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Frumpy crossover turns into something of a style icon. Does it have substance, too?

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As its old General Motors-era models have been replaced by new PSA-related cars, Vauxhall has had little choice but to accept pretty wide-reaching change to its various cars over the past few years. And with our road test subject this week, it is positively embracing it.

The second-generation Mokka may still be a compact crossover hatchback, but it’s such a different prospect from the car it replaces that you wonder if Mokka owners will even recognise it. In case they don’t, Vauxhall has handily written the model name in large capital letters, Porsche style, across the bootlid.

Mokka is the second model to get a new ‘corporate face’, known as the Vauxhall Vizor. It looks better here than it does on the Crossland, making for a particularly neat, reductionist front end

The old Mokka – a high-roofed, big-boned sort of car in what is known to some as the B-SUV niche – was a surprise sales hit in Europe, clearing more than half a million combined sales for the Opel and Vauxhall brands well before its fourth birthday. Over its total life, more than 200,000 found homes in the UK. But will those same buyers respond to a car that’s been so altered and reinvented? One that’s smaller, lower roofed and lighter than its bulky-looking predecessor – and far bolder looking and more style driven.

We’re certainly not used to Vauxhalls having quite this much visual ‘wow’ factor – and it can’t hurt the sales prospects of a car that may well have to conquest as many customers as it ultimately retains. Vauxhall has also turned up its habitual standard on styling volume for the interior, as we’ll explain in due course.

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It is clearly aiming to make a statement: flexing some atrophied design muscle, and inviting people to consider a Vauxhall who might never have before.

Read on, then, to find out how much more than meets the eye there is to discover here.

The Vauxhall Mokka line-up at a glance

The Mokka comes with a choice of petrol, diesel and battery-electric, with a bit of a gulf on price between the upper-level petrol and the EV, although lower running costs may offset some of that.

There are seven trim levels, the uppermost of which – Launch Edition – won’t be a permanent fixture. Versions with factory navigation are denoted by a ‘Nav’ suffix. Those without it still get touchscreen infotainment with phone mirroring.



2 Vauxhall mokka 2021 RT hero side

Just like Vauxhall’s current Vauxhall Corsa, which arrived in the UK 18 months ago, the new Mokka uses the PSA-lately-turned-Stellantis-group’s Common Modular Platform (or CMP) as its mechanical basis. Just like the Corsa, it offers a choice of petrol, diesel and all-electric propulsion. But as a compact crossover SUV rather than a conventional supermini, its closest relation is probably the DS 3 Crossback (with which it shares a production line in Poissy, France – although Peugeot’s Peugeot 2008 must also be a pretty close sibling).

Quite plainly, this is a car with which Opel and Vauxhall are seeking to make an impact – and they should. That’s why its proportions have changed so much: the new Mokka is 124mm shorter than the old one, with a roofline almost 130mm lower, and a stance that has grown by 10mm in overall width and by 2mm between the axles. The bet that Vauxhall has made is that more customers will be attracted by the car’s new-found style than may be turned off by any loss in head room, raised-hip-point-related ease of entry or general practicality.

Vauxhall basically chucked away the old Mokka’s styling and started again, which might explain the model name emblazoned across the bootlid. Someone probably thought it looked ‘premium’, too.

Much of the Mokka’s styling has been derived from the firm’s pillarless GT X Experimental concept car of 2018. Vauxhall’s habitually conservative paint palette has also been expanded to include Mamba Green, Voltaic Blue and Power Red (as tested).

Our test car ran the more powerful of two available 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engines, producing 129bhp and 169lb ft. There is also a 1.5-litre turbo diesel, whose 109bhp of peak power makes it slot in between the two petrols. All combustion-engined versions use a six-speed manual gearbox as standard and the upper-level petrol is available with an eight-speed torque-converter automatic as an option (which our test car had). All versions have strut-type front suspension, a torsion beam rear axle and front-wheel drive.

