With an easy-to-use two-pedal automatic gearbox, our test car would be equipped to suit a good proportion of the Mokka’s general target audience, you’d guess. Thus configured, it performs adequately, although a more interested driver might still yearn for a little more power or a bit more driver engagement – or both.
The powertrain covers what we might consider the big-ticket items just fine. The three-cylinder engine is a little tremulous under load and can run somewhat roughly when cold, but it generally remains reasonably refined and unobtrusive except when revving hard.
Despite developing a fulsome-sounding 169lb ft of torque, though, it’s an engine that you’ll need to work hard when getting up to motorway speed and overtaking on A-roads. It feels strong enough when doing so, but not particularly assured or potent. The rest of the time, particularly around town, there’s more than enough urge on tap, but with rivals offering more power and torque, we can probably mark down out-of-town authoritativeness as one of the Mokka’s slight vulnerabilities.
Being a bit slow to downshift and then reluctant to grab the next gear under acceleration, the automatic gearbox has the effect of sapping the car’s responsiveness and overall performance level just at little. You can initially select gears for yourself using the manual mode and shift paddles but, with no kickdown switch on the accelerator pedal, you never feel as though you’re in total control of the transmission, which often downshifts of its own accord even in manual mode when you get to the bottom of the throttle pedal’s travel. It was because of this that we failed to record in-gear acceleration figures.
The fine-tuning of the car’s drivability is broadly inoffensive, but it lacks a little attention to detail. Vauxhall has chosen to make the brake pedal come to rest a bit higher and prouder than the accelerator does, so that when you’re holding the car stationary on the former, you can simply slide your foot directly off to the right and immediately onto the latter to move off. That’s fine, but it encourages you to hold the car on the brake pedal at traffic lights and junctions (which, some would say, is a bad habit) and it also means you have to lift your foot up to get it back onto the brake, which is a bit awkward.
Compounding that awkwardness somewhat is a transmission that’s a little too keen to creep forward on a trailing throttle and a brake pedal with a mushy-feeling, poorly defined bite point. Conniving together, they make this car harder to drive at manoeuvring speeds than it need be – but only mildly irksome at worst.