What is it?
Vauxhall’s new small 4x4, and some fresh competition for the likes of the Nissan Juke, Mini Countryman and Skoda Yeti: this is the Mokka. And, just signed off in UK-market form, it’s not quite the car we were expecting.
That’s because it’s been through an unscheduled technical update. After General Motors in Russelsheim launched the car to the European press last month, the reaction of much of the UK press was quite critical of the Mokka’s ride and handling. Critical enough, in fact, for Vauxhall to spend a hectic few weeks re-equipping and re-fettling the Mokka’s steering and suspension to make it more appropriate for British requirements.
As a result, all UK-bound, right-hand drive Mokkas built on the car’s Korean production line from early next year will get a stiffer steering gear mounting bush, a special software calibration for the electromechanical power steering and re-rated dampers for the suspension.
What is it like?
A full road test will be forthcoming. For now though, suffice it to say that Vauxhall’s dynamicists have made a discernable and worthwhile improvement to the way the Opel Mokka rides and handles.
The maker lined up pre- and post-revision examples of the car at its Millbrook engineering centre for us to try. Over mixed surfaces around rural Bedfordshire, the latter one demonstrated a telling improvement in chassis compliance, contributing to a more settled and absorptive primary ride over uneven backroads.
The way the car steers has been markedly improved too. The spongy feel and inconsistent weight of the European-spec car’s wheel has been addressed. There’s clearer precision around the straight-ahead, and more a fluent sense of control as you wind on lock.
The net result is a car that just goes where you point it much more comfortably and obligingly; that has just enough give in the suspension to deal with most testing of British surfaces, but still has a pleasing sense of poise and slickness about it.
Should I buy one?
The Mokka’s still not an outstanding car to drive. A Skoda Yeti has a more refined, big-4x4 feel. Meanwhile, both a Nissan Juke and a Mini Countryman would probably be a bit more wieldy around town and down a country lane, and generally have a little more flair about them.
But the Vauxhall is a truly rounded car, and good enough dynamically - now - to be worth a fair hearing. In Tech Line spec it offers four-driven wheels and a generous standard equipment level; you’d have to spend a several thousand extra to match both in either the Mini or the Nissan.
The Mokka simply combines very respectable if unspectacular dynamics with handsome styling, plenty of practicality and strong value for money. Like so many current Vauxhalls, it’s a quiet but serious contender.
Vauxhall Mokka 1.4 Turbo 4x4 Tech Line
Price £18,200; 0-62mph 9.4sec; Top speed 118mph; Economy 44.1mpg; Co2 149g/km; Kerbweight 1350kg; Engine 4 cyls in line, 1364cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 138bhp at 4900rpm; Torque 147lb ft at 1850-4900rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual