+ Looks great
+ Petrol, diesel, and EV options
+ Good equipment levels
- Terrible automatic gearbox
- Not much fun to drive
- Small boot versus rivals
Verdict: The new Vauxhall Mokka is a huge improvement over the model it replaces. While far from the most inspiring thing to drive spiritedly, its distinctive design and strong equipment levels will win it plenty of fans. However, specification is key and we’d avoid the poor automatic gearbox option.
The original Vauxhall Mokka was a runaway success with many populating supermarket car parks and the school run today. However, it didn’t gain popularity through being an excellent contender, more the virtue of being cheap at a time when everyone and their mother wanted a compact SUV. The motoring press at large wasn’t impressed, but things are very different for this all-new second-generation model. Namely, it’s actually a good car.
It’s certainly a much more visually enticing machine than before with a distinctive character inspired by a Vauxhall concept car. It’s the first model to adopt the new family face that features a gloss black ‘visor’ that spans its width and incorporates the headlights. This SUV has a strong stance and capitalises on people’s desire to customise their car. There’s various two-tone colour details to make your Mokka more individual, not to mention the offer of a striking Mamba Green shade.
The interior has also been totally transformed with grey plastics banished in favour of higher quality materials and interesting design. Contrasting elements add character, while a large digital drivers display and infotainment screen dominate the dashboard. It’s worth noting that there’s still plenty of physical switchgear on the console – no bad thing as the virtual buttons of rivals prove difficult to use on the move.
Cabin space is pretty good with front passengers having nothing to worry about, and those in the back accommodated just fine. Sure, it doesn’t have class-leading head or legroom, but an average size adult will fit without issue. There is a small transmission hump in the floor, but this is minimal. The boot is outclassed by many rivals, but 350-litres is enough for a weekly shop and it does feature a handy bag hook to stop solitary items from flying all over the place. There is a notable load lip to overcome, but higher spec cars get a false floor to help.
Under the skin, this Mokka shares a platform with the Peugeot 2008, which itself is a commendable effort in the class. In that regard, it mimics many traits such as a reassuringly stable driving manner and good body control. The Mokka does ride a little firmer than its sibling over lone road imperfections, but it’s far from intolerable. Refinement is pretty good with the petrol options being particularly hushed.
Speaking of engines this Mokka also shares the same engine lineup as the Peugeot with a pair of three-cylinder petrol engines, a diesel, and an all-electric version. The 1.5-litre diesel delivers strong real-world fuel economy ideal for those spending plenty of time on the motorway, and the refined petrol units are punchy enough – although, we would opt for the more powerful 129bhp unit. All engines come with a six-speed manual, with the most potent petrol also given the choice of an 8-speed automatic gearbox. Avoid this at all costs. Our test car’s transmission, while slick in transitioning cogs, proved hesitant at times and had a nasty habit of rolling backwards on hills. Stick with the manual, something that better suits the eager three-cylinder engine.
Cars such as the Ford Puma get to keep their crown for the best handling in the segment as the Mokka delivers a rather soulless drive. To be honest, most buyers won’t care for chassis dynamics but this SUV’s anonymous steering leads to a sense of detachment. Light control weights are great when manoeuvring around town, but at speed, they tend to rob the steering of a sense of confidence.
The Vauxhall Mokka is far from the most engaging car to drive in its class and is certainly less charismatic than the handsome Peugeot 2008, but it is such a marked improvement over its predecessor. It’s not the value proposition it was once before either – a good thing – instead offering a package that can sell on its merits and not on how much it is discounted. This is a car that deserves to do well, providing you avoid that automatic transmission.
The cabin of the old Mokka was a real letdown with cheap plastics and a generally characterless design. Things have dramatically changed for this second-generation car that features a modern interior with more upmarket materials and superior tech. A cascading dashboard can be had in a few different finishes that really elevate a sense of quality in design. There are still some hard surfaces around, but the majority of touchpoints have been coated in materials that are nice to the touch.
There’s plenty of adjustability in the driver’s seat, meaning that everyone should be able to find a comfortable position. While the seats are supportive enough on short trips, there’s a lack of lower back support that’s noticeable when spending a few hours behind the wheel.
