Vauxhall’s compact Mokka SUV has taste for success
- Credit: Vauxhall
Vauxhall's new Mokka shows why compact SUVs have become so popular, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
There's a growing trend now for making cars smaller. Take a popular class of vehicle, create a more compact version and, with more people down-sizing cars, you have something that is big on appeal.
The buzz word in the motoring world is crossover – a practical all-rounder combining the practicality of a compact sport utility vehicle (SUV) with the comfort and driving manners of a family hatchback.
It's a sector that is showing respectable growth compared to others with strong sales – the pioneering Nissan Qashqai crossover and its smaller Juke stablemate were both top 10 sellers in January.
It's a market car-makers can not afford to ignore and now Vauxhall has got on the crossover bandwagon with its smart-looking little Mokka.
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It's not hard to see the appeal of these compact SUVs – the lofty driving position and peace of mind that comes from the extra traction provided by four-wheel drive versions in a package about the same size as a mid-sized family car so it will fit in the garage and is easy to park.
The Mokka may sound like a cup of coffee – to make it even more confusing my test car's body colour was called deep espresso – but it is a seriously tasty piece of kit with chunky, muscular styling, albeit scaled down, that is one of the reasons people buy them. It's certainly been getting plenty of interest in Vauxhall showrooms and had plenty of pre-launch orders.
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The 115PS 1.6-litre petrol, offered only with front-wheel drive, and 130PS 1.7-litre CDTi turbo diesel in two or all-wheel drive form will together account for 80pc of sales but I drove the 140PS 1.4-litre turbo petrol which is only available in 4x4 guise.
It's flexible enough to poodle along in slow traffic in high gears but, with peak torque at 4,900rpm, needs to be stirred into life with the six-speed manual gearbox to make good progress on the open road but it revs freely although the engine gets vocal when worked really hard. A six-speed automatic version, already offered with front-wheel drive on the diesel, will follow on the 1.4 turbo petrol.
In everyday driving the 1.4 turbo petrol was returning 36 to 40mpg – short of the official combined economy figure but respectable in real-world driving and helped by the standard stop/start system to cut the engine in stationary traffic.
The suspension has been set up for handling, stiff enough to keep body roll in check through fast corners, and the Mokka feels grippy and assured on winding roads despite the light steering. The trade-off for the Mokka's agility is a firm, fidgety low-speed ride and tyre noise on our increasingly pock-marked roads.
Despite being a compact SUV, the Mokka has enough head and legroom to carry five adults without too much of a squeeze.
The flat-sided boot offers 356 litres of load space with all seats in use but the floor is quite high but, with no spare wheel as standard, you can use the well under the floor for extra storage or hiding valuables. The rear seat backs split 60/40 but you have to tilt the cushions upright before they fold flat.
If you've driven the new Astra you'll feel quite at home at the wheel of the Mokka with Vauxhall's new 'wing' design cues and the much classier fascia with clear instruments and clustered switches and buttons which are generally straightforward to use. Cabin storage is boosted by a flip-top compartment above the large glovebox and lots of cubbyholes.
My only grip about the test car's interior was that it was finished in brown combined with bluey grey fabric and highlights – not my choice – but it's all well put together.
The Mokka is offered in Exclusiv, Tech Line and SE. The one to go for is Tech Line, which has been equipped and priced to make it attractive for business users and, rather strangely, it has all the features of Exclusiv plus satellite-navigation but costs £2,000 less!
All models have stability and traction control, hill-start assist, six airbags, air conditioning, roof rails, electric front windows and heated mirrors, digital radio with auxiliary point and steering wheel audio controls, trip computer, cruise control, remote locking with alarm and daytime running lights. Exclusiv adds dual-zone climate control, USB port with iPod control, Bluetooth, automatic wipers, lights with high-beam assist and anti-dazzle rear-view mirror, power rear windows and folding door mirrors, front fog lights, front and rear parking sensors and 18in alloy wheels.
The Mokka is a most attractive addition to the Vauxhall range and right on trend with the current fashion for compact SUVs – expect to see plenty of them on the road.