Vauxhall Mokka review
The Vauxhall Mokka is a good-looking crossover with plenty of standard equipment, but the drive is somewhat lacklustre
Vauxhall’s Mokka is consistently proving one of the brand’s most popular models, and it’s easy to see why.
The compact crossover is aimed at cars like the fast-selling Nissan Juke, Peugeot 2008 and Citroen C4 Cactus, but it’s a little more practical than its rivals and can hold its own against the likes of the Nissan Qashqai in the class above. What counts in favour of the Vauxhall is that it looks really good and has a good-quality interior that is packed with equipment. Unlike many other cars in the class, it’s also available with four-wheel drive.
At launch, the Mokka was let down by a range of old engines, yet things improved greatly with the arrival of a 1.4-litre turbo petrol unit and Vauxhall’s 1.6-litre CDTi ‘Whisper’ diesel, which is now the engine to have.
All Mokkas come generously equipped, although we’d be tempted to splash out on the mid-spec Tech Line model. 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.
Sadly, as is too often the case with Vauxhalls, while the Mokka is perfectly fine to cruise around in – with a comfortable ride, strong economy and quiet new engines – the handling is lacklustre and the performance is middling at best. Top rivals can do everything the Mokka can, but with a bit more entertainment for the driver.
Released in 2013 in the UK, the Mokka is built on the Gamma II platform developed by Vauxhall’s parent company, General Motors. These underpinnings are loosely related to those of the Corsa supermini built between 2000 and 2006. The Mokka comes in just one bod style, a five-door crossover-SUV, but there are four engine options and a number of transmissions to choose from.
Trim levels begin with Exclusiv spec, then there’s the Tech Line that includes sat-nav as standard. SE is the range-topping model, although Vauxhall currently offers a Limited Edition Mokka with extra toys on it that costs more than the SE.
There are no high-performance versions of the Vauxhall available, as the most powerful engine available is a 138bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol unit. This can be specified as a front-wheel-drive manual or automatic (both boxes have six gears), or with four-wheel drive and the manual gearbox.
The same drivetrain options can be had with either of the two diesel engines, the 134bhp 1.6-litre CDTi ‘Whisper’ engine introduced in 2015, or the older 1.7-litre 128bhp unit that the 1.6 is designed to supersede.
Additionally, the 1.6-litre CDTi is available in ecoFLEX guise, in which various fuel-saving technologies – such as higher gearing and low rolling resistance tyres – are added to deliver the best efficiency in the range. The Mokka ecoFLEX is a front-wheel-drive manual only.
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Finally, there’s a sole 1.6-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine, which delivers 113bhp and is available as a front-wheel-drive, five-speed manual. This serves as the entry point to Vauxhall crossover ownership, unless you count the Adam Rocks – a version of the Adam city car with crossover styling cues.
Vauxhall positions the Mokka in the middle of its road car line-up, with prices roughly comparable to the Astra family hatchback. At launch, the Mokka was available with the 1.6-litre petrol engines and the 1.7-litre diesel, with the 1.4-litre turbo unit joining the line-up soon after. The only main change to the range since then was the addition of the 1.6-litre CDTi early in 2015.
Engines, performance and drive
The Mokka’s relaxed nature is most evident when cornering. While the electrically assisted steering is quick and precise, there’s very little feedback through the wheel to make you feel connected with the road. Where a Skoda Yeti would grip hard, the Vauxhall’s tyres slip and the car starts to slide wide. That’s not our only criticism, either, because the Mokka also suffers from a lot of body roll.
On the plus side, the soft suspension set-up delivers 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.
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Unfortunately, the Mokka is less accomplished around town. While its controls are light and progressive, the thick A-pillars create large blind spots at junctions and roundabouts. The small rear window also limits visibility when reversing. At least standard front and rear parking sensors take some of the guesswork out of the parking process.
Traction and stability control are fitted as standard to the Vauxhall, as is 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 have the car with four-wheel drive, but it’s not a proper off-roader.
There’s a good range of petrol and diesel engines, the 1.6-litre CDTi ‘Whisper’ diesel being a particular highlight. All the diesels offer plenty of torque, so overtaking on the motorway is easy, while the petrol engines are nice and quiet around town.
Even so, we’d only recommend looking at the petrol models if you’ll be sticking to short trips. The 1.6-litre engine is underpowered and struggles up steep hills, while the more powerful 1.4-litre turbo is too noisy when pushed hard.
Here’s a look at the engine range in full. The entry-level unit is the 1.6i naturally aspirated petrol, rated at 113bhp at 6,000rpm and 155Nm of torque at 4,000rpm. It is paired with front-wheel drive and a five-speed manual box only, leading to sluggish 0-62mph sprint time of 12.5 seconds and a modest 106mph top speed.
The 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol option has healthier stats of 138bhp at 4,900rpm and 200Nm from just 1,850rpm. That makes for a 0-62mph time of 9.9 seconds as a front-wheel-drive six-speed manual, plus the highest top speed of any Mokka, at 120mph.
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There are two diesel engines on the price lists for now, but the ageing 1.7 CDTi is an endangered species. The 1.7 is a mere £180 cheaper spec-for-spec than the excellent 1.6-litre Whisper diesel, and it delivers 128bhp/300Nm as opposed to 134bhp/320Nm. It’s also worse for fuel economy than the quieter, smoother 1.6, so there’s very little reason to buy it.
In terms of performance, the 1.6 CDTi can manage the same 9.9-second 0-62mph sprint as the 1.4 turbo petrol, but it’s marginally slower at the top end, reaching 119mph. The 1.7 CDTi manages 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds, being going on to 116mph.
