Vauxhall introduces automotive caffeine with hint of chocolate

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ASK a Vauxhall bod the meaning behind the Mokka name and you’ll be told its similar to the coffee only spelt differently – so an automotive caffeine with a hint of chocolate.

Its appearance in the SUV (sport utility vehicle) sector will certainly wake up some of its rivals – the Nissan Juke and Skoda Yeti among them - but whether they’ll feel threatened remains to be seen.

One model it will come head-to-head with is its soon to be launched stable mate the Chevrolet Trax with which it shares a platform and engines.

In appearance, the Mokka is clearly a compact SUV. Solid stance with a pronounced front grille featuring the Vauxhall Griffin logo at its centre, contrasting bumpers and wheel arches with chrome round the windows and on the door handles.

At the rear is a small roof spoiler and a very neat optional integrated FlexFix bike carrier which can be stored in the rear bumper when not in use. Roof rack panels top it all off.

Despite its robust styling, the Mokka has no pretension to off or even soft roading although it does have as standard all the straight and narrow driving aids we have all come to expect - switchable ESP (electronic stability programme); traction control; descent control; hill start assist; and ABS.

It is available with a choice of three engines but has no low ratio gearing or 4WD across the board. It does, however, have an optional intelligent all-wheel-drive set-up which means sensors constantly supply the control modules with data such as the yaw rate, lateral and longitudinal acceleration, steering angle, wheel speed, accelerator pedal position and engine revs and torque.

Under normal conditions, when the road surface is dry, the front wheels drive the vehicle forwards, keeping fuel consumption low. It varies from 100 per cent front-wheel drive to a maximum distribution of torque of 50 per cent on the front and rear axle when, for example, there is surface water or snow on the road.

When traction requires it, the electronic torque transfer device (TTD) automatically and seamlessly sends torque to the rear wheels. The system also kicks in on fast corners detecting and correcting wheel slip within nanoseconds.

The (untested) front-wheel-drive 1.6litre, 113bhp petrol engine linked to a five-speed manual transmission returns 43.5mpg and an average CO2 quota of 153 g/km.

There is also an all-wheel-drive turbo which not only is well worth a test drive but may also take a little, light, off-tarmac diversion. Powered by a 1.4litre 138bhp petrol unit linked to an optional six-speed auto it is a very smooth operator and has the added bonus of returning a touch above 44mpg on average while emitting 149g/km of CO2.

With the equally smooth six-speed manual transmission fitted as standard expect 0-60mph in 9.4seconds and a top speed of 118mph.

The 1.7litre diesel 128bhp tested had more power but was a little rougher round the edges and the six-speed manual gearbox was a little notchy - but these were cars hot off the press and had very few miles on the clock so best put it to the test yourself.

Flexibility

As with the petrol, the manual transmission has the flexibility of front-wheel or AWD but in the case of the diesel the auto is front-wheel-drive only. Official figures put the manual unit ahead with an economy of 62.8mpg and average emissions of 120k/gm. Nought to 60mph takes 10.5seconds and top speed redlines at 116mph.

All manual transmissions are equipped with start/stop which helps keep fuel consumption down.

Inside the well-made cabin there are 19 different storage places as well as space for three in the rear although with a track width of 1549mm (a little over 60 inches), a luggage compartment width of 915mm (about 36 inches) and a cabin width hovering between the two, they need to be of the slim-fit ‘after’ variety rather than the fully inflated ‘before’. Either that or leave someone behind.

Up front, the dash is clearly laid out with nothing to confuse or confound - unlike the price list which requires caffeine without the chocolate to unravel.

The entry-level S spec 1.6litre with a five-speed manual transmission starts at £16,995 and is the only version available in this trim.

The Exclusiv comes with all engine and transmission options at a starting price of £17,995. Tech Line also offers all engines and transmissions but from £15,995 while the top sped SE does the same but at a starting price of £20,495.

Standard spec is at the generous end of the spectrum and includes six airbags, air con, fully adjustable steering column, power mirrors and front windows, digital radio/CD, steering wheel mounted audio controls, cruise control, 60/40 split rear seats, 16-inch steel wheels, remote central locking and daytime running lights.

However, the cheaper Tech Line, aimed specifically at the company car buyer who want a lower list price on their P11Ds, also includes Navi 600 Satellite Navigation system with colour screen and Bluetooth. The downside is that it isn’t available with the marketing programmes offered with other models benefit - from FlexFinance, zero-per cent APR etc. Vauxhall’s advice to the retail buyer is opt for a non-Tech Line model, unless you are paying cash.

Exclusiv adds 18-inch alloys, automatic lights and wipers, USB connection, power rear windows, folding door mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, and an anti-dazzle rear view mirror.

On the road, the new Mokka, which is expected to attract new buyers to the brand, is efficient and comfortable without being over exciting. It does the job of getting from A to B calmly and efficiently, with no fuss - which is as much as most of us need.

Vauxhall expects more than half of all Mokka customers to opt for the front-wheel drive variant with the 1.7litre diesel being the most popular choice, swiftly followed by the 1.6litre petrol with the 1.4litre unit bringing up the rear.