Vauxhall Mokka review
The Vauxhall Mokka is a good-looking crossover with plenty of standard kit
It feels like decades since the crossover first landed on UK soil, with almost every manufacturer flogging at least one small SUV in their range. Vauxhall is no exception, with its compact Vauxhall Mokka consistently proving one of the brand’s most popular models.
It is aimed at cars like the fast-selling Nissan Juke, Peugeot 2008 and newly-introduced Citroen C4 Cactus. It looks good, has a decent quality interior – and is even available with four-wheel drive. There’s a wide range of petrol and diesel engines, as well as a choice of three different speciations – Exclusiv, Tech Line and SE.
At launch, the Mokka was let down by a range of old engines but things improved greatly with the arrival of a 1.4-litre turbo petrol unit. Vauxhall has recently added a new 1.6-litre CDTi whisper diesel to the range which replaces the old 1.7 diesel, while the original 1.6-litre petrol remains on still offered.
All cars come generously equipped, but we’d be tempted to splash out on the mid-spec Tech Line, which builds on the Exclusiv but adds sat-nav. We’d opt for one of the standard front-wheel drive models too, because the 4x4 versions increase running costs without any real off-road benefit.
Our choice: Mokka Tech Line 1.6 CDTi ECOflex start/stop 2WD
The Mokka’s eye-catching bodywork strikes a balance between the rugged looks of the Skoda Yeti and more grown-up Nissan Qashqai. As you’d expect, there’s plenty of tough-looking plastic body cladding and underbody skidplates, while the raised ride height completes the off-roader looks.
Elsewhere, you get a bold chrome front grille, large, swept-back headlamps and muscular, pumped-up wheelarches. All models get 18-inch alloy wheels, electrically-folding door mirrors and all-round parking sensors.
The Mokka aims to rival premium brands for quality and upmarket appeal inside. There are plenty of soft-touch plastics and the finish is excellent. And while the array of buttons used for the infotainment system appears confusing at first, it all quickly becomes second nature – although the satin-finish switches soon show up finger marks.
Neat touches include the chrome on the instrument surrounds and the gloss grey panel running across the attractively designed dash and into the door trims. There’s plenty of kit, too, with Exclusiv models getting a DAB radio, dual-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rear view mirror and Bluetooth.
There’s a good range of petrol and diesel engines, with a new 1.6-litre CDTi added in 2015. All the diesels offer plenty of torque, so overtaking on the motorway is easy, while the petrols are nice and quiet around town.
That said, we’d only recommend looking at the petrols if you will only be driving short distances (we don't recommend diesel engines for people who do this). The 1.6-litre engine is really underpowered and struggles up hills, and the more powerful 1.4-litre turbo is too noisy when pushed.
The Mokka’s relaxed nature is most evident through corners. While the electrically assisted steering is quick and precise, there’s very little feedback. And where the Skoda Yeti grips hard, the Vauxhall starts to slide wide. That’s not our only criticism, because as with the Qashqai, the Mokka suffers from a lot of body roll.
On the plus side, the soft suspension set-up results in a supple ride, which combines with the refined engine and low levels of wind and road noise to make the car a decent long-distance cruiser.
Unfortunately, the Vauxhall is less accomplished around town. While its controls are light and progressive, the thick A-pillars create large blind spots at junctions and roundabouts, while the small rear window limits rearward visibility. At least standard front and rear parking sensors take some of the guesswork out of parking.
Euro NCAP gave the crossover a five-star crash test rating, which included a 100 per cent safety assist score. Six airbags, stability control and adaptive brake lights are standard, while the cruise control system features a speed limiter function. For £750 you can add the Forward Camera Pack, comprising lane departure warning, a forward collision warning system and traffic sign recognition.
Vauxhall doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability and quality, but in recent years its cars have clawed their way up the results tables in our Driver Power satisfaction surveys. The dinky Adam city car finished a very respectable 23rd in our 2014 results, and the Mokka wasn’t far behind in 29th. Unfortunately, the company finished 29th out of 33 manufacturers overall – so there’s still some way to go.
Although the Vauxhall Mokka is based on the same platform as the Corsa hatchback, it does offer a lot more interior space. The Mokka is comparable in size to the Nissan Qashqai, and there's plenty of room to seat five adults inside without complaints about headroom.
There's plenty of interior storage space, and the boot is one of the biggest in its class. Its 356-litre boot beats the Nissan Juke and MINI Countryman, which have just 251 and 350 litres respectively.
Larger rivals like the Yeti and Qashqai offer 416 and 410 litres, though, despite being comparatively priced. You can expand the boot to 1,372 litres by folding the rear seats down, while the wide and low opening makes loading luggage simpler. Flipping the seat bases over is easy too, thanks to some handy nylon tabs. Plus, there’s an integrated bike carrier that pops out of the rear bumper - a nice touch.
Traction and stability control are fitted as standard to the Mokka, plus Hill Start Assist, which prevents the car from rolling backwards on a slope and Hill Descent Control, which allows it to drive down steep slopes at a controlled speed. You can get the car in four-wheel drive, but it's not worth considering if you need a proper off-roader.
The most economical Vauxhall Mokka is the 134bhp 1.6-litre CDTi ecoFLEX diesel. It beats the old 1.7-litre for fuel economy and CO2 emissions, posting figures of 68.9 and 109g/km – compared to 62.8mpg and 120g/km. Opting for four-wheel drive pushes this up to 124g/km, meaning you’ll pay slightly more road tax, while opting for the automatic is worse still – at 134g/km.
The petrol models will cost a lot more to run, with the 1.4-litre petrol returning 44.1mpg and emitting 149g/km. Avoid the 1.6-litre petrol in base models as it gets just 43.5mpg and 153g/km - and it can only be fitted with a five-speed manual gearbox that feels dated compared to the new six-speed ones.
The main concern for private buyers will be the weak residuals – our experts predict it will retain just 40.2 per cent of its value after three years.