The electric Mokka-e tops the range for both price and power. It’s the only Mokka for which a 0-62mph claim of less than nine seconds is made, and then only by a whisker.

However, all versions offer some succour to the idea that this might now be one of the more interesting cars to drive in a pretty dynamically uninteresting class. They are up to 120kg lighter than the old Mokka as well as being smaller, lower, wider tracked and, depending on the model, up to 30% torsionally stiffer.


11 Vauxhall mokka 2021 RT dashboard

As with the Mokka’s exterior styling, the cockpit is adventurous by its maker’s habitual conservative standard.

While some of the ways in which it catches your eye ultimately do the car’s overall chances of impressing more harm than good, it ends up looking and feeling almost as much of a departure from within as it does from without. Having first lifted your feet over the car’s trip hazard of a sill (something we’ve noted about every car we’ve tested on this platform to date), you settle into a medium-high-set seat, and in front of an appealing, materially rich and varied dashboard.

Vauxhall’s Pure Panel display layout is pretending to be a Mercedes-style sweep of interconnected digital display real estate, but it isn’t that convincing.

An integrated-looking duo of digital infotainment and instrumentation screens sweeps across behind the steering wheel and into the upper centre stack. Vauxhall calls this its ‘pure panel’: an attempt to notionally claim as its own a design convention that’s becoming quite common among the latest models being launched. Within it, you get a pair of 7.0in screens in entry-level cars, expanding to 10.0in for the infotainment system and 12.0in for the digital dials on top-of-the-line Mokkas. The thinking is that by surrounding both configurations in gloss black plastic, both better fit into the cabin architecture around them; and perhaps they do, although if you don’t like cars with lots of gloss black plastic, you’re unlikely to take to it.

The instrument screen is quite sparsely designed and perhaps a touch oversimplified. It relays a rev counter at an oddly small scale and declines to include a classic, analogue-style speedometer in any of its display modes. The instrument screen is, at least, protected from the glare of the sun by a thoughtfully positioned shade. It’s strange, then, that Vauxhall’s colour and trim department didn’t think about the potential of the other materials used on the dashboard to reflect light into your eyes. Glossy finishes and convex surfaces abound, and while they do add colour and life to the cockpit, they can certainly annoy you on a bright day.

The Mokka’s rear seats have undeniably shrunk a little for adult-appropriate passenger space. We measured less rear head room and quite a lot less typical rear leg room here than we did in the original Mokka in 2012, and less room overall than plenty of current rivals. A smaller adult will be comfortable enough, but that’s about the limit of it; and he or she might be disappointed by the available oddment storage and the lack of a fold-down armrest.

Vauxhall claims that boot space is only marginally less than it was: up to 350 litres now, down from 360 before. All round, though, there’s a good chance that existing Mokka owners will miss the greater practicality of their old car.

Vauxhall Mokka infotainment and sat-nav

The Mokka gets a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system as standard, with smartphone mirroring, USB connectivity and six speakers. It’s not the most generously endowed system, but on a car you can currently secure from your local Vauxhall dealer for under £20,000 after an introductory discount, that’s not bad.

Our Elite Nav Premium test car upped the screen size to 10.0in and added a couple of USB charging ports for second-row passengers. That it’s a reskinned system closely related to the one you might find in a Peugeot, Citroën or DS is made clear by the fact that, as well as having physical heater controls, the Mokka has duplicated digital touchscreen ones, too (because some of its relations don’t have the physical knobs).

Vauxhall’s decision to offer plenty of physical switchgear certainly makes the system more usable. Some testers would have preferred either a separate rotary input device or somewhere more natural to anchor your outstretched left arm when using the touchscreen. The factory navigation system, which recognises spoken destinations and is easy to follow, is probably worth having.


With an easy-to-use two-pedal automatic gearbox, our test car would be equipped to suit a good proportion of the Mokka’s general target audience, you’d guess. Thus configured, it performs adequately, although a more interested driver might still yearn for a little more power or a bit more driver engagement – or both.

