Vauxhall Mokka 1.6 Tech Line Review

Vauxhall is late to the party. Now the Mokka's here is it any good? DrivingTalk finds out

By Tim Kendall | 20th December 2012

Vital Statistics

  • Model: Mokka Tech Line 1.6
  • Engine: 1.6 4cyl (115hp)
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual
  • Price: £15,995 (£17,310 as tested)
  • 0-60: 12.3 secs
  • Top Speed: 108 mph
  • Economy: 43.5 mpg (combined)
  • Options fitted to test car:
    N/A

DrivingTalk road test: Vauxhall Mokka 1.6 Tech Line

What is it?

Vauxhall’s much needed compact crossover. In a post-Qashqai world, GM is playing catch-up in a bid to nurse the Griffin back to profit. The mission weighing heavily on the Mokka’s narrow shoulders is to gate-crash the Yeti/Juke/Qashqai party and run off with some new customers.

It’s got its work cut out, given the talented opposition has stolen a march on it, but the Mokka is sensibly plonked part way between the pokey, style-driven Nissan Juke and the more spacious Qashqai. GM ‘s thinking being that offering something different will give it a fighting chance in the over-fished waters of Europe’s family car market.

Vauxhall could have a point, although it’d do well do drop the ‘active lifestyle’ garb that targets an imaginary kite-surfing, mountain-biking young-‘n-trendy demographic.

Vauxhall Mokka 1.6 Tech Line

Some light green laning in the Vauxhall Mokka 1.6 Tech Line

What’s it like in 5 words?

Smart, compact, worthy, good value.

What’s the Mokka up against?

If the wilfully quirky Juke doesn’t do it for you, and you don’t want to shell out for the bigger, pricier Qashqai or Skoda Yeti, the Mokka could just snare you with its practical, value-led charms.

There’s far more room on offer than the Juke, nearly as much as the Qashqai and it’s appreciably cheaper than the latter. As tested in fleet-friendly 1.6 Tech Line trim, it’s also well-endowed on the bells-and-whistles front. As bargain-basement brand Dacia would have it, shockingly good value is where it’s at these days – the Mokka isn’t quite that, but you do get a lot for your money if you choose the right spec.

The competition: Nissan Qashqai, Nissan Juke, Skoda Yeti, MINI Countryman

Vauxhall Mokka 1.6 Tech Line

Can Vauxhall’s baby SUV-cum-crossover cut it?

Which is the Mokka to go for?

This Mokka Tech Line wouldn’t be a bad bet.

Although, well-kitted as it is – with Sat Nav, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, Auto lights/wipers, hill descent control, hill start assist, 18” alloys and more besides – Vauxhall’s pricing strategy could look a bit barmy to the private buyer.

Tech Line is the second most gadget-laden of four trims – better equipped than S, Exclusiv and sitting underneath the range-topping SE. But at £15,995 in 1.6 petrol form (£17,310 as tested) it’s the cheapest spec level and a grand less than the boggo, plastic hub-capped S.

Why? Because Vauxhall is trying to tempt fleet buyers with a high equipment/ low P11D price combo and offering finance incentives to private punters on the S and Exclusiv. Want finance on the Tech Line? Better phone your bank.

Vauxhall Mokka 1.6 Tech Line interior

It’s pretty well screwed together in here, if unadventurous

Vauxhall Mokka – the Good Bits

After early press reports were a bit unkind about the Mokka’s ride and handling, Vauxhall got to work re-rating the dampers and re-calibrating the electro-mechanical power steering before it reached UK shores.

The results are good. That fidgety ride is banished in favour of better compliance, and consistently weighted, accurate steering enables the high-sided Mokka to be threaded along at a good lick without falling over. Crank up the speed and a ‘bobbing’ sensation creeps in – blame a short, narrow wheelbase rather than an inherently flawed chassis set-up. Overall though, it feels compact, wieldy and more than competent enough to hold its own.

Judging by the admiring glances in Tesco car park, the Mokka isn’t without kerb appeal. Subjective it may be, but to these eyes the wee Vauxhall’s styling is well-judged with a restrained ruggedness befitting of its mini-me SUV brief.

The style/substance equation is better balanced than the Juke, too. There’s an Astra-beating 356 litres of load space with the seats in place, a nicely flat space with them folded – and second row legroom that’s slightly better than the average family hatch. A family of four should find the Mokka amply accommodating.

Vauxhall Mokka 1.6 Tech Line boot

Boot space on the Mokka better than an Astra

Vauxhall Mokka – the bad bits

It’s asthmatic in 1.6 petrol guise. With just 115hp to call on, it struggles to make decent headway on the motorway, taking a yawning 12.3 seconds to pass the magic 62mph barrier. Coupled with a five-speed ‘box, it feels pretty well wrung-out at the national limit, with little in the locker for overtaking. But on the urban crawl where it’ll arguably do most of its duty, it copes fine.

So the bottom rung of the Mokka ladder doesn’t buy the best drivetrain. Shell out another £2,200 for all-wheel drive coupled to the punchier 1.4 turbo engine and the Mokka shines much brighter. Do so and you’d still be quids-in compared to a similarly equipped Yeti.

Vauxhall Mokka 1.6 Tech Line Before you get your chequebook out, it’s worth noting that the optional bi-xenon headlights with adaptive forward lighting (£790), whilst capable of bathing the road in more light than a police helicopter, seem to infuriate oncoming motorists after dark.

What is the Mokka like to live with?

Easy-going. Access front and rear is great, making it incredibly easy to hop in and out of. The lofty driving position also makes for a commanding view of the road and a surprisingly relaxing drive – once you’ve learnt to adjust to the dearth of grunt which hampers the 1.6 model.

Smartly styled and un-pretentious inside, the standard of fit and finish isn’t VW-slick but it’s light years ahead of Vauxhalls of yore. There are storage cubbies-a-plenty too – losing your keys or mobile phone has never been so easy.

The infotainment screen is clear and logical, although the satnav doesn’t have postcode entry or the crisply expensive graphics you’d get on an Audi system – but it’s well sited atop the dashboard so you spend more time watching the road than the dash. Some might bemoan a lack of flair inside but you don’t always have to try so hard to win friends, Nissan.

How does the Mokka score on fuel economy and CO2 emissions?

Equipped with standard stop/start, Vauxhall quotes a reasonable 43.5mpg combined figure for the least powerful Mokka in front-wheel drive form – a drivetrain which it reckons will grab 38% of UK sales.

Over a week of mixed driving the reality was 32.5mpg – probably a reflection of how hard the 1.6 needs to be worked to make progress, but hardly a disaster for a chunky compact SUV. CO2 emissions of153g/km are on the money for the class, too.

2013 Vauxhall Mokka road test

Vauxhall Mokka picture gallery

Vauxhall Mokka 1.6 Tech Line Review

Vauxhall Mokka 1.6 Tech Line Review

  • Performance: 5/10
  • Ride & Handling: 7/10
  • Economy: 7/10
  • Equipment: 8/10
  • Want one factor: 6/10

The Verdict

Should you buy a Mokka? Possibly – but not with this engine. Paired with the torquier 138hp 1.4 turbo unit it’s sprightlier, slightly greener and a whole lot less of a chore to stoke up on the motorway. The added all-year round usefulness of four-wheel drive just makes more sense on a car like the Mokka too. Choose the right version and there’s much to like about Vauxhall’s chunky, high-value crossover. Now they’ve sorted the earlier chassis grumbles out, there’s little to moan about, too.

Summary

  • Practical compact crossover, decent value in Tech Line spec
  • Sluggish in 1.6 guise

By Tim Kendall
20th December 2012

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