It is generally anticipated that ‘next generation’ models, from any car manufacturer, should prove to be better than the outgoing alternatives, states Iain Robertson, who recognises that Vauxhall’s customer choice is curtailed by Sino-Gallic ownership.
The compact crossover epitomised by cars like the good Renault Captur and the significantly more enchanting Suzuki Vitara, based as they are on smaller models in a carmaker’s line-up, should be little bundles of fun. They should also provide more space than their progenitors, while retaining a high degree of affordability but losing not an ounce of desirability over their smaller brethren, none of which aspects have been achieved by the Vauxhall Mokka. In fact, to save Vauxhall any further embarrassment, my advice is not to read any more of this review.
When I first caught sight of the new Mokka in full production trim, as opposed to last summer’s camouflaged pre-launch report, I was able to spot the visual fun much in evidence. Looking like the bubbly nine-year old it is (in name, at least), it appears to have kept wearing its Wellington boots, which is probably just as well, as it darts from one puddle to another, splashing because it can but also refusing to remove them at the back door, before jumping on the furniture. While frowned upon resolutely by the anti-smacking brigade, Mokka may have just endured its first haircut but still needs admonishment to halt unruliness.
Based on what it calls loosely the Opel/Vauxhall Common Modular Platform that also underpins Corsa and Peugeot 2008, almost as if the former General Motors’ charge had retained some independence (even though it has none at all, through being comprehensively subsumed into PSA ideology), the new Mokka breaks with tradition by being shorter but wider than its antecedent. The difference in wheelbase is negligible, which creates the first major negative: the cabin is cramped.
Lacking in the rear-seat flexibility of some of its rivals, a 350-litre boot is about the same as that of the Corsa and will always feel insufficient. You can ignore most of the pictures related to rear seat leg and headroom, because there isn’t any. Yet, there is enough front seat adjustment range to create adequate space for a pair of six-footers, leaving the rear for stowage purposes of goods but not for people, which means that the young families, at which Mokka is aimed, are being seriously short-changed.
If you like the sharply crisp front-end exterior styling, which Vauxhall calls ‘Vizor’, also a feature of the equally mockable Crossland, you might also like the crisp new, digital dashboard layout that is dramatically different to the previous chunkiness that Vauxhall used to employ. There are two versions, though; the first provides a pair of 7.0-inch screens for the less costly variants, while more expensive Mokkas receive a grander 10.0-inch driver’s display and 12.0-inch central touchscreen.
Mention of pricing also introduces the multi-fuel options for Mokka’s engines, which range from 107bhp and 127bhp 1.2-litre petrol-turbos and 109bhp turbodiesel to 134bhp all-electric. The ICE units are all pure PSA, complete with three-cylinder thrum potential; the Mokka-e is typical of the EV breed, noiseless and character-free. However, here’s the slam-dunk…a new Mokka at entry-level will set you back £20,735, while the real ‘shocka’ weighs-in with the EV at £10,105 more and that is after applying the £3,000 government grant! Put bluntly, a new Mokka-e, even with its promised 201miles of range (nearer to 150 in reality) and the typical 30-ish minutes, 80% public recharge time (if you can locate a 100kW fast-charger), or 7.5hrs using a 7kW domestic wallbox for 100% recharge, is sorely overpriced.
When you consider that, come ‘E-Day’, the Mokka-e bought now will be significantly out-of-date in technological terms and will probably be worth only a few hundred Pounds. The better choice, even with escalating fossil fuel prices, will be the diesel (65.7mpg; 114g/km CO2), or the petrols (51.4mpg; 124g/km CO2). Even the most determined ‘eco-warrior’ will struggle to justify Vauxhall’s crooked halo proposition. When it acquired ownership by PSA, we were informed that Vauxhall’s finances were in turmoil; whether lying, or not, the turnaround towards making unit profits happened quickly, which suggests that things were not quite as dire as ‘les Grenouilles’ tried to make out. As a sizeable chunk of all profits made by the new Stellantis Group (which includes Vauxhall, Opel, Citroen, Peugeot, DS and all of the Fiat-Chrysler brands) is settling the debt with its Chinese funders, anybody contributing to it is helping that State-owned operation to proliferate.
Naturally, it helps to know how the new Mokka drives and I am happy to inform that it is as uninvolving as any other product to share the CMP platform. The steering is listless, braking is adequate, handling balance is fine below 55mph but becomes over-excited much above that speed, just like the unruly aforementioned Welly-wearer. While I understand the Mokka’s styling stance, which is not tragic and does deliver superior aerodynamics, Vauxhall, under PSA’s tutelage, is returning to its sometime role as appealing ‘showroom king’, because its overall dynamics can be roundly thrashed by any of its rivals, which has eroded its on-road appeal.
Of course, Vauxhall has dropped the ‘X’ suffix, as with the Crossland, although it still describes its newcomers as ‘SUVs’. Well, grow-up, Vauxhall! Both Crossland and now Mokka are determinedly front-wheel drive and, thus, are marginally bigger hatchback crossovers by any moderately respectable definition. While I detest the smoke-and-mirrors attitude displayed by the People’s Republic of China, which controls worldwide manufacturing, almost across the board, I find PSA’s lapdog stance equally galling. It has removed any of Vauxhall’s grittier brand elements and replaced them with bland neutrality. The new Vauxhall Mokka is a sad example of how to stick to a corporate plan without daring to question it.
Conclusion: Consumers should avoid the Vauxhall Mokka at all costs. Do not be gulled into engaging with its EV model, which costs over 50% more than a petrol-turbo version and is clearly not worth the extra investment. My belief in what used to be a moderately proud British brand has been flipped into disbelief by PSA/Stellantis.