Opel joins the mini-crossover brigade.
The Mokka failed to impress us at launch; can revisions to the suspension change our minds?
Good points: great look, revised suspension makes for much better ride
Not so good: interior still not great, not cheap for the one you want
Test car details:
Model tested: Opel Mokka 1.4 4x4
Pricing: €26,995 (Mokka range starts at €19,995)
Engine: 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Body style: five-door crossover
Rivals: Mitsubishi ASX, Nissan Juke, Skoda Yeti
CO2emissions: 149g/km (Band C, €390 per annum)
Combined economy: 44.8mpg (6.3 litres/100km)
Top speed: 189km/h
0-100km/h: 9.1 seconds
Power: 140hp at 4,900rpm
Torque: 200Nm at 1,850- to 4,900rpm
When we drive a car at its international launch you will regularly see us comment that it will be interesting to get the car onto Irish roads to see how it works here. That is because international launches are carefully planned with a lot of thought going into the route driven, which for the most part involves roads the smoothness of which would make the NTA blush.
There is also the rare possibility that a car will change in some way between us driving it internationally and it arriving in Ireland. Such is the case with the Opel Mokka. When we drove the Nissan Juke rivalling crossover in Germany last year we came down particularly hard on its ride quality with suspension that was unsettled by the smallest ripple in the predominantly smooth autobahn test route.
Before the car arrived in right-hand drive markets the Opel/Vauxhall engineers thoroughly retuned the suspension to better cope with less than perfect roads with the result being a car that works much better on Irish tarmac than we had initially suspected. There is still a loud bang in the cabin when you encounter larger bumps, but the feel is nowhere near as fidgety and it can cope with small imperfections much better than before.
Elsewhere the Mokka remains unchanged, which means it is still blighted by a centre console that is button heavy and difficult to navigate on the move and a satellite navigation system that is at least a generation behind the competition.
It does have its good qualities however; when we tested the car in Germany we drove both the 1.7-litre CDTi and the turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol models. However, we only reported on the diesel, as we suspected everyone would plumb for it. While over 88 per cent of Mokkas registered in Ireland are powered by the CDTi unit there is a still a sizeable chunk of people opting for the petrol model and, in truth, it is a better proposition.
Not only is the turbocharged petrol Mokka the only version available with four-wheel drive, but it is also a much more refined unit than the diesel alternative, which is getting on in years. The petrol engine can be noisy and quite rough when pushed but with 140hp and, more pertinently, 200Nm of torque available from 1,850rpm, it does not need to be pushed hard. It also returns a healthy 6.3 litres/100km (44.8mpg) through the use of 'on-demand' four-wheel drive that allows the Mokka to run as a front-wheel drive car most of the time, only sending power rearwards when the road gets slippery.
So, while better, is there enough to recommend the Mokka now? Yes and no. The car is undoubtedly better than the one driven in Germany, but it still faces stiff competition from established rivals and in the most desirable specification it is still expensive. For the 1.4 turbo in SC trim (the lowest it is offered) you are looking at €24,495. That will buy an awful lot of Nissan Juke and a reasonable amount of Skoda Yeti.
Mitsubishi ASX: somewhat forgotten crossover has the sharp looks and engines to compete but let down by acres of black plastic inside.
Skoda Yeti: more expensive to buy but bigger range of engines to choose from; more refined too.
Nissan Juke: looks not to everyone's taste and interior is full of plastic, but usefully cheaper; even more button heavy interior but higher quality.