A small, trendy little Crossover model can also be a practical choice. If you doubt that, take a drive in Vauxhall's Mokka X. Jonathan Crouch checks it out.
Ten Second Review
Vauxhall's Mokka X is the first model to introduce the 'X' segment identifier for future Vauxhall SUV and crossover vehicles. As before, it's versatile, capable and practical, plus now, it's better looking and comes with upgraded connectivity, a nicer cabin and more efficient, quieter diesel engines.
Vauxhall's Mokka has done good business for the Griffin brand in its growing compact Crossover segment. Over half a million examples of this Korean built contender have found homes across Europe since its original launch in 2013. But time moves on and so has the competition. This car faces a much stronger challenge now than it did at its original launch. Hence the introduction of the revised Mokka X model range we're going to look at here.
The changes aren't too far reaching. There's a smarter front end, plus inside, an upgraded cabin that features Vauxhall's clever 'OnStar' connectivity system. Under the bonnet, the car gets the brand's latest, more efficient, 1.6-litre CDTi 'whisper diesel' engines, plus a pokier 1.4-litre petrol unit. A Vauxhall then, that is in every way a car of its time, very much chiming with the new face of a changing brand. Let's try it.
Mokka X buyers are people likely to be enthusiasts for life rather than for cars. So they may not care that this car isn't quite as sharp and wieldy as a rival Nissan Juke, nor does it have the 'big SUV' polish of a comparable Skoda Yeti. Instead, there's a potentially pleasing compromise between the two.
Under the bonnet, there are three main engine options, the most affordable, as ever, being the least desirable of the trio, the 2WD-only 115PS petrol 1.6-litre variant which, with only 155Nm of torque, needs to be rowed along a little with the gear lever - a stick that only offers you five speeds. A better bet for petrol people is the 140PS 1.4-litre turbo, now also available with 152PS if you go for a top-spec AWD model with auto transmission.
The most practical engine choice though is the one most buyers will probably select, the 1.6-litre CDTi diesel, now offered with either 110 or 136PS. The pokier version is capable of a top speed of around 117mph and rest to sixty in around 10.3s. You get all the main mechanical choices with this unit - so you can specify your car with 6-speed manual or automatic transmission and with or without 4WD. Perhaps more importantly, you get a lot more pulling power - 320Nm in all. Every Mokka X is theoretically capable of towing a braked trailer of up to 1200kg in weight, but this diesel variant is the only one that'll really take such a task in its stride.
Design and Build
The Mokka's compact size - it's 4.28m long - places it in the upper part of the compact Crossover segment. In other words, in terms of exterior dimensions and cabin space, it's more Skoda Yeti than Nissan Juke - but not quite Nissan Qashqai size. For this improved 'Mokka X' model range, British designer Mark Adams and his team have tried to create a bolder look. This means a wing-shaped horizontal front grille and the dominant, sharp double-wing signature of the LED daytime running lights. At the rear is another double wing signature highlighted in the tail lamps, with LED technology an option. Vibrant new colours such as 'Amber Orange' and 'Lava Red' are also available. On the inside, the Mokka X has a completely new dashboard inspired by the latest Astra.
Otherwise, it's much as it was. In the back, the rear seats benefit from wide opening doors that simplify the fitment of a child seat, though that sharply rising waistline might restrict the view out for smaller occupants. As for luggage room, well, there's no high boot lip to negotiate and beyond it lies 356-litres of carriage space - about the same as you'd get in a MINI Countryman but 30% more than you'd get in a Nissan Juke.
Market and Model
So, this Mokka X is a small, trendily-styled five-door little SUV/Crossover isn't it? Well yes. So it'll be priced directly against the other car we tend of think of in this market sector, Nissan's Juke, won't it? Well, no. Vauxhall points out - correctly - that their car is a significantly larger thing - hence the price span for the range that lies in the £17,500 to £27,000 bracket. To put that into perspective for you, that means you'll be probably be paying a price premium of around £3,000 for this Mokka X over an equivalent Juke. You'll need around £20,000 for the least expensive AWD Mokka X model.
As well as the extra space, you get more kit than you would on that Nissan. There's a choice of four trim levels, 'Active', 'Design Nav', Elite' and 'Elite Nav'. Standard equipment on the mid-range 'Design Nav' models most will choose is impressive and includes 18" alloy wheels on most models, plus LED daytime running lights, front fog lights and silver roof rails on the outside. Inside the cabin, drivers will benefit from an 8-inch touch screen with Vauxhall's IntelliLink Infotainment system, as well as the innovative OnStar personal connectivity and service assistant. 'Elite Nav' is the top-of-the-range trim and adds a full leather interior, heated front seats and steering wheel, plus tinted rear windows.
Cost of Ownership
The 110PS 1.6-litre CDTi diesel is the unit you'd probably ideally want and it returns a very class-competitive set of stats - 65.7mpg and 105g/km of CO2 - or 68.9mpg and 103g/km in more frugal ecoFLEX guise. Even if you go for the pokier 136PS CDTi powerplant and mate it with AWD, you still get 60.1mpg and 124g/km. The picture's not quite so rosy when it comes to petrol power. The oldest engine in the line-up, the 115PS 1.6-litre petrol unit, shows its age here, returning 41.5mpg on the combined cycle and 155g/km of CO2. Even the 4x4 automatic version of the 140PS 1.4-litre petrol turbo unit can better this - managing 43.5mpg and 150g/km of CO2.
What else? Well, Vauxhall being a mainstream brand, residual values aren't as strong as, for example, you'd get from a rival Honda HR-V, but the Mokka X claws the advantage back with modest cost of options and very affordable servicing you can budget for with a range of pre-paid servicing plans. There's an unremarkable, but potentially extendable, three year 60,000 mile warranty.
Not too long ago, it was hard to think of a more conventional brand than Vauxhall. But that was then. Here's how the company is thinking now: looks a lot more appealing doesn't it? True, this Mokka X still isn't the most dynamic car of its kind: Nor is it as affordable as some might expect - but that's only an issue if your comparison is with something smaller, much less well equipped and probably more feebly powered.
Look clearly though, as we've tried to do here, at what you actually get for what you actually pay and the Mokka X makes fashionable sense. With styling and size almost perfectly pitched, it's practical, well equipped, affordable to run and, in 4x4 form, seasonally capable too. A car with an appeal that builds as your interest in it grows. The kind of car Vauxhall needs to make. For a more fashionable future.