Vauxhall Mokka 1.6 CDTi: the good and the bad

The small crossover market is currently booming, and the Vauxhall Mokka is one of the big hitters in the segment. Indeed, it’s the biggest selling model in the segment across Europe – over 270,000 have been shifted since 2012 – while in the UK it’s second in the popularity stakes behind the Nissan Juke.

The Mokka is a hard car to pigeonhole because it’s larger than rivals like the Juke and the Renault Captur, yet it’s a little smaller than the likes of the Skoda Yeti. We’ve driven the car to uncover the key points that help the Mokka remain a best-seller, and where you might find its competitors do a better job.

We like – the new diesel engine

Vauxhall has recently added a new trio of “whisper” diesels to its model lineup. In its application in the Mokka, we found the middling 1.6-litre unit to be a vast improvement over the old 1.7. While describing it as “whisper” might be a little ambitious, it’s fairly quiet, with even hard acceleration not giving off much diesel grumble.

The power delivery is smooth and linear which means, unlike some turbodiesels, you aren’t frustrated by sluggish acceleration at low revs followed by a sudden surge once the turbo kicks in. The 0-62mph time is 10.5 seconds, which is more than quick enough for most buyers.

Fuel economy is impressive, too. Vauxhall claims it’ll average 58.9mpg and, unlike some manufacturers’ figures, that seems entirely plausible. During our short drive we averaged 53.2mpg, but much of that time was spent sitting in heavy traffic, so anyone with a slightly less painful commute can certainly expect economy in the high-fifties.

It compares well with the Skoda Yeti, whose diesel options either perform similarly but are thirstier, or are more frugal but much slower. CO2 emissions are 109g/km, meaning that the first year’s road tax is free and costs only £20 per year thereafter.

We like: how well it works as a town car

For what in reality is a fairly modestly sized car, the Mokka is taller than you might expect. The driving position is very high – you’re on a level with mid-sized SUVs like the Audi Q5 – which gives the driver an excellent view of the road ahead. It means you feel perched on the seat, unlike in the Nissan Juke, where you’re sat low and snug. It’ll be down to the individual as to which is preferable but the Mokka’s commanding view is very confidence-inspiring.

The steering is light, and combined with a turning circle tighter than you’d find in a Ford Focus, parking and manoeuvring through tight spaces is a doddle. All of the basic controls are easy, if not the last word in driver connection.

We like: the comfort and refinement

As we’ve already covered, the new diesel engine is a pleasant one, and the noise is well suppressed and never intrusive. The rest of the drive fares well when it comes to refinement, too. Compared to the Yeti the likes of wind noise are well-isolated, but road noise can get a little invasive at speed.

The ride quality is certainly worthy of note. Despite riding on large 18-inch wheels, it never felt harsh or uncomfortable, whether pottering around town or driving on open roads.

We didn’t like: driving it enthusiastically

There is a slight trade-off for the smooth ride quality, though. During more spirited driving, the car suffers from body roll in corners. The overly soft damping results in a slightly bouncy, wallowy sensation. The steering is fairly accurate, but doesn’t offer a huge amount of feedback to what is going on beneath the front wheels. It’s certainly not an enthusiast’s car, so it’s best not to treat it like one – it’s unlikely many people will anyway – but the Skoda Yeti and Nissan Juke feel more secure in the bends.

We didn’t like: the interior

The cabin isn’t all bad – there’s plenty of room for four passengers and just about enough space for a fifth in the middle of the rear bench. At 360 litres, the boot isn’t class-leading but it’s marginally bigger than that in the Nissan Juke.

From an aesthetic point of view, however, the Mokka’s insides leave plenty to be desired. The dashboard – though a tidy basic layout – is littered with buttons. The audio system is the chief culprit, and it makes the overall appearance look far too messy. It’s crying out for the large touch screen fitted to the latest Corsa and Adam, which would neaten things up considerably. This wouldn’t have been a problem 10 years ago but the strength of the competition is such that manufacturers can’t afford to cut corners here.

Another bugbear was the handbrake. We’re all for innovation if it improves usability, but sticking the release button along the top of the lever seems like a silly innovation for the sake of it. It’s annoying to use, too – rather than holding a handbrake normally you need to rest your thumb against the top. It’s irritating and pointless, frankly.

Conclusion

Overall, it isn’t hard to see why the Mokka is such a strong seller. It’s comfortable, easy to drive and, if you’re in the market for a diesel, it’s hard to go wrong with the new 1.6-litre.

The Nissan Juke is cheaper and slightly more economical, but it can’t match the Vauxhall for interior space. The equivalent Yeti is roomier, but slower, less well-equipped and marginally more expensive. We started by saying that the Mokka is a tough car to pigeonhole – turns out that it’s a sensible and capable compromise between two of its biggest rivals.

Making a Mokka-ry of its rivals

Take a look at our full aggregated review of the Vauxhall Mokka and the cars it needs to beat – the Skoda YetiNissan Juke and the upcoming Mazda CX-3. Then head over to our car configurator to spec up a Mokka for yourself or take a look at our deals page for our latest discounts.

Vauxhall Mokka

Compact SUV is spacious and safe
5.7
£16,789 - £25,264
RRP
Read review
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