First Drive: The Vauxhall Mokka has been reinvented as a striking small SUV

Ted Welford, PA Motoring Reporter
·6-min read

What is it?

Vauxhall Mokka
The Vauxhall Mokka is immediately more appealing than its predecessor. (Vauxhall)

While Vauxhall has never struggled with shifting new cars, its models have never done much to inspire, whether that be to drive, look at or be in.

That was especially true of the previous-generation Vauxhall Mokka X – a car with all the desirability of spending a week on holiday with the mother-in-law, yet sold remarkably well. While it had the much-craved crossover looks and an affordable price (slashed further by Vauxhall dealers eager to shift them), it felt like a car you bought because you needed it, rather than wanted it.

While the Mokka X was killed off in 2019, Vauxhall is now back with a new model. But is it worth considering?

What’s new?

Just about everything, in honesty. You’ll notice the ‘X’ in its name has vanished, while this new Mokka has been developed under the PSA Group (Peugeot and Citroen), rather than General Motors, the brand’s previous owners.

It paves the way with a new design direction, new powertrains and also the option of a new electric model, and it really couldn’t be more different from its predecessor if it tried. It’s also now more distinguishable from the brand’s similarly-sized Crossland model, which Vauxhall bills as the more functional one, while the Mokka becomes the more stylish and desirable of the pair.

What’s under the bonnet?

Vauxhall Mokka
We tested a 1.2-litre petrol, but there are also diesel and electric versions. (Vauxhall)

Just like the Corsa supermini, which the new Mokka shares its powertrains with, it’s available with petrol, diesel and electric options.

Here our test car uses what’s expected to be the most popular option – a turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol unit. Available with outputs of 99bhp or 128bhp, we’re trying the more powerful of the pair.

With a healthy 230Nm of torque, this three-cylinder is surprisingly nippy and comes with an amusingly throaty soundtrack to match. There’s a choice of a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic. The sprint from 0-60mph takes nine seconds, while it would reach a top speed of 124mph. When it comes to running costs, Vauxhall claims the auto will return 47.9mpg, with CO2 emissions of 133g/km.

What’s it like to drive?

Vauxhall Mokka
It’s much better than before, but not quite as good as the Ford Puma. (Vauxhall)

Vauxhall has worked hard to improve the way the Mokka drives, with key highlights being that the model is up to 120kg lighter than before and promises more sportiness.

It’s true that the model is now far more engaging and involving, and enhanced further by a press of the ‘Sport’ mode, something that sharpens the throttle response and also makes the automatic gearbox work much better – we found the auto a bit dim-witted in the default setting.

There’s less roll through the corners, and there’s greater confidence to push on down twistier roads, though it’s not as complete as the Ford Puma. The low-speed ride is also a bit crashy around town – not helped by the large alloys – though it’s never uncomfortable.

How does it look?

The Mokka is a hugely important car for Vauxhall when it comes to design, too, and showcases a new styling direction for the firm, influenced by the GT X Experimental Concept shown off several years ago.

A particular highlight is the ‘Vizor’, which will feature on future models from the firm, and is already on the updated Crossland. This sees the headlights, grille and Vauxhall badge all placed into one module behind a strip of glass, and it certainly looks the part.

Elsewhere, the Mokka is actually 12cm shorter than the outgoing car, while a range of personalisation options will no doubt appeal to buyers. SRi models, for example, get red accents throughout, even on the alloys.

What’s it like inside?

Vauxhall Mokka
The Mokka gets Vauxhall’s new Pure Panel technology. (Vauxhall)

The cabin has also had a digital makeover, with all Mokkas now coming with something known as the ‘Pure Panel’ – which sees a digital dials screen and touchscreen merged in one strip. Higher-spec models get larger screens (up to 10 inches for the touchscreen and 12 for the digital dials). The instrument cluster is a particular highlight, with superb clarity and ease of use.

We’re also impressed Vauxhall has kept traditional controls for the climate settings – something sister brands Citroen and Peugeot don’t get right. Despite the more upmarket look, though, the quality isn’t quite up to scratch in places, with some cheap materials on the door cards and around the screens themselves.

It’s also not a particularly roomy choice. The 350-litre boot is one of the smallest in this class, while rear legroom isn’t all that impressive. A Volkswagen T-Cross is a better option where space is concerned.

What’s the spec like?

Vauxhall Mokka
There’s a lot of equipment included as standard. (Vauxhall)

Regardless of the version you go for, you won’t be disappointed on the equipment front. Standard kit includes a seven-inch touchscreen with all the bells and whistles, digital dials of the same size and a suite of safety kit, though Vauxhall reckons most buyers will go for the stylish SRi version. With this you get large 18-inch alloy wheels and a gloss black styling kit, along with other features like heated front seats, climate control and a reversing camera.

Further up the range brings the likes of Matrix LED headlights, keyless entry and start and even massaging seats, though we reckon these are luxuries you could do without, and save yourself plenty in the process.

As for pricing, you’ll pay £20,735 for the entry-level model, through to almost £30,000 for the flagship Launch Edition. Models towards the lower end of that spectrum make by far the most sense.

Verdict

Vauxhall Mokka
The new Vauxhall Mokka represents a huge step forward for the model. (Vauxhall)

If nothing else, this is a huge step forward for the Vauxhall Mokka. It now drives far better, looks superb (to our eyes at least), gets all the latest technology and has a much more pleasant interior.

Vauxhall says it hopes to appeal to existing Mokka owners (who will be in for a revelation if they make the switch) and young Corsa owners. We reckon that makes sense, as practicality downfalls won’t make it a great family car. This new crossover isn’t going to compete for class honours, but the Mokka is now a car that you can happily recommend, and given the success of the sub-par old model, should prove to be a sales hit.

  • Model as tested: Vauxhall Mokka SRI Nab Premium 1.2 Turbo Auto

  • Price as tested: £27,450

  • Engine: 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine

  • Power: 128bhp

  • Torque: 230Nm

  • Max speed: 124mph

  • 0-60mph: 9.0 seconds

  • MPG: 47.9mpg

  • Emissions: 133g/km CO2