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First drive: Vauxhall Mokka X. Image by Vauxhall.

First drive: Vauxhall Mokka X
Vauxhall updates its Mokka crossover with an X, new lights and some fresh engines.

   



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Vauxhall Mokka X

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Vauxhall freshens up the looks - outside and in - of its Mokka compact crossover and adds an 'X' to its name, in order to challenge the B-segment elite. New engines are also introduced but, like a good cup of coffee, you're better off keeping the Mokka simple - the old 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine, front-wheel drive and a manual gearbox is the tastiest combination.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Vauxhall Mokka X
Pricing: range starts from 17,950; 1.4T Elite from 22,810
Engine: 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door crossover
CO2 emissions: 140g/km (VED Band E, 130 annually)
Combined economy: 47.1mpg
Top speed: 122mph
0-62mph: 9.3 seconds
Power: 140hp at 4,900- to 6,000rpm
Torque: 200Nm at 1,850- to 4,900rpm

What's this?

Thank you, Vauxhall. In an age where we critics are continually forced to write the agonising phrase 'you'll barely spot the difference' when talking about midlife model facelifts, General Motors has gone to town on the front end of the Mokka, giving a whole new look to its B-segment crossover challenger. A wide grille, meaner front lights with L-shaped LED daytime running lamps and a neat lower bumper really do pep up the looks of the Mokka X - oh, and that X tagged on to the model name is the new Vauxhall signifier for all its forthcoming SUV models.

Anyway, we heartily approve of the comprehensive facelift of the Mokka X, so it's a bit of a shame that at the rear very little has changed apart from new light signatures in the clusters and a subtly tweaked lower bumper. Nevertheless, the Vauxhall crossover looks pretty sharp outside. It has been suitably improved within, too, because the centre console peppered with buttons has been replaced with a neat, flush touchscreen for the various IntelliLink infotainment systems (the screen is seven or eight inches in size, depending on trim grade). Inspiration has also been taken from the current Astra's lovely cabin, with the addition of chrome highlights and piano black trim lifting things, although the designers obviously had to work within the Mokka's existing dashboard framework. It's a good effort, but not quite as impressive as that Astra console.

The Mokka X is said to be the first Vauxhall to get the OnStar personal connectivity service as standard on all models in the range, although the Zafira Tourer also gets the same thing as part of its facelift. Mokka X variants without navigation can use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity to bring up mapping functions on the IntelliLink screen and there are a couple of new engines too - a lower-powered 110hp version of the 1.6-litre CDTi 'Whisper' diesel (in 136hp guise, previously our favourite Mokka engine) and a 152hp 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which is a different base unit to the existing 140hp 1.4T. And that brings us onto a startling discovery...

How does it drive?

We'll say now that we drove three versions of the Mokka X, which were the 136hp CDTi, the 140hp petrol and the all-new 152hp motor. It was the last of these which we drove first, in full-on Elite trim; this Mokka X only comes with a six-speed automatic transmission and the company's torque-on-demand four-wheel drive system. And we hated it.

All right, hate is probably a strong word, but this was not a pleasant car to be in. The automatic transmission is nowhere near the best self-shifting gearboxes of 2016 and it's saddled with an utterly bizarre rocker switch on top of the lever with which to manually change gear. This is not a system Vauxhall uses on its other auto models so we're at a loss to explain its inclusion here. It also causes the 1.4-litre engine to rev out and it booms and sounds harsh beyond 5,000rpm, which is about where the engine gives maximum power, so if you ever need to accelerate smartly, expect lots of intrusive noise. The steering is strangely sticky and ill-resolved around the straight ahead and, at more than 26,000 as tested, this fully-loaded Mokka X does not look good value.

However, all of this pales into insignificance compared to the ride, which was borderline atrocious. This particular Mokka X, whether it was a rogue model or it had developed a problem, crashed through imperfections, jiggled across every poor road surface and was badly unsettled whether it was cruising along the M90 or just ambling through a Trossachs village in a 30mph zone. We hope it's not representative of the AWD range-topper, but we can really only report as we find and this was wholly unimpressive. On the basis of this car alone, the Mokka X would have got two stars for being over-priced, unrefined and wildly uncomfortable.

Luckily, two things saved the X: one, the last time we road-tested a Mokka 1.6 CDTi in the UK, we don't remember the ride being anything like as awful; and two, we then drove a much pared-back front-wheel drive Mokka X with a manual gearbox and the older 1.4-litre engine... and it was vastly, vastly improved. A Vauxhall product specialist for the mini-SUV did say that the AWD versions have different suspension settings to cope with the additional 65kg of the extra driveshafts and another 15kg penalty brought in by the auto, so maybe that accounts for the ride, but it certainly wasn't a spec-related big alloys issue, because the 1.4T FWD model we drove was in exactly the same Elite specification - with 18-inch wheels - as the AWD auto.

And it was far more appealing. Vauxhall admits it wants the Mokka X to drive like a well-sorted hatchback and the 1.4 turbo is a pretty good stab at that. Its ride is far more compliant without sacrificing much in the way of body control (the X will dive and roll as you brake and turn into a corner, but it's never alarming) and the gearbox is much sweeter. So is the steering, weirdly, although this sort of improvement isn't unheard of in a FWD v AWD comparison. And even the engine, older architecture though it may be, sounded and felt better when closing in on the redline. The deal was then sealed when we later drove a 1.6 CDTi in the same FWD manual guise and it too felt much nicer to travel in than the 152hp motor, albeit slightly less energetic in the performance department than any of the petrol versions. Yep, the Mokka X front-wheel drive is a fine little crossover... but class-leading? Probably not, no.

Verdict

Less is most definitely more in the case of the new Vauxhall Mokka X. Don't try and pretend it's an SUV, instead accepting its chief attribute of being a decent, road-biased crossover - thus, you want to stick with front-wheel drive, a manual gearbox and one of the pre-existing engines; we'd say the CDTi is the better all-rounder but the 1.4 turbo is a little more sporty if you like the odd back-road blast from time to time. This policy of sticking to the lower end of the Mokka X range brings a whole host of dynamic benefits as well as a considerable cost saving over the flawed new flagship AWD auto variant, but even though the handsome Mokka X has been improved by its hefty facelift, it's still not quite good enough to challenge for outright class honours - a Mazda CX-3 would be a preferable alternative.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 15 Sep 2016



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2016 Vauxhall Mokka X. Image by Vauxhall.2016 Vauxhall Mokka X. Image by Vauxhall.2016 Vauxhall Mokka X. Image by Vauxhall.2016 Vauxhall Mokka X. Image by Vauxhall.2016 Vauxhall Mokka X. Image by Vauxhall.

2016 Vauxhall Mokka X. Image by Vauxhall.2016 Vauxhall Mokka X. Image by Vauxhall.2016 Vauxhall Mokka X. Image by Vauxhall.2016 Vauxhall Mokka X. Image by Vauxhall.2016 Vauxhall Mokka X. Image by Vauxhall.








 

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