Opel Mokka X (2017) First Drive

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Opel's small crossover, the Mokka, has only been available in South Africa for a year and a half, but a facelifted version is due soon. Why? It's because the Mokka has been on sale in Europe since 2012, where it has sold particularly well. Replete with a significantly upgraded interior and more onboard technology, X could mark the spot for the second-generation Mokka, which will be available in South Africa in early 2017. Our UK-based correspondent shares his impressions...  

A little more than 600 000 units of the Korean-built compact crossover have found homes across Europe during the past 4 years, but time waits for no man (or small crossover, for that matter): today the Mokka faces a plethora of strong rivals (more than it did when it was new), including the Renault Captur, Mazda CX-5, Honda HR-V, Suzuki Vitara, just to name a few...

When it made its debut at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, the Mokka X became the first Opel model to introduce the "X" segment identifier for the Russelsheim-based firm's future SUV and crossover vehicles. As before, it's versatile, capable and practical, plus now, it's slightly better looking and comes with upgraded connectivity, a nicer cabin and more efficient and quieter engines.


Whereas the pre-facelift Mokka has a somewhat generic appearance, the new one's appreciably more eye-catching.

No more meh

The compact proportions of the new Mokka X – it’s only 4.28 metres long – mean it’s larger than a Nissan Juke, but smaller than a Qashqai. The newcomer's designer, Mark Adams, endowed the X with a stronger, bold look courtesy of 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 in the tail light clusters (LEDs are optional).

On the inside, the Mokka X has a completely new dashboard inspired by the latest Astra with far fewer buttons. Fortunately, the heating, ventilation and aircon controls have been kept away from the interactive touch screen and stand intuitively alone mid-dash. Otherwise, with there being no changes to the body structure, it's pretty much as it was.

Four tall adults can be carried in reasonable comfort. The window design remains poor, with the usual unfortunate effect on visibility. In the back, the rear seats benefit from wide opening doors that simplify the fitment of a child seat, though that sharply rising waistline is likely to restrict the view out for smaller occupants. As for luggage, there's no high boot lip to negotiate and beyond it is a useful 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...


Opel took a major leap in terms of infotainment with the introduction of the Astra and does so again with the Mokka.  

On the technology front, Opel SA could introduce "adaptive forward lighting" LED headlamps, which adapt automatically to common driving situations, on top-of-the-range derivatives. The latest IntelliLink information-entertainment system, which will be available with either the 7- or 8-inch touchscreen display, is well worth the wait. The upgraded infotainment system will also feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, as well as (at least as far as the European market is concerned) Opel OnStar security, guidance, emergency and protection services.

Advanced safety features include forward collision alert, following distance indication, traffic sign assistant, lane alert and lane departure warning.

Targeted at the "lifestyle" set

Mokka X buyers are most likely to be lifestyle enthusiasts rather than car enthusiasts. They will care little that this car isn't quite as sharp and wieldy as a compact hatch, nor that it isn't as practical as a compact SUV/Crossover. Instead, the Opel offers a potentially pleasing compromise between the two.


Whereas the standard luggage capacity is useful, the Mokka X's utility space is particularly impressive.

More good news for Mokka X buyers is that there's an all-new 1.4-litre direct injection turbocharged motor that produces peak power of 112 kW. The engine is available with either a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission.

Meanwhile, the newcomer's on-road behaviour is reasonable enough. The automatic gearbox acts unobtrusively and the manual operates smoothly although the throw is a little long. The steering is precise and firm without being too heavy.

The ride quality varies according to road conditions, but Opel could have devoted more attention to the damping at higher speeds; on bumpy tarmac the car is a trifle bouncy. Apart from that, it’s up to the job, managing to mask the car’s high centre of gravity to a reasonable extent.

Nevertheless, on country roads, no matter how smooth, there’s still too much body roll through the twisty bits carried over from the old model. To experience the Mokka X at its best you’ll need to drive it on dual-carriageways or in town, which is where most owners will use the car most of the time, anyway.


In terms of exterior execution, the Mokka X treads the fine line between SUV machismo and urbane sophistication.

Summary

The Mokka X isn’t going to be the new crossover class-leader – indeed, far from it. The quality of the ride and corresponding handling won’t find many mainstream competitors shaking in their veldskoene but is worth adding that, should General Motors South Africa choose to specify the newcomer as liberally as it did with the new Astra, at least from a connectivity/infotainment point of view, the Opel could trump its rivals in that regard.

Price-wise, it should remain an attractive proposition with reasonably generous specifications. As is often the case, the best value will be found at the less expensive end of the local Mokka X line up, even though traditionally, the small crossover range has been rather limited.

Early models are rolling off the production line at its factory in Zaragoza, Spain; expect the newcomer in local showrooms around mid-January 2017.

Related articles:

Opel Mokka 1.4T Cosmo Automatic (2015) Review
Renault Captur Sunset (2016) Review
Extended Test: Mazda CX-3 2.0 Individual auto [Video]
Crossover Comparison: Honda HR-V vs Mazda CX-3
Ford Ecosport 1.0 Titanium (2013) Review
Suzuki Vitara 1.6 GL+ (2016) Review

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