Being the first venture into the word of mini SUVs for Vauxhall, the Mokka didn’t quite make the imprint on me that it should have. The concept of the vehicle seems unfinished, an almost after thought from the same people who produced the Corsa VXR and the trendy Adam. However, with a base price of only £18,854, can you complain when the car is stuffed full of driver-friendly features that make your daily commute to work feel like child’s play?
The Mokka doesn’t break any records when it comes to performance, but wielding a 1.4 litre turbo charged four cylinder, it packs a small, mid range punch that propels the car to 60mph in 9.3 seconds. “Not very fast” you may be saying, but the 138bhp and 200Nm of torque at just 1850rpm is just fine for daily manoeuvres such as a swift overtake or getting up to speed on the on-ramp. Furthermore, the low-end torque makes moving over soft wet mud a simple task, especially with the 4x4 version that I have been given to test, and because you don’t need to rev the engine out to get into the power band, and as it’s such a small displacement, you can get a welcome 48.7mpg with the 1.4 petrol, and a massive 64.2mpg with the 1.6 diesel variant. You have the option of both a manual and automatic transmission on the fwd version, but only the manual is available if you have your sights set on the 4x4 drivetrain. This, however, is no bad thing, as the auto ‘box is slow and lumpy, and not worth the extra 900 quid it costs for you to be able to rest your left arm on the badly positioned armrest instead of changing gear.
Apart from the awkwardly spaced layout of the armrest, the upholstery seats are very comfortable. They’re not overly bolstered either side, but how often are you going to be turning sharply enough in this car to require that much cushioning on your side? The rear seats have plenty of head and leg space, and because the transmission tunnel is placed so low, there is even leg space for the poor bugger sat in the middle. The Mokka falls short when you look around the interior however. There are dull, hard plastics scattered throughout, and both the wheel and dashboard feel overly cluttered with a myriad of buttons and rotatories controlling the countless technologies the car carries. The wheel, although rather unsightly, is nicely wrapped in what feels like synthetic, stitched leather. It’s a nice thickness for my hands and feels solid to the touch, but again, it’s ugly. So ugly.
Making up for the lack of imagination from the design team, the amount of technology that comes with the base spec is incredible for its small price tag. Front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, auto lights and wipers, DAB, and dual climate control, just to name a few of the conveniences that make each journey just that bit easier. I’m not going to list all the features that accompany this car as it really is endless, but they can be found on the Vauxhall website if you’re really interested. I’ve never realised how much I’d use the hill start system, and now getting back into my own car, I find myself letting the car roll back before remembering I now have to manually use the handbrake. First world problems eh?
Never having any experience with off-roading before, I feel hesitant about commenting on the 4-wheel drive system. I will therefore just run through the physicalities of what happens. The powertrain acts like a front wheel drive until it senses hard acceleration, tight cornering, or slippage of any sort. Only then will the rear wheels become powered. Surprisingly this pig of a car feels planted to the road in corners, suffering from understeer only when powering out of mid-corner. Turn in feels tighter than you’d expect from a car this big and heavy, and the sports suspension equipped to this vehicle absorbs the bumps of the road well whilst maintaining traction. It’s very obvious that Vauxhall have spent a copious amount of time dialling their suspension in to the British roads, and it has really paid off. There are downsides to this however, and my preference would still be for the standard set up. However much I push the car to understand its limits for this review, I just don’t understand why you’d do this in a real life scenario, and therefore, why give up ride quality to make something that shouldn’t be sporty… sporty?
The Vauxhall Mokka is the fruit of an argument between Vauxhall’s engineers and designers, and their accountants. On one hand the car is full to the brim with technology and extras to make life just that little bit easier for the occupants, but on the other, it’s very obvious that it has been made to fit a tight and unforgiving budget, with the interior feeling harsh and tacky, and the exterior showing signs of dull plastics and uninteresting body lines. It’s definitely a step in the right direction for Vauxhall, but I’m sure we all wish they’d show us some of their newfound flair in their aesthetic design, even on this entry-level SUV. The Mokka just doesn’t fit with the new quirky brand image that this British manufacturer is producing now, and looks like the old and out-dated sibling in a line of young and funky new models.