The powertrain covers what we might consider the big-ticket items just fine. The three-cylinder engine is a little tremulous under load and can run somewhat roughly when cold, but it generally remains reasonably refined and unobtrusive except when revving hard.

The lane keeping system defaults to‘on’, but there’s a button to disable it simply and easily. It’s a pretty discreet one, and unless you’re on a winding road, you may not notice it even when it’s operating

Despite developing a fulsome-sounding 169lb ft of torque, though, it’s an engine that you’ll need to work hard when getting up to motorway speed and overtaking on A-roads. It feels strong enough when doing so, but not particularly assured or potent. The rest of the time, particularly around town, there’s more than enough urge on tap, but with rivals offering more power and torque, we can probably mark down out-of-town authoritativeness as one of the Mokka’s slight vulnerabilities.

Being a bit slow to downshift and then reluctant to grab the next gear under acceleration, the automatic gearbox has the effect of sapping the car’s responsiveness and overall performance level just at little. You can initially select gears for yourself using the manual mode and shift paddles but, with no kickdown switch on the accelerator pedal, you never feel as though you’re in total control of the transmission, which often downshifts of its own accord even in manual mode when you get to the bottom of the throttle pedal’s travel. It was because of this that we failed to record in-gear acceleration figures.

The fine-tuning of the car’s drivability is broadly inoffensive, but it lacks a little attention to detail. Vauxhall has chosen to make the brake pedal come to rest a bit higher and prouder than the accelerator does, so that when you’re holding the car stationary on the former, you can simply slide your foot directly off to the right and immediately onto the latter to move off. That’s fine, but it encourages you to hold the car on the brake pedal at traffic lights and junctions (which, some would say, is a bad habit) and it also means you have to lift your foot up to get it back onto the brake, which is a bit awkward.

Compounding that awkwardness somewhat is a transmission that’s a little too keen to creep forward on a trailing throttle and a brake pedal with a mushy-feeling, poorly defined bite point. Conniving together, they make this car harder to drive at manoeuvring speeds than it need be – but only mildly irksome at worst.


21 Vauxhall mokka 2021 RT on road front

There was an intention here, quite plainly, to make the Mokka at least a little bit fun to drive. It stands out from its competitors in other ways, after all, so why not?

Vauxhall has therefore gone for slightly firmer-than-class-average suspension rates in the car and has conjured just the merest hint of tenacity and roll resistance in its handling, for your driving pleasure. Unfortunately, and for a few reasons, it hasn’t quite delivered the fully resolved, gently amusing and engaging drive that it might have been aiming for; and neither, predictably, has it given the Mokka what you might consider a Vauxhall-typical sense of ride comfort or everyday dynamic versatility.

Drivers will find the Mokka’s handling to be respectable, predictable and fail-safe, but enthusiasts won’t find the agility or engagement available in, say, the Ford Puma.

That the Mokka’s steering is particularly light and anodyne at low speeds may make it easy to park and well suited to the typical compact crossover customer, but it’s no great invitation to enjoyment. It actually weights up quite a lot as your speed increases, and so the car generally follows the path you’ve chosen for it obediently enough around town, and has reasonable stability on A-roads and motorways, being more easy to place precisely than you’d first believed it might be.

But the car never quite feels even moderately agile or keen underneath you. Handling response and cornering balance are respectable if underwhelming, with the always-on electronics activating early (although progressively) to counteract understeer before it can build if you go at a bend with any vigour. Which may be fair enough, because Mokka owners probably won’t do that (and some of them might need a little looking after when they do).

But instead of giving the car good close body control and the pleasing sense of energy and poise at speed of something like a Ford Puma, the Vauxhall’s particular suspension tuning often just makes it feel reactive and tetchy when roused and leads it nowhere.

Firm bushing and compression damping make the ride feel a little wooden and under-isolated over sharper inputs, while the lack of rebound control sometimes makes the car threaten to leap out of dips and off the top of fairly gentle crests and transverse ridges. Head toss, although not severe, is a regular factor on uneven surfaces as well.

