Another small SUV, and another lifestyle choice that promises and embodies an ‘it’s your life, go drive it’ mentality. I drove the new Vauxhall Mokka X 4×4, to see whether it really does make you feel like you’re in complete control of your driving life, and whether it inspires you to adventure into the tougher stuff.
The Mokka X’s performance in the sales charts, and its relative popularity with the British public (stop to look, and you’ll notice tons more Mokkas on the roads than you’d expect), is largely down to the car’s excellent value for money. My test car was the Design NAV 1.4i Turbo edition, with 140PS and 200Nm of torque. It pulled well, and although it didn’t have quite the sporty feel that Vauxhall was hoping, it certainly feels as if it had enough grunt to be more than passable in rugged or non-standard driving conditions. Projective front skid plates, side protection mouldings and roof rails also add to the look – it doesn’t look rugged – but with the Mokka X Vauxhall have at least made a passable attempt at a crossover that has all-terrain appeal.
What it’s got going for it is that it does come with a large range of petrol and diesel engines, the test car being probably the best balanced in terms of performance and value for money. The 1.6 variant might be the better bet if you’re in a bit more of a hurry. I would have liked to have tried the new 1.4 engine that comes with the auto gearbox on the 4×4 Mokka X, as I feel the refinement of the existing powertrain doesn’t match the modern crossover appeal, and the economy figures don’t particularly do the car justice. I struggled to achieve more than 30mpg around town, and hauling what is quite a large lump around meant that even on longer motorway drives the combined figures rarely reached more than 36 – 38. Relatively disappointing, in a car that has to pride itself on its ease of use and urban practicality as much as countryside ambition.
What’s even more noticeable however is the ride comfort – where I felt rivals in the small SUV sector may have a leap on Vauxhall by providing a more settled, less frenetic and slightly more comfortable offering. Jolts are noticeable throughout the cabin and it doesn’t progress with a huge amount of confidence, even though the power is delivered across the rev range and the steering is light. The 4×4 version of the Mokka X feels planted, with adequate traction, even though I’m not sure at times if body roll gets the better of the car in corners.
It gets better on the inside though. In much the same way as the new Vauxhall Astra, I’m a fan of the revised Vauxhall interior, and it certainly has taken the Mokka X up a notch, with a refined cabin providing a number of lovely soft touch buttons and dials, a leather covered steering wheel and a very usable and easy to operate Navi 900 InteliLink SatNav system. All the usual Bluetooth connectivity is there, as well as remote locking/unlocking through the intelligent OnStar app, which is an excellent feature despite being questionable as to how much it’ll be used by the general motoring public.
The slightly bad news for Vauxhall is that the Mokka X goes head-to-head with some big names, and very capable cars. The car’s promise of rugged SUV capability sadly doesn’t really follow through in spirit. It is certainly a capable enough vehicle with ample ride height, traction and balls for the tougher stuff, but I’m not sure I’d trust it too much as it just doesn’t feel rugged or like it’s ready to pitch itself headfirst into anything the terrain throws at it. It slightly reminds me of a shy, unnerved little child learning to swim…it’ll eventually get there, but I’m not sure it’ll fill you with a huge amount of confidence in the process.
In general though, I’m a big fan of Vauxhall’s new look, new approach, new marketing and revised attitude to their cars. The Mokka X 4×4 fell down a bit for me in a number of key areas in which rivals are better and probably more value for money, but in general it’s a much better car than the outgoing one and it won’t stop people buying and driving them in droves. Whatsmore, it’s good value for money, has plenty of boot space with the back down and won’t mind being chucked around a bit and used as a practical, affordable small family SUV.