Edinburgh towards the back end of 2016. I found it to be an okay kind of car, nothing offensive, nothing seriously wrong but ultimately nothing too special. Being an ex sales person, I’m all too aware that the usual run around the block test drive with a person looking over your shoulder isn’t by any means the best way to bond with a car.
The aforementioned media drive was the usual affair whereby you are “buddied” up with someone else. You spend more time chopsing than you do driving… its just how it is. Well I’ve recently covered 1500 miles in 12 days behind the wheel of a Design CDTi and found the cars built in charm and character to overcome most of the shortcomings. Don’t get me wrong the Mokka X is far from being a poor car, in fact sales figures will certainly show that, its problem is being up against some tough and talented competition.
As is the case with all cars, the styling is an opinionated issue. For me at least, the Mokka X has a happy and friendly almost Tonka toy look about it. There’s curves in its rump, a high roof line, big chunky door mirrors and lamp units and the facelifted front and rear bumpers give the car a nice look and air of solidity… almost rustic if you like. I think it looks a bit cute really, but nor does it come over all nerdy or childish. The fact the paintwork is good, the alloys feature the once industry standard “starfish” design and that aforementioned chunky stance all add up to a subconscious feeling that it’ll go the distance… and perhaps that little bit further.
“The front A posts are enormously thick, this occasionally makes you stoop and lower your head for that crystal clear view at roundabouts or T junctions and rearward visibility isn’t worth writing home about either”
You’ll find a nicely planned interior to its advantage. Despite the decent level of equipment on the Design Nav you don’t find a confusing mess of switchgear that looks like its been fired from a blunderbuss. Most things fall easily to hand and if you are used to a Vauxhall of recent vintage, drivers wont need to spend hours pawing through the glove box manual. Seating position is fairly good and despite the lack of a standard variable lumbar support, neither myself or my partner noticed long distance comfort to be any the worse for it. The same notable solidity and security continue in the interior too.
It feels rather decently nailed together generally although the chrome outer rings on the climate controls felt a bit wobbly and loose when axially played with through your fingers. The front A posts are enormously thick, this makes you stoop and lower your head for that crystal clear view at roundabouts or T junctions and rearward visibility isn’t worth writing home about either. Thankfully you have front and rear parking sensors to fall back on and the door mirrors are generous in size. Going back to knobs and twiddly things, its fair to mention the heating and ventilation is really good. It never got stuffy in the front or back and the air-conditioning was genuinely ice cold.
“…the car shares its floor pan with the current Corsa, it doesn’t seem to lack in space. The car is easy to hop into and effortless to get out and there is adequate room in the rear for two, three… if you breath in”
Despite the car having seemingly small pedals, this didn’t present an issue and for a person like me who loves to be lofty in the seat, the headroom is more than ample. I did note however that the armrest that folds down from the side of the drivers chair is nothing short of a hindrance and nuisance if you are anything other than pencil slim in physique. Anything else while we are still inside the car? oh yes… the large sun visors are a bit of a double edged sword. Unfold them fully downwards and the drivers side obscures about one third of the rear view mirror – I’ve rarely seen this kind of thing in a car before… hey ho, nothing hugely worrying though!
Even though the car shares its floor pan with the current Corsa, it doesn’t seem to lack in space. The car is easy to hop into and effortless to get out and there is adequate room in the rear for two, three… if you breath in. Storage space also ticks the boxes owing to a good size and shaped boot (and the seats fold fully flat), plenty of nick-nack cubbie holes and a useful slide out tray hidden beneath the passenger front seat. All in all the Mokka X appears to be well thought out for the average family motorist and excluding the wobbly knobs I’ve mentioned earlier, every thing seems solid and kiddie-proof on the inside while still having a nice design flair to the facia and dashboard.
