Meet the Mokkas - but don't expect too much excitement
Last week I was giving out about the confusion that can arise from car makers giving their vehicles numbers for names. I stick by what I said. Cars should have names. But I've walked into an uppercut this week. I've been driving a car with a name alright.
A Mokka. A what?
A Mokka. From Opel.
No, it's not a rude word, though a few acquaintances have attempted to make it sound different, the cheeky devils. The Mokka is a small 'crossover' in the modern vein of smart, muscular 'SUV-like' motors.
Some of these have mad names too. Among the Opel newcomer's rivals are the extraordinary looking Nissan Juke (!) and the more muted and highly regarded Skoda Yeti.
On the face of it, this Mokka ticks a good few boxes. It has a really smart design, an instantly recognisable Opel interior, great driving position, an apparently powerful 1.4-litre (140bhp) turbo petrol engine (there is a diesel), reasonable road tax and, in the case of my test motor, all-wheel-drive. And it looks good (quite a standout in 'snowflake' white). Mine also had leather in the cabin and sporty seats. And a six-speed manual gearbox.
It certainly caught the eye but, somehow, never quite fired my imagination. It has as much room as the Yeti, I'd say, and a noticeable amount more than the Juke (I had a look in one so I feel fairly sure of that).
But it didn't have that solid sportiness of the Yeti or, (perhaps thankfully) the madcap devil-may-care nature of the Juke which makes it what it is – a Juke.
I think I could recommend this to you for a test drive on a number of fronts. But I would have to say – hand on heart – it fell a bit short of what I expected in three crucial areas.
The petrol engine was okay but only to a point. Despite its considerable 140bhp power it wasn't the sparkler I expected.
Definitely not helping it was a poor enough gear change. I hate using the cliche 'notchy' but this just wasn't precise and clean enough for the job in hand.
Additionally, I (and I suspect thousands of others) have become so accustomed to the phenomenal ability of diesel engines to dig out pulling power at low revs in high gears that we are bitterly disappointed when that doesn't happen. It didn't with this 1.4-litre petrol. I have a strong inkling the 1.7-litre diesel (130bhp and it is front-wheel drive) in the Mokka line-up could be a better bet.
Thirdly, the suspension should have been a good deal better. These cars are supposed to be a bit of fun as well as accomplishing the basics.
In fairness, they did some work on the suspension but it just didn't give me that 'drive me' feel you get when a cars feeds back the excitement of movement. I just love that. Not enough of it around, I'm afraid.
Now, in fairness, on the tested version there was all-wheel-drive and, on slippery old roads, it gave me a decent feel of traction and grip.
That's a big thing these days. Under normal conditions the system just drives the front wheels. When it does, I noticed the tail end a bit light when I took a few more severe twists and turns. When the roads are wet or frosty, the system detects slippage and gives more power/traction to the rear wheels as well.
So it is a bit of a mixed bag and really in these tough times, it needs to be more.
By the way, I love the following sentence from Opel: "Available as standard on SE models, the Opel Mokka will also be equipped with ergonomic seats that have been certified by the independent healthy back experts AGR ("Aktion Gesunder Rücken e.V.").
Well, let me tell you they haven't ergonomically certified my back. I genuinely thought the seats were uncomfortable. My grumpy Mr Lumbar wasn't happy. But the brother's equally timorous lower notches were in heaven. On a 250km stint (with a load of stuff shunted to the midlands), he several times remarked on how brilliantly supportive he found his front seat. Therein lies a big lesson for us all. You've just got to try out a car to see if it 'fits' you.
Some of this fitted well; some elements didn't. I liked the look of it, the cabin, and practicality of the cargo area when we dropped the rear seats. But I believe it could have been a good deal better.
We are unlikely to forget the name but I'm not sure the numbers add up as well as they might.