Performance stats for Mokkas that can have the six-speed automatic gearbox (front-wheel drive only) or the 4x4 system (manual only) are significantly reduced.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
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 68.9mpg and 109g/km – compared to 62.8mpg and 120g/km for the larger unit.
Opting for four-wheel drive on the 1.6 CDTi pushes CO2 emissions up to 124g/km, meaning you’ll pay more road tax, while choosing the automatic bumps them up further, to 134g/km. This means you can expect to pay quite a bit more every year to keep a 4x4 automatic Mokka on the road.
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The petrol models will cost a lot more to run, with the 1.4-litre returning 44.1mpg and emitting 149g/km. Avoid the 1.6-litre petrol in base models if you can, as it achieves just 43.5mpg and 153g/km – and it can only be fitted with a five-speed manual gearbox that feels dated compared to the newer six-speed transmissions.
Benefit in Kind rates are from 19 to 27 per cent across the Mokka range, while Vauxhall runs flexible PCP deals from as little as £199 per month on the 1.4i Turbo Exclusiv Start/Stop.
There’s good news here, as all Mokkas sit in very low insurance groups, ranging from five for the Exclusiv and Tech Line 1.6-litre petrols to 14 on the highest-spec SE 1.6 CDTi models. This means any version should prove to be cheap to insure compared to the alternatives.
The main concern for private buyers will be the Mokka’s weak residuals. Our experts predict it will retain just 40.2 per cent of its value after three years. Vauxhall hopes that the growing desirability of the crossover, and the reasonably strong sales of the Mokka in the UK, will boost this figure in years to come.
Interior, design and technology
The Mokka’s eye-catching bodywork strikes a balance between the rugged looks of the Yeti and more grown-up Qashqai. As you’d expect, there’s tough-looking plastic body cladding and underbody skid plates, while the raised ride height completes the off-roader look.
Elsewhere, there's a bold chrome front grille, large swept-back headlamps and muscular, pumped-up wheelarches. All models get at least 17-inch alloy wheels (with 18 and 19-inch rims available as options depending on which engine you choose), electrically folding door mirrors and all-round parking sensors.
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The Mokka aims to rival premium-brand crossovers for quality and upmarket appeal inside and does a decent job. There are plenty of soft-touch plastics and the finish is excellent. While the array of buttons used for the infotainment system appear confusing at first, it all quickly becomes second nature. A slight problem is that the satin-finished 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 equipment, too, with Exclusiv models getting dual-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and a tyre-pressure monitoring system.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
All models come with a digital radio, Bluetooth, steering wheel audio controls and at least a CD 450 six-speaker sound system as standard. Even that base stereo is compatible with MP3 files.
Vauxhall’s neat IntelliLink CD 600 system is a £240 option on all of the Exclusiv, SE and Limited Edition models, bringing with it a seven-inch colour monitor built into the dash.
The even more impressive Navi 950 IntelliLink package, with street-level mapping, costs £1,055 as an option. However, it’s a standard fit on the Tech Line – which is why this is our preferred trim in the Mokka range. It represents fantastic value for money.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Up against family-sized rivals like the Qashqai and Yeti, the Vauxhall manages to just about stand its ground in terms of interior space and practicality. There are plenty of cabin cubby holes and storage bins to hold the associated clobber of a family of four – both the Exclusiv and Tech Line cars come with a front passenger’s under-seat storage tray – while the optional integrated bike carrier that pops out of the rear bumper is a nice touch.
There’s also a 230V three-pin power socket behind the front seats, which shows some thought from the designers for children, who can simply plug in a device and stay entertained on long journeys.
Considering it’s a crossover, the Mokka is reasonably compact in terms of exterior dimensions. It is slightly under 4.3 metres long and 1.8 metres wide, while the kerbweight is acceptable, at 1,429kg, on our favourite ecoFLEX model. That’s not bad for something that is in excess of 1.6 metres tall.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
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Although the Mokka is based on a platform shared with the old Corsa hatchback, it does offer a lot more interior space than most supermini-based crossovers. The Vauxhall is almost comparable in size to the Qashqai, and there’s room to seat five adults inside without complaints about headroom. Legroom is a little tighter if taller people sit in the rear, but overall passenger space is far better than in the likes of the Juke.
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Larger rivals like the Yeti and Qashqai, however, are priced comparatively with the Mokka and offer 416 and 410 litres respectively. At least you can expand the Mokka’s boot to 1,372 litres by folding the rear seats down, while the wide and low opening makes loading luggage simple. Flipping the seat bases over is easy, too, thanks to some handy nylon tabs.
Reliability and Safety
Euro NCAP gave the Mokka 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, buyers can add the Forward Camera Pack, which brings 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 Mokka itself performed well in our 2014 poll, with a 29th place overall finish.
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However, it slipped to 88th out of 200 in our 2015 survey. On the plus side, it did score an 87.91% satisfaction rate and was the second-highest Vauxhall overall behind the Zafira Tourer (79th). With the Adam in 90th place, these three newer models were a long way ahead of the other Vauxhall models, which were down in 165th and lower.
Vauxhall did briefly supply a ‘lifetime’ warranty on UK cars, which was actually limited to 100,000 miles, but it has since rescinded that offer and now provides a fairly standard 60,000-mile/three-year warranty. That can, for varying fees, be extended on cars less than seven years old and with fewer than 70,000 miles on the clock, but it is still limited to 100,000 miles overall.
The Vauxhall warranty can be transferred as part of a private sale of the car, for a fee of £25.
A range of fixed-price servicing packages is offered on the Mokka. There are also service clubs available through Vauxhall, which see a reduction of up to 25 per cent in the costs of labour and parts as well as 50 per cent off MoTs. The brand recommends a service interval mileage of 20,000 on the Mokka.