Small crossovers are big business, and Vauxhall is keen to make an impact in this booming sector with its newest model, the Mokka. It doesn’t arrive until October, but we got a chance to be the first outside Vauxhall to get behind the wheel of the new model and drive an early camouflaged prototype.
Vauxhall allowed us to try three Opel-badged pre-production cars: a 1.4 turbo, a naturally aspirated 1.6 and a 1.8-litre petrol model that isn’t coming to UK dealers. They weren’t quite the finished article, but we were promised that the driving dynamics were 95 per cent accurate.
Based on what we experienced, that’s a good thing. Most of the day was spent in the four-wheel-drive 1.4-litre turbo, and it had the best of the engines we tried, with 138bhp and plenty of pull, plus 45mpg economy.
The 1.6-litre petrol struggled to deal with the Mokka’s weight, and we were left changing down regularly to make it up hills.Unfortunately, the 1.7-litre diesel – certain to be a big seller in the UK – was unavailable for us to try.
One of the challenges for the development team was striking the right balance between ride comfort and handling. While some of the earlier prototypes tended to bounce up and down excessively, the most recent development car we tried was more settled over rough roads.
Bumps could still be felt, but the well judged suspension just took the edge off them. And Vauxhall has avoided opting for an overly soft set-up, so the Mokka still has bite in corners.
There’s not too much body roll and the newcomer feels agile. It’s definitely not as nimble as a Nissan Juke, but the Mokka feels more grown-up. With its larger boot and more spacious rear seats, it will undoubtedly prove a more popular family choice, too.
One of our few criticisms is of the steering, which felt a little inconsistent in its weighting on each of the prototypes. Vauxhall’s vehicle dynamics manager, Gerry Baker, told us that this problem will be addressed for UK cars.
The cabin has a pleasingly upmarket feel, with soft-touch plastics on the dash and plenty of smart and logically laid-out switchgear. Luxurious options such as heated seats, a heated steering wheel and full leather upholstery will also be offered.
When the Mokka arrives in dealers, it should cost from £14,500 – which positions it in between the Juke and the Qashqai. Based on our drive, this car will steal sales from both of Nissan’s crossover kings.