“if seat of the pants steering and handling is your kind of gig in a car, then perhaps getting married and settling down with 2.4 children might not have been your best decision in life”
Around town and especially where the surface is holed or rutted, there is a noticeable joggly and fidgety nature to the suspension. Its a bit odd really because until you thump over a bump the car feels rather softly sprung. Other reviews speak of it being poor but I would say its liveable with in terms of urban ride comfort, add a couple of passengers and it improves noticeably. Where the Mokka really shines is at speed on the motorway. Once in top at the legal max, and providing the surface is good, the level of refinement is decent enough to enjoy the wireless or converse with passengers. The six speed gearbox slices through its ratios really well and the clutch isn’t too heavy at the pedal.
The handling is safe and predictable… if not remotely sporting. Sadly as is the case with many modern electric E-Pas systems, there is very little feel through the steering wheel rim. Add that to the very light effort required to feed the wheel and its very much like playing an arcade game in terms of steering control. But there again do you really require Caterham style cornering sensation in what’s in all essence a family hold-all SUV? I say not really. But if “seat of the pants” steering and handling is your kind of gig in a car, then perhaps getting married and settling down with 2.4 children might not have been your best decision in life. Handling wise the Mokka is more than good and safe enough for family life.
“A quick test drive wont do the car any justice, just ask one of the many thousands of customers who own one. The car has a rare charm about it that doesn’t come to the fore until you have spent a little time behind the wheel… and that’s lacking in many of its direct rivals”
In 110PS flavour the performance is good enough too. So long as you avoid Grand Prix acceleration the 1.6 “Whisper diesel” just about lives up to its moniker. Though it needs to be kept spinning, allow the revs to fall below 1500rpm and the torque reserve rapidly diminishes. Once you are in the grunt zone the performance is strong. I was blown away with the fuel economy, especially when touring. A genuine 60 plus MPG is achievable without any real difficulty whatsoever. Even when going hell for Leatherhead on our Surrey back roads economy remains the right side of 50mpg.
Yes its got its faults and foibles, but I couldn’t help liking the Mokka. It has cute styling, cruises really well, goes like a bomb when you want it too and sips its drink like a well behaved youngster. A quick test drive wont do the car any justice, just ask one of the many thousands of customers who own one. The car has a rare charm about it that doesn’t come to the fore until you have spent a little time behind the wheel… and that’s lacking in many of its direct rivals.
AUTOBRITANNIA.NET RATING: 7/10
The Humble Opinion
“Look… here’s the rub. It sells in big numbers because the owners seem to love them. A main dealer owner who is a personal friend of mine knows their shortcomings but wont have a bad word said about them. Countless customers of the first generation models are trading up to this facelifted Mokka X models in droves – his sales figures say it all.
For sure its far from perfect, but its charm, good model range, dealer network, that damn impressive and unique OnStar feature not to mention the ability to bag one for a cracking discount if you stand your ground in the showroom make it tough to exclude from the short-list.
Its well made, super economical and again, thanks to OnStar, quite possibly the safest affordable cars on the market currently.”
MODEL TESTED: Vauxhall Mokka X Design NAV 1.6CDTi 110 (2wd)
Price: £20,065 excluding options
Power Unit: 1598cc 16v Euro6 transverse turbo diesel
Driveline: 6sp manual gearbox and front wheel drive (4×4 and automatic also available)
Power / Torque: 110PS / 300Nm
Performance: *0 – 60 in 11.5 seconds with 112mph max
Fuel Economy: *72.9mpg combined (66.8mpg on test)
* = Manufacturers or Govt claimed data
- Chunky and happy styling
- Makes good use of available space and practicality
- Excellent fuel economy
- Well equipped
- OnStar still top notch in-car technology
- Bags of charm and character
- Great discounts if you shake the salesman upside down
- Easy to live with
- Strong mid-range performance
- Urban ride comfort is notably bouncy
- Rearward over-shoulder visibility not the best
- Steering is over-assisted and rather lifeless in feel
- Engine needs to be kept on the boil to avoid torque fall off