All Mokkas come with at least a 7-inch infotainment system, but SRi Nav Premium trim and better come with a huge 12-inch display. The larger screen is well worth the upgrade thanks to its bigger icons that make it easier to operate at a glance. Its native software is fine but can feel a bit clunky at times, but the good news is that both support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s also worth noting that this Vauxhall has retained plenty of physical buttons as opposed to virtual ones, making this arguably more ergonomic than many rivals with virtual alternatives.
The Vauxhall Mokka seats five with front passengers happily accommodated. The back row might not be class-leading in terms of space, but your average adult will happily occupy the outermost seats over a distance without issue. The middle passenger does have to deal with a modest transmission hump, but this is smaller than what you’ll find in many competitors. A bigger issue is the relatively small door opening that can make installing a child seat a bit more difficult.
The boot measures 350-litres, and while it’s not the biggest out there, the aperture is wide and the land space is nice and square. There is a sizeable load lip to overcome if you’re stacking heavy items, and only higher specification cars come with a false floor to level this out. A more annoying issue with the boot is that the release catch lives just above the number plate, not only being logical but also filthy most of the time.
Its rear bench folds 60:40 to give some flexibility when transporting longer items, or fold it flat for 1,105-litres of space. Something that is worth noting is the handy bag hook that stops lone items from rolling around the boot.
Vauxhall’s attitude to powertrains is spot on in this time of transition between combustion and electrification. Some people want to stick with a petrol car, others still need the economy of a diesel, while there are many considering their first EV. The Mokka covers all bases.
Let’s focus on combustion as you can read more about the electric Mokka in its own review. There are a pair of petrol engines up for grabs, both 1.2-litre petrols with one producing 99bhp and the other 129bhp. For pottering around town the lower-powered car will be without fault, however, if you're regularly laden or constantly venture onto faster roads, the 129bhp option is our pick of this pair.
The 1.5-litre diesel is absolutely the right choice if you are clocking substantial motorway miles. Real-world economy is highly impressive from this engine, and while maybe not quite the smoothest diesel out there, it is refined once up to speed. Good torque also makes light work of overtaking dawdlers on the M3.
Most engines come standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, but there is the option of an 8-speed automatic for the petrol units. We’d strongly advise against the latter as our test car with the 129bhp engine and an automatic-equipped proved poor. The action of the gearbox is smooth enough, but it had a bad habit of rolling backwards on hills and being slow to engage when the start/stop restarted the engine. It was a slightly worrying and frustrating experience. Stick with the manual cars, which is the only option for the diesel engine.
If you’re looking for an involving drive, rivals such as the Ford Puma and Seat Arona are what you should aim for. The Vauxhall has little interest in being hustled along an entertaining B-road, though the feisty petrol engines are certainly eager enough. The steering lacks the clarity and communication of the Ford, and an Arona is far keener to dive into a corner. That said, this sort of driving is all a bit irrelevant for most compact SUV owners.
Much more applicable is how the Mokka deals with driving about town. Its compact nature makes for an easy car to drive in the hustle and bustle, but you’ll need to step up to an Elite Edition model if you want parking sensors when squeezing into tight spaces. Models with reversing cameras are also recommended to overcome the Mokka’s narrow rear window. Its light steering is well suited to the urban cause, as is the respectable turning circle.
Overall refinement is pleasing, with the petrol engines being particularly hushed. When pushed they do emit a thrum, but this is more amusing than annoying. The ride can be a bit jiggly at low speed, however, things improve at an increased pace and with small alloy wheel options. Body roll is kept in check and road noise is well suppressed. At motorway speeds there’s some wind noise around the pillars, but nothing overly aggravating.
What is annoying is the automatic gearbox of our 129bhp test car. A combination of not reacting fast enough when the stop/start fires the engine and a smidge of turbo lag can result in frustratingly slow getaways from junctions. Worse still, a similar concoction of events on a hill leads to the car rolling backwards – not good at all. Gearbox refinement is fine, but we’d save the cash and stick with a manual car. It’s not the slickest manual in the world, but you’ll at least have more control than the incompetent auto.
Both the petrol and diesel cars do well on the motorway, with the most powerful petrol being a better candidate over the 99bhp alternative. Big mile-munchers are going to want to aim for the diesel, an engine that returns strong economy and have plenty of mechanical shove for bold overtaking.
This new Vauxhall Mokka bears no resemblance to the lacklustre performance that came before it. It’s a genuinely competent little SUV, and while there are plenty of rivals to turn your head, there’s now no shame in owning a Mokka.