First drive: Opel’s new Mokka X crossover hits the spot

Revamped crossover impresses on all fronts

 

Over the years our tastes change. Ireland has gradually been wooed away from our monogamous relationship with loose tea to roasted coffee.

When I was growing up there was no such thing as good coffee in my house. If I wanted an exotic hot drink I had to boil up some milk in a pot and stir in some Nescafe or Maxwell House granules. The resulting milky coffee was the latte of its time.

These days when I go in to a coffee shop I like to think I’m open to trying something different, but I end up going for an obvious choice such as an Americano, cappuccino or skinny latte – who am I kidding? There are of course more types of coffee to choose from down the menu. They may well be delicious but for some reason I never order them.

Our desire for good coffee is very similar to the car buying world’s craving for SUVs. Opel Mokka has been on the menu in Ireland since 2013, with 3,263 sold to date. Its name is derived from a coffee bean, but like the coffee it trails more popular choices.

The small or sub compact SUV class features vehicles based on supermini underpinnings. They are generally priced from around the €20,000-€22,000 mark. Renault Captur, Nissan Juke, and Dacia Duster are the sectors big sellers with Mokka chasing them.

Nipping at the heels of the Corsa-based Opel are some great machines such as the Peugeot 2008, Mazda CX3, Suzuki Vitara, Skoda Yeti, Jeep Renegade and its sister car, the FIAT 500X. What the sector has in common is that they all are targeting the family hatchback buyer.

X marks the spot

Opel is calling its facelifted Mokka, Mokka X and it is well worth experiencing. The five-door machine has done a good job to date of bringing new customers to the brand. Over 600,000 have been sold, with the majority of buyers coming from other brands.

Opel’s new naming culture will see an X added to specialist SUV and crossover types of product. Mokka X is the first off the production line but in 2018 we will see a Tucson/Qashqai-sized rival from Opel. While front-wheel-drive only versions are the most popular, Mokka leads its class for AWD versions in the EU where one in five Mokkas sold is in this format.

Exterior changes are minimal and the platform and footprint remains unchanged. New double eyebrow LED daytime running lights feature and to the side there is the Opel blade design line.

AFL adaptive LED headlights are available for the first time and they come with static cornering lights. Opel says these lights are 50 per cent brighter than conventional halogens. Mokka’s tail lights get the LED treatment also. Mokka X remains chunky, solid and curvy looking.

Surprisingly roomy

Inside the cabin Mokka always surprises me. The exterior design hints strongly that the cabin is small but it is quite the contrary. The refreshed interior is the most significant part of the facelift and it is a nice place to be.

Opel is also proud of its AGR (campaign for healthier backs) ergonomic seats that were fitted to our range-topping test cars in optional leather trim.

Connectivity is high on the agenda with Mokka X and Opel clearly wants to take the lead in its class. OnStar is a concierge service that is standard on the level 2 SC and level 3 Elite models but not on the entry S grade.

Opel describes OnStar as a guardian angel feature. It connects users via the press of an overhead button to an actual human using an in-built data connection. OnStar can provide assistance and even send navigation instructions to the Sat Nav on the Elite model if you wish.

In the case of a collision where the airbags are deployed, OnStar automatically connects to an adviser who will call the emergency services if the occupants are unable to or unconscious.

Tech gadgets

The latest IntelliLink mobile connectivity is a key feature with Mokka X and interfaced via a 7-inch touch screen. An 8-inch screen is used with the range topping Navi 900 on the Elite model. Apple and Android Smartphones can fully integrate with the car via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Our cars were all loaded to the hilt with luxuries and options featured a wifi hotspot that used an in-built T Mobile data sim card. Opel Ireland is yet to activate this feature but when it does it will be via a Vodafone Ireland data sim.

Existing Mokka drivers will like the new and brighter white LED lighting used for the main instrument dials. As you’d expect, a host of electronic driving aids are available such as Following Distance Indication, Forward Collision Alert – that went off a couple of times on me bogusly – and Lane Departure Warning.

Power comes from the familiar range of stop/start petrol and diesel units. A 1.4 litre Turbo petrol is available in two power outputs; 140hp and 152hp. It is also available in front-wheel drive, AWD and in manual and automatic form.

The entry petrol model is a front wheel drive 115hp 1.6 litre. A 136hp CDTI 1.6 litre is the sole diesel. Equipment levels are high with even the entry model getting Bluetooth, cruise control, auto lights and air conditioning.

Excellent diesel engine

Our test cars were powered by the excellent 1.6 litre CDTI whisper diesel that starts from €26,295 for the two-wheel drive SC. Intelligent all-wheel drive raises the price to €27,295 and, as tends to happen at launches, we were in the top trim AWD Elite models that start from €30,245.

The standard six-speed manual gearbox is smooth and delivered the 136hp/320nm to the road efficiently. The ride is comfortable and comparable to more expensive machines. The available torque makes cruising effortless and on the open road you can really hustle the Mokka along.

Cabin refinement is excellent for the class too. Mokka 4X4 uses a clever four- wheel-drive system and the best part is it adds just 65kgs to the car. In dry conditions Mokka 4X4 delivers 100 per cent of its power to the front wheels only. If slippage is detected up to 50 per cent of the drive can be sent to the rear wheels.

Our test route gave us the opportunity to drive through some forest roads and tracks but the ESP Plus, HDC (hill descent) and HSA (hill start) systems weren’t called upon. In fact, we could have managed the off road route in a front-wheel drive Corsa. That said, we had  some familiar damp tarmac to deal with and at no time did the Mokka X feel anything other than composed.

Mokka X arrives in Irish dealerships in October. Prices start from €21,495 for the 115hp petrol 1.6 litre S and rise to €31,745 for the 1.6 litre CDTI automatic.

Opel has refined its blend to make Mokka X well worth sampling.

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