It seems hatchbacks on stilts are being churned out of car factories almost quicker than Donald Trump is changing American laws.
Opel’s Mokka X joined the fray when it was launched in South Africa in December. In truth it was just a name change and an upgrade, as the Mokka has been with us for a year and a half, in which time it’s become one of the best-selling vehicles in its class, behind the Mazda CX-3 and Jeep Renegade.
Now it’s renamed the Mokka X as Opel has decided the letter X will be the new identifier for future Opel SUV and crossover vehicles.
The Mokka’s re-badging comes with revamped exterior and interior styling, the most obvious external one being new headlight clusters with daytime running lamps and LED technology.
We commended the original Mokka for the upmarket look and feel of its cabin and this updated version continues to impress. The interior trim is revised with new upholstery while the dashboard architecture from the classy new Astra has been integrated for a more modern look, along with improved ergonomics.
Apart from its pleasing cockpit ambience, the Mokka X is surprisingly spacious for a car just 4.28m long and four adults can fit inside without any squashing. The 356-litre boot swallows a few suitcases even though it doesn’t have the 393-litre cargo-gobbling capacity of a Honda HR-V and the Opel’s rear seats flip down to accommodate more ambitious shopping expeditions.
As before, two equipment lines are available, the Mokka X Enjoy and the more feature-rich Cosmo.
Both come with a bountiful spec sheet and even the Enjoy is kitted out with electronic climate control, cruise control, an onboard computer, a tilt and telescopic adjustable steering wheel, a radio/CD/Bluetooth/aux audio system and foldable heated side mirrors. Standard safety items include ABS brakes, stability control and six airbags.
Spending an extra R39700 on the Cosmo gets you leather seats instead of the Enjoy’s cloth-covered ones, a heated steering wheel and heated front seats, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear park assistance with a reverse camera and 19” instead of 17” alloy wheels (the spare wheel is a steel space-saver in both versions).
The Cosmo also boasts a high-end Intellilink infotainment system and a driver display. Our test vehicle was fitted with the optional Navi 900 IntelliLink system, which comes with a full colour display and navigation. A truly big stack of toys.
All Mokka X models are powered by a 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine serving up 103kW and 200Nm to the front wheels – no all-wheel drive is available. Both the Enjoy and the Cosmo come in a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed auto.
I’d recommend the manual after spending a week driving the unhurried Mokka X Cosmo automatic. The transmission’s set up for economical driving and saves fuel by keeping the revs down, but it makes the car feel rather listless and doesn’t really bring the best out of what is actually quite a perky engine.
There is decent overtaking torque once you get the gearbox to (eventually) kick down. There really should be a sport mode, as in many other automatic cars, to give drivers the option of a little more driving urgency.
There’s a manual override with small shifting buttons on top of the gear lever but they’re difficult to operate without taking your eyes off the road. The lazy transmission was a bugbear in an otherwise very competent car.
According to Opel’s figures the Mokka X auto will cover the 0-100km/h dash in 10.7 seconds and reach a 191km/h , while the manual’s figures are 9.8 seconds and 196km/h .
Our test vehicle managed 7.6 litres per 100km, which is acceptably economical for a petrol and not terribly far off Opel’s claimed 6.5 litres.
The Mokka X is classed as a crossover, or compact SUV if you like, and its plumage includes plastic skid plates, contrasting sill and wheel-arch mouldings, along with roof rails.
This gives it an “adventure” vibe but with its low ground clearance of just 131mm (compared to some rivals which offer up to 180mm) and front-wheel drive, the Mokka makes no pretence at being an off-road vehicle.
On the tar surfaces for which it is designed, this Opel serves up clean handling that feels just a little spongier than an average car, if we’re nitpicking.
The ride’s fairly good too, though we’re sure the higher-profile 17” tyres on the Enjoy model will deal a little better with bumps and potholes than the Cosmo’s 19” versions.
Among the clutter of crossovers, the Mokka X makes a good case for itself with its appealing styling, practical space and great equipment levels for the price. But that lazy auto gearbox could be a deal breaker for some.
Opel Mokka X 1.4T Turbo cosmo auto
Engine: 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbopetrol
Gearbox: 6-speed auto
Power: 103kW @ @ 4900-6000rpm
Torque: 200Nm @ 1850-4900rpm
0-100km/h (claimed): 10.7 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 191km/h
Price: R368 100
Warranty: 5-year / 120 000km
Service plan: 5-year / 90 000km
Nissan Juke 1.6T Tekna – 140kW/240Nm – R359 900
Mini Cooper 1.5T Countryman auto – 100kW/230Nm – R440 000
Mazda CX-3 2.0 Individual auto – 115kW/204Nm – R365 400
Honda HR-V 1.8 Elegance – 105kW/172Nm – R395 400
Fiat 500X 1.4T Cross auto – 103kW/230Nm – R364 900
Jeep Renegade 1.4T Limited – 103kW/230Nm – R409 900