Updated to include a classier cabin, the Mokka continues to carve its own path in the ever-popular crossover segment...
As diverse as they are popular, by definition crossovers blur traditional segment lines by offering customers a best-of-two-worlds package that suits their needs. Predominantly based on the underpinnings of a related passenger vehicle, a crossover's appeal usually lies in the combination of increased interior space, a suitably raised ride height, a hint of additional ruggedness and, of course, the sense of adventure that the aforementioned sturdy stance promises.
Boasting 131 mm worth of ground clearance and a raised driving position that's taller still, together with faux scuff plates, front and rear, and all the additional off-road prowess that black-plastic wheelarch protection affords, the Opel Mokka is a prime example of what can be achieved from relatively humble (Chevrolet Sonic) beginnings.
Launched globally in 2013, the Mokka's delayed arrival in South Africa (2015) means that the 2 600-plus units that have already sold here are now superseded by an updated range, henceforth to be known as the Mokka X. While the vehicle's dimensions remain unchanged, the most obvious update to the exterior styling is a revised, handsome front-end, incorporating new LED-highlighted head- and foglamp clusters, a fresh family grille and, ironically, colour-coding where the previous model boasted tough-looking black plastic. Where the Mokka had an 18-inch alloy wheel-size option, the new range features 17-inch rubber on entry-level Enjoy spec (as tested here), with high-end Cosmo models now fitted with 19-inch items.
The big change to the revised Mokka range's interior packaging is an Astra-inspired facia. The previously fussy arrangement of controls and functions for the climate control and audio settings has made way for an altogether neater and more logical interface. In entry-level Cosmo specification, at an additional cost of R6 700, this new facia houses Opel's clever R4.0 IntelliLink touchscreen infotainment system (it’s standard in the Cosmo), although adding satellite navigation is an extra R10 700 on both models. As before, the presence of logically arranged subsidiary buttons for audio, telephone and cruise-control functions on the steering wheel is a boon.
If there was one gripe about the interior treatment of our particular test unit, it was that the chrome lining around the instrument cluster reflected unwanted glare both onto the dials and towards the driver's eye line. Otherwise, perceived fit and finish are commendable. Aimed at younger family buyers, as well as the young at heart, the cabin boasts a welcome array of storage options, including a deep bin ahead of the gear lever, a part of the facia that is strangely blanked off in the Astra to provide a fixing point for a number of aftermarket accessories. Where Opel could look to further improve matters of storage is by including surfaces that are lined with rubber; as it stands, items placed in these bins tend to rattle about when the vehicle is on the move.
While the luggage bay offers a respectable amount of packing space for day trips, its relative lack of depth compared with more SUV-inclined offerings in this segment may hamper the Mokka's chances of appealing to buyers looking for a weekend-away family chariot. When not required, however, both the rear-seat cushion and backrest can be folded forward (60:40) to reveal a nearly flat, extended load bay. Further denting its practical credentials is the absence of air vents aft, as well as the omission of a 12 V power socket at the rear in Enjoy specification. Due to a relatively slender stance (1 764 mm wide), shoulder room for even three slightly built adult passengers in the rear of the Mokka is also at a premium.
Offered exclusively with a 1,4-litre turbopetrol engine, the Mokka X range can be ordered with a choice of either six-speed manual or six-ratio automatic transmission. Our test unit was equipped with the latter and, while it offers slick, fuss-free shifts in auto mode, the driver can control the unit's operation with up-and-down buttons atop the gearlever. The impressively punchy 103 kW engine feels (and sounds) most comfortable within the lower reaches of its rev range; run it towards its 6 500 r/min redline and the unit starts taking strain. Operated sedately, however, it's generally frugal – we averaged just 6,9 L/100 km on our mixed-conditions 100 km fuel route.
While that raised driving position aids excellent all-round visibility, some lankier members of our team felt that the combination of a tall seating position and aforementioned relatively narrow body leads to a top-heavy sensation from behind the wheel. Nevertheless, despite a lack of feedback through the light steering setup, the Mokka offers a surefooted and composed driving experience that most will find pert rather than busy. Although the fitment of cushy 215/60 R17 rubber lends the Enjoy model a generally more cosseted ride compared with both its higher-spec (Cosmo) sibling and its low-slung Astra cousin, we noted that this harmony can feel slightly unsettled by sudden changes in road surface conditions. Adding peace of mind to the purchasing experience is Opel's standard five-year/120 000 km warranty and a five-year/90 000 km service plan.
Based on the impressive sales the previous model racked up in just 18 months in the local market, it's clear the quirky Mokka compact crossover, backed by a resurgent Opel brand, has struck a chord with South African audiences. Where we previously had reservations about the pricing of the top-of-the-range Cosmo model when compared with more spacious or established rivals (including the Nissan Qashqai and Ford Kuga), the more affordable Enjoy, especially when specified with an optional touchscreen, offers more bang for your buck.
By its very nature, a cross-over won't appeal to everyone. What the Mokka X does well is embrace its quirkiness and offer something slightly different to the norm for those buyers who aren't necessarily looking for family-spec packing space. While not ultimately as refined in terms of interior trim as its similarly priced Astra equivalent, the Mokka X nevertheless builds on an already compelling package that, together with the Adam, neatly complements Opel's more traditional modern offerings.
*From the February 2017 issue of CAR magazine