New Vauxhall Mokka SRi Nav Premium petrol 2021 review

The all-new Vauxhall Mokka has arrived in the UK to take on the Ford Puma and Renault Captur

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3.5 out of 5

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It may have a bold new look but Vauxhall’s new Mokka has kept many of the qualities that made its predecessor such a strange sales sensation. It’s not as good to drive as some key rivals, and it’s far from the most practical of small SUVs. But it does bring sharp styling and offers some really solid powertrains. If the monthly finance deals are on side, there’s every reason for the Mokka success story to continue.

The original Vauxhall Mokka was one of those small SUVs that really confused car magazines like this one, because we could never quite understand why anybody bought it. It wasn’t the best in the class to drive, it wasn’t all that refined, and it wasn’t all that practical either. But it looked sharp and was keenly priced, so it sold - and in spades.

When we drove a left-hand-drive example of this all-new version earlier this year, we concluded that Vauxhall may again have focused on design above almost everything else. With this drive of a full UK-spec right-hand-drive car, we’re looking to lay that suspicion to rest.

To recap, the Mokka sits on a platform called CMP, the same platform as the Vauxhall Corsa, Peugeot 208 and even Citroen’s new C4. That means, of course, that the car can be offered with a choice of petrol, diesel or fully-electric power.

It’s quite a bit shorter than the old model, this Mokka - around 120mm, in fact. But it’s lower and wider too, giving it a sportier stance. The front-end styling is completely fresh too - a new headlight and grille treatment that Vauxhall calls the Vizor, and something that we’re bound to see on almost all of the firm’s models in the years ahead. The Mokka’s wheelbase has also been stretched - but only by two millimetres, so it’s clear from the off that outright practicality is not this car’s primary focus.

Climb aboard and your view is dominated by a huge twin-screen layout that combines displays for the instrument panel and the infotainment system. In more modest trim levels they’ll be seven inches across apiece; in upper-end versions you get a 12-inch digital dash and a 10-inch central screen for the mapping and audio. The interface also shows the cabin temperature settings, though thankfully this can be controlled using physical buttons and dials.

The mixture of tech and, in our car’s SRi trim, carbon-fibre-effect plastics and a shot of red-gloss finish gives the Mokka a sporty premium look - although you might be less convinced by the harder textured materials and the piano-black lacquer (a real PSA-Stellantis favourite) further down.

There’s no such frippery at all in the rear, and that’s probably for the best, because it’s not a place where any fully grown adult is going to want to spend all that much time. It’s a stark reminder that this car is meant for couples or at most families with very small children. The 350 litre boot supports this further; it’s not a bad capacity in isolation, but it can’t compete with the flexibility of the Renault Captur.

We’re trying the petrol Mokka here, because it’s expected to make up around three quarters of UK sales. The engine is a familiar 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged unit and it comes with either 99bhp or, as driven here, 128bhp. 

The diesel option is a 1.5-litre motor producing 99bhp, and of course, there’s always the 134bhp, pure-electric Mokka-e, which claims around 200 miles of range between recharges.

On the road, the Mokka has enough punch to feel swift with the well known 1.2-litre three-cylinder triple on board, while never approaching genuinely rapid. The eight-speed automatic gearbox shifts smoothly - definitely more so at lower speeds than any of the VW Group’s dual-clutch autos - and unless you’re really in a hurry and rev the engine hard, it’s a refined companion. Any three-cylinder grumble is easily drowned out at cruising speeds by tyre roar from the 18-inch alloys.

That larger wheel size doesn’t wreck the ride quality as a whole, although the Mokka is happier at urban speeds, where it does a reasonable job of soaking up potholes and bumps. Higher-frequency inputs on the open road cause more of an issue, and you could find yourself shimmying across badly scarred road surfaces.

What you won’t find here is any great sense of involvement. The steering is consistently weighted but light and desperately short on communication, and while body roll is kept in check, any attempts to exploit this by flinging the Vauxhall down a B-road will go unrewarded. For all the SRi’s sporty touches, it’s not a match for the Ford Puma in the fun stakes.

Model:Vauxhall Mokka SRi Nav Premium 130PS petrol auto 
Price: £27,450
Engine: 1.2-litre 3cyl turbo petrol
Power/torque: 128bhp/230Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
0-60mph: 9.2 seconds
Top speed: 124mph
Economy: 47.1-47.9mpg
Emissions: 137g/km
On sale: Now

John started journalism reporting on motorsport – specifically rallying, which he had followed avidly since he was a boy. After a stint as editor of weekly motorsport bible Autosport, he moved across to testing road cars. He’s now been reviewing cars and writing news stories about them for almost 20 years.

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