VAUXHALL has applied its attractive new design ehtos to a car that seems more than ready to take on the rapidly growing compact SUV segment.
On looks alone, the new Mokka appears good enough to topple the sector’s current big hitters, which include the unstoppable Kia Sportage and Skoda’s fabulous Yeti.
But the Mokka, although it looks quite compact, is deceptively tall. In fact, take a poke around it’s rather lovely exterior and you might be forgiven for thinking it’s a bit too big for the compact SUV sector.
But it carries its stature well, which is testament to its great design and it’s fair to say it’s one of the most attractive in its class, especially lined up next to the slightly awkward-looking Yeti and the really rather bland Nissan Qashqai.
Vauxhall is not new to the SUV market, of course, but it’s had mixed fortunes with some of the Mokka’s predecessors. The Frontera had its own issues and the Monterey never seemed to capture the imaginations of mainstream UK buyers.
The bigger Antara is a much better effort all round but, with the Mokka, the Luton firm might just have a big success on its hands.
Its lines are clean and un-fussy and, from all angles, the proportions work well. It has a quietly rugged look, without shouting about any obviously non-existent off-road capabilities.
In fact, although some models are equipped with four-wheel-drive, dismiss any visions of taking to the green lanes in the Mokka straight away because its front bumper hangs down extremely low. Probably, knowing Vauxhall, in the pursiut of decent areodynamics.
That aside, sat in the comfortable front seats, there’s a welcome feeling of height and, although it’s quite narrow the cabin doesn’t feel in any way poky.
Controls are laid out in a very similar way to other Vauxhalls and the buttons all work well. Even in standard trim there’s generous equipment levels and options include a front camera and adaptive lighting.
Standard across the range is a three-pin plug socket between the front seats, facing to the rear. This is a stroke of genius for those of us who need to charge laptops and ipads, or for kids and their Nintendos or DVD players.
Why has nobody thought of such a simple and clever addition before?
Boot space is good, and the rear seats fold flat to add plenty of room for big loads.
A low lip at the base of the rear load bay helps with heaving loads in and the layout across the whole car feels well thought out.
Storage space, generally, has been designed cleverly to ensure you’re never likely to find yourself needing slots for small items such as phones, water bottles or sunglasses.
Cubbies are dotted about the dashboard and there’s always somewhere to store fiddly items such as keys or chargers.
Dominating the top half of the dash is the infotainment system. It gives you access to the basic functions such as the radio and so on and in my model satellite navigation was fitted and worked fairly well.
It’s fair to say it’s a bit fiddly to use and there are a lot of buttons to get your head round but it won’t take forever to get used to.
The materials in the cabin all feel very nice to the touch and it’s a refined place to sit, even on motorway runs.
Drivers even have a fold-down armrest attached to their seat but I found this sat a little too high so I ended up ignoring it.
There’s three engines on offer, with the most popular choice set to be the 1.7 diesel. A 1.4 turbocharged petrol engine takes up the middle ground and a normally aspirated 1.6 petrol engine is the least powerful on offer.
Although Vauxhall suggests its 1.6 litre engine will outsell the 1.4 option, it’s doesn’t suit the Mokka. With just 115bhp it just doesn’t have enough guts to lug the car around sufficiently and dialling in some revs only seems to generate noise without really adding any meaningful pace.
In my test model the 1.6 engine was mated to a five speed gear box which was disappointing. An extra ratio would possibly have helped with accessing power and made it feel a little quicker.
Fuel economy, however, didn’t seem to suffer. It wasn’t difficult to keep the indicated fuel economy on the happy side of 50MPG, which is pretty impressive.
Its handling might suffer a little from its raised stature but it’s not unforgivable. It certainly couldn’t be described as exciting to drive but that would be asking a lot.
Under the skin, Vauxhall has worked hard to keep its road manners in check. As a result, the controls are light and the Mokka responds well. The ride is good, as is the amount of grip on offer.
Despite the fact that it sits so high, it never feels top-heavy. It will understeer, but only if you’re being really silly.
Ideally a crossover SUV should be comfortable and able to keep its body roll in check. In these aspects, the Mokka does not disappoint.
There really isn’t much to get excited about with the Mokka but don’t let that put you off.
It’s refined and comfortable but that doesn’t come at the cost of wallowy handling and excess body roll.
There’s plenty of space in the cabin, some great storage solutions and a generous amount of standard kit.
It’s priced keenly and Vauxhall offers a ‘lifetime warranty’.
And did I mention its fine looks?
While it may never go down as one of the motoring world’s true greats it holds its own well against the likes of the Kia Sportage - which, ultimately, must be Vauxhall’s main target.
It’s unremarkable but none-the-worse for it. The Mokka is a strong entry into an increasingly competitive sector. It has plenty of plus points and don’t be surprised if it starts to become a very popular sight on the UK’s roads in the future.
Model tested: Vauxhall Mokka Tech Line 1.6 16v
Priced at £15,995
Engine: 1.6 litre petrol delivering 115 bhp
Size: (L) 4,278mm, (W) 2,038mm, (H) 1,658mm
Maximum speed: 108mph
Efficiency (mpg) Urban: 33.6, Extra-urban: 52.3, Combined: 43.5
Boot space: 1,372 litres (seats down)