Vauxhall’s new compact SUV has the looks, price and performance to shake up the market

Vauxhall Mokka  has the potential to shake up the market
Vauxhall Mokka has the potential to shake up the market
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IT WAS a question no one was expecting. What does Mokka mean? The PR chiefs were lacking an answer at the press launch of the Vauxhall Mokka hosted by its (major) partner Opel in northwest Germany recently. There were some fumbled answers to do with coffee.

The other question yet to be answered is how the Mokka behaves climbing a hill, scampering off-road or even driving on poorly surfaced roads. The route between Hamburg and the coast was flat, nicely asphalted and mostly motorway. It did give a semblance of the chubby car’s character and nothing apparent to stop its appeal.

So I can tell you that at 120mph the Mokka felt stable – but there is a note in the script to say that 70 is fast enough if you have a loaded roof rack. However, no such limits affect the family carrying bicycles on the carrier which extends out of the rear bumper. It will take three bikes to a maximum of 60kg – necessary for those wonderful lofty Dutch bikes you see in Holland, Belgium and Germany – and at any speed you like.

Mokka, whatever it means, is a handy vehicle. It is what they call a compact SUV, with a raised height (six inches clearance), front and rear scuff plates and the possibility of all-wheel-drive – which is standard on the 1.4 petrol turbo.

It is made at the GM Daewoo factory in South Korea – which also produces the rival Trax from GM’s (Asian) Chevrolet brand. The unidentical twins share no body panels, the interiors are different but the drive trains and chassis layout is common to Mokka and Trax.

In theory, they should feel different because the Mokka suspension was set up by both Opel and Vauxhall handling experts, with much of the fine tuning done in England, led by Vauxhall’s vehicle dynamics manager Gerry Baker. Eventually they agreed on a standard setting for both Britain and mainland Europe.

This is a confident five-door family car, compact enough to suit someone not wanting the heft of a larger SUV, like Vauxhall’s Antara. Mokka’s rivals include the more adventurously styled, UK built, Nissan Juke and its larger sibling from Sunderland, the Qashqai – itself not far short of a sales sensation.

Yes, it has taken Opel and Vauxhall a while to get a handle on this Qashqai market. Ford’s Kuga (being replaced this year) is in there, and so is the Skoda Yeti, a no-nonsense square shouldered all-roading estate from the Czech Republic which has lots of fans. Mokka looks good enough to compete. The first eye-grabber is the grille, capped with a deep chromed top lip which recalls Skoda design. In Germany they already had 40,000 orders weeks ahead of its sale date. Britain gets it in this month. Chevy’s Trax is yet to be priced. It has bolder styling. It has the same engines and two trim levels, both with alloys.

The cheapest Mokka is the Tech Line at £15,995. The paradox is this – it is one of the best-equipped, with navigation and 18 inch alloys, dual zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers – on top of the stability, traction, hill descent and hill-hold functions fitted to all Mokkas. You can pay £2,000 more for a model without navigation. Explanation: the Tech Line is aimed at the business buyer and is available to you and me – but without in-house finance deals – thus pay cash or arrange your credit elsewhere.

The £15,995 model has a 114bhp 1.6 petrol engine, five gears and front wheel drive, rated at 43.5mpg and 153g/km. The 128bhp 1.7 diesel Tech Line (63mpg, 120g/km) will cost you £17,445 and the 1.4 petrol with 4x4 is £18,200 (44mpg and 149g/km). The diesel with 4x4 costs £18,990. Automatic gears are available on the 1.7 diesel (Tech Line £18,445) and will become available on the 1.4 engine. The 0-62mph acceleration times are in the 9 to 10 second bracket.

Vauxhall predicts the diesel and the 1.6 petrol will share 80 per cent of UK sales. The ­diesel pulls well – as you expect with its 221 lb ft of torque but the engine is raucous when accelerating – out of step with contemporary refinement. Maybe it needed more miles. The 1.4 petrol (with 147 lb ft) was not as flexible but much quieter and the gear-change action was easier.

For what it’s worth the trip meter showed 51mpg for the diesel and 35mpg for the petrol. Neither the 1.6 petrol nor the automatic diesel was available for testing.

Nit-picking done, the Mokka is a serious contender, and will do well for Vauxhall. The brand’s UK sales were up 20 per cent in September with strong demand for the Zafira MPV and the ever-young Corsa. In Scotland it is the biggest seller, ahead by two to one over second-placed Ford.

The Mokka should suit the harsher northern winter weather – and remember that even without 4x4 the 2x4 versions have traction control and hill descent control – to reduce the risk of skidding out of control down a slippery surface. A set of winter tyres would add to the winter security. «

• The cheapest Mokka is the Tech Line at £15,995, which has a 114bhp 1.6 petrol engine, five gears and front wheel drive, rated at 43.5mpg and 153g/km