The Vauxhall Mokka is looking to capitalise on the increasing demand for small Сurban’ SUVs. It has good official economy which also translates to good economy in real life, but it’s let down by a noisy engine.
The Mokka might sound like something you order in your local coffee shop, but it’s actually Vauxhall’s answer to Nissan’s Juke and Qashqai models which have taken a large slice of this increasingly lucrative market.
At 4.278 metres in length the Mokka fits in neatly between the Juke and Qashqai, which makes it urban-friendly but still gives it the road presence that buyers in this sector want. The styling is suitably confident and is more dynamic and European-friendly than the larger Vauxhall Antara, demonstrating how important good looks have become for small SUVs.
Inside the Mokka has a mature interior which is generally well executed. It has decent levels of equipment, such as heated seats and even a heated steering wheel, but the one element that doesn’t work as well as it might is the central control unit. If you’ve been in a modern Vauxhall you’ll know that it favours a myriad of buttons to control everything, and the Mokka has the same system. We think it looks a bit messy and makes it hard to navigate around all of the systems.
There are also some other unusual design elements. Whereas the handbrake on virtually every car in existence has a button to release it at the end, the Mokka has this button on top of the handbrake, which is a very unintuitive place. And the rear tailgate has a lip where you would expect to find the handle to release the tailgate, but instead this handle is positioned separately further down, which seems to catch people out on a regular basis.
The 1.7-litre diesel engine produces a useful 221 lb.ft of torque between 2,000 and 2,500 rpm and kicks out 128 bhp at 4,000 rpm. This provides adequate performance but is also capable of good fuel economy thanks to the part-time four-wheel drive system which normally operates in front-wheel drive, but which sends power to the back wheels when needed.
The Mokka provides the small SUV driving experience that many people obviously want. With four-wheel drive, it certainly provides grippy roadholding on dry tarmac. However the Mokka is relatively narrow and tall, so it’s never going to have sports car-like handling. The ride is firm and poor surfaces can translate through the car.
Despite generally acceptable dynamics, the driving experience of the Mokka is characterised by one thing Ц a very noisy engine. Yes, it’s a diesel, but there are lots of diesels around today that are very quiet and refined; unfortunately this Vauxhall engine doesn’t fall into this category. At most times, the powertrain sounds agricultural. There’s also a lack of torque at low revs, and things aren’t helped by the gearbox not being the slickest shifting of units. Luckily the Mokka has a decent sound system, and playing this loudly is one way to drown out the noise of the engine.
The second issue with the Mokka is its tyres. The whole point of a 4×4 is that it’s supposed to be more capable in low traction conditions than a two-wheel drive car. Unfortunately for the Mokka, when we tested it there was lots of snow and it proved to be hopeless in such conditions. Even with only an inch of snow, its traction was almost non-existent, thanks to the Mokka’s tyres having no decent tread pattern. With these standard tyres, the Mokka is no better than some front-wheel drive superminis that we’ve tested in similar conditions.
If you buy a 4×4 Mokka then you’ll need to pay extra to fit your own winter tyres to ensure it provides any benefit in low traction winter conditions. When you swap back to the standard tyres in the summer, just hope you never encounter any mud.
It isn’t just Vauxhall that sells 4x4s with tyres that completely ruin the capability of the 4×4 system, many manufacturers do this. Well done to Fiat for fitting mud and snow tyres to its Panda 4×4 .
The Mokka also has a front end that is low and which sticks out a long way in front of the wheels, reinforcing the fact that real off-road obstacles outside of the city should not be tackled.
The satnav also wasn’t the most intuitive of systems. The system has a central controller button, but you don’t actually press this, instead you press the circular ring around the button. There are also three buttons all labelled with Сnav’ – Сnav’, Сnav dest’, and Сnav rpt’ Ц which is somewhat confusing, and finding a way to stop the navigation or even cancel certain commands such as Сenter destination’ seems unnecessarily difficult. The satnav also didn’t show certain roads.
The Mokka is slightly redeemed by the fact that it’s relatively efficient for a 4×4. The official economy figure of this model is 55.4mpg, and we actually achieved an average of 48.3mpg in normal driving, which is one of the closest real-life economy figures compared to an official figure that we’ve achieved. A stop/start system helps with the fuel economy. This good economy also translates to a good range.
This Mokka model costs £23,490 Ц this is the top of the range model. Our test car also came with the following options: sat nav/CD/MP3 CD Player/stereo radio (£855); rear view camera (£200); and flex-fix integrated carrier system (£500) – bringing the total price of the car to £25,045. This is expensive.
There’s also a two-wheel drive version. This is cheaper, starting at £15,995, more economical with 62.8mpg, and as we’ve seen, with the standard tyres, the 4×4 version can’t use its 4×4 capability, so we’d go for the two-wheel drive model. You can also specify two petrol engines, which avoid the unrefined gruffness of the diesel, so if most of your driving is fairly local, go for the petrol option.
The Vauxhall Mokka is designed to take advantage of the current desire for small SUVs. It’s more interesting than a small people carrier, it’s reasonably efficient on paper, and seems to come very close to that efficiency in real-life use Ц this is probably one of the biggest selling points for us of this car.
However there are two issues that spoil the Mokka for us. The first is the engine Ц the 1.7-litre diesel is very noisy and we would find that hard to live with. The second issue is that this is a 4×4, so you would expect people to buy it to give them some extra degree of capability in conditions such as snow. However it comes with tyres that proved hopeless in the snow. Yes, people can fit winter tyres, but we would argue that all 4x4s should come fitted as standard with tyres that enable the added capability of the 4×4 system to be translated to increased capability in real life low traction conditions. The Mokka is no better than many front-wheel drive hatchbacks in snow, it’s noisy, and it seems expensive for what it is; but despite all that, people will probably still buy it. The Mokka gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 6 out of 10.