Vauxhall Mokka comfort and isolation

The Mokka’s driving position offers good visibility to all quarters and is fairly adjustable and well supported.

Our test car’s driving seat was comfortable and had a good-sized cushion for propping your thighs on, but it didn’t have adjustable lumbar support or cushion extension. Vauxhall offers an upgraded one with a massage function on top-level-trim cars, but whether they’re any more adjustable isn’t made clear.

Massaged or not, you’ll be aware after too long in the front seat that the Mokka isn’t the most settled- or comfortable-riding car in its class.

It isn’t drastically uncomfortable, either, and you might not notice at all around town. But away from urban limits, you don’t need to take an interest in the driving experience to be aware of the repetitive minor disturbance to the general calm of the cabin. You’ll also notice that there’s a fair amount of road surface noise admitted over coarser Tarmac and some wind flutter from around the top of the door seals.

Overall, you still might not consider this an unrefined car in the strictest sense (the in-cabin noise levels we recorded are perfectly respectable), but with sportier versions on larger alloy wheels only likely to penalise ride isolation, the Mokka could certainly do more on this score in order to justify its modest price premium.

Assisted driving notes

Every Mokka gets a crash mitigation and avoidance system operating at low speeds and a lane keeping system as standard. Plump for a mid-spec SRi Nav or Elite Nav Premium model and those are upgraded, the former system operating throughout the whole speed range, and the latter including a switchable Lane Positioning Assistant (albeit only for cars with auto gearboxes).

There’s also a speed limit recognition system, which rarely misses a posted limit. The lane keeping system defaults to ‘on’, but there’s a button to disable it simply and easily. It’s a pretty discreet one, and unless you’re on a winding road, you may not notice it even when it’s operating.

The more interventionist Lane Positioning Assistant is activated separately. It requires only a dead hand on the steering wheel to automatically maintain the car’s position within its motorway lane.


1 Vauxhall mokka 2021 RT hero front

Our upper-mid-trim-level petrol auto test car looks a little expensive next to plenty of its rivals, and it’s outpointed by several on power and performance, and by a few others on CO2 and fuel economy.

It has been positioned as the more desirable downsized hatchback SUV option of two in Vauxhall showrooms (the cheaper and more practical being the Crossland) – and in line with that, it comes with a fairly generous equipment level that includes digital instruments, LED headlights and a full suite of active safety systems, even on bottom-rung models.

E-Call – the ‘connected service’ by which a car alerts the emergency services automatically, and apprises them of your location, if you have an accident – is complemented by ‘b-Call’ on the Mokka: a kind of digital concierge service to help in the event of a breakdown.

Euro NCAP has yet to release its safety test results on the car, but that comprehensive list of safety kit promises a good one. Vauxhall includes Isofix child seat points on the front passenger seat, which is a useful added bonus on practicality.



23 Vauxhall mokka 2021 RT static

The new Vauxhall Mokka is a much smarter, bolder, more ambitious and more desirable car than its predecessor, by margins nobody could miss.

For all of that, we should award it due credit; because if Vauxhall had given us a modernised take on the dowdy and awkward-looking first-generation version, it wouldn’t now be nearly so well placed to pick up sales, and to bring new customers into its showrooms.

The driving experience sells a brave design effort just a little short

This car looks fresh and appealing, feels modern and interesting on the inside and drives easily, comfortably and competently enough. Nevertheless, it is a little lacking in the more measurable on-paper strengths that might have elevated it into the compact crossover top five you see below. It isn’t the most practical car in its class. It doesn’t threaten the plusher operators for upmarket ambience or material quality, either.

Neither is it sufficiently refined, polished, energetic or engaging to drive to really distinguish itself dynamically.

But we suspect none of that will prevent it from succeeding even better than its predecessor in sheer sales terms. If the looks are what you came for, the Mokka’s drive should certainly be good enough not to sour the ownership experience.


Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Vauxhall Mokka First drives