Warmer temperatures at last, this week, so no Deep Espresso pic: instead something more apt (we hope, for the long weekend)
A suitably mud-coloured Vauxhall Mokka recently turned up for review at Glenn Brooks' home. He now sees why GM's little SUV is selling up a storm in Europe.
Opel-Vauxhall might label this an SUV but you wouldn't want to venture too far off the tarmac, let alone into the sticky stuff or, as they say where I'm from, the drink (translation: 'water' - A-stray-ya is two thirds desert).
No, I wouldn't be attempting to drive through deep mud or ford a rising river in one of these. But that's hardly the point - buyers in Britain, and in other EU markets (dear Mister UKIP boss man, it's all one big region called Europe to a naive import such as me, and you're doubly cool in my books for having TWO French names you lucky sod) just love that commanding driving position and the posh-butch vibe I guess you get as an owner.
The Mokka and I were new to one another when Vauxhall's delivery man showed up outside my flat recently. "Nice colour; unusual," I said, "yes, mocha," he retorted. Indeed. Inside, there was more brown and that included the steering wheel, column stalks, handbrake, dashboard, seats and carpets. And a beige headliner. It sounds awful, but it wasn't. And neither was this: Opel's designers had even inserted chunks of blue into the middle of the dash. Somehow it managed to look very 2013, rather than oh-dear-god-it's-1973-in-here. By the by, the official colour name is Deep Espresso.
Last year's Geneva motor show was where we first saw the Mokka and while the Nissan Juke was even then, already selling up a storm across Europe, GM Europe cleverly decided to label both the Mokka and its eventual sister the Trax as SUVs. So there IS a case for calling the Opel, Vauxhall & Chevrolet triplets (or quads if you include North America's Buick Encore) crossovers but the marketing people think SUV is more appealing. As far as the platform name goes, it's 'GM Sub-Small', I've been told by Vauxhall. Mostly Gamma 2 modules but the architecture is unique to the Mokka-Trax-Encore.
The Opel went on sale in LHD European markets in October 2012, with RHD cars reaching Vauxhall dealers in the UK and Opel outlets in the Irish Republic respectively the following month. There is a choice of a 1.7-litre turbo diesel, a 1.6-litre petrol and a 1.4-litre petrol turbo. I tried the first of these and its torque output was definitely up to the job, though the heaviest load I had on board was a combined 200kg of occupants plus IKEA odds and sods.
The diesel in my car will be replaced in due course by GM's new 1.6-litre. This, in 136PS form, has just succeeded the 1.7 in the Zafira Tourer. We saw the 1.6 CDTi as a world premiere at the Geneva show in March. I'm not so sure that the other new diesel, a 195PS 2.0 BiTurbo is also headed the Mokka's way, but if it is, it would be an absolute cracker. The change in powerplant from 1.7 to 1.6 is all to do with Euro 6 compliance. The supposedly outmoded larger capacity unit was really very good in my test car so the new one will have to be superb to top it.
That new engine might be from Europe (Szentgotthárd in Hungary, which opened just last September) but the Mokka is manufactured at GM Korea's Bupyeong plant. It goes down the same line as the Buick and Chevy, as well as a Holden-badged version of the Trax for the Kiwi and Aussie markets.
That's not the complete production story, though: the little Chevy is also made in Mexico at San Luis Potosi, plus there is more build by Shanghai GM. Like the Mexicans and Canadians, Chinese buyers are offered the 1.4 turbo as their main engine choice. You can't buy a Chevrolet Trax in the US, by the way, as GM thinks potential customers are already well served by the slightly larger Equinox.
No need to commit all those build details to memory as you won't be needing them for the successor model. Back in March, Opel's board member for Strategy, Thomas Sedran, stated that the next Mokka would be manufactured in Europe, not Korea. Expect that to be around 2019 but before then, we'll see some new engines as mentioned earlier and as noted in the linked news story. Before then, a scheduled mid-life styling refresh should appear around 2015 or 2016.
I have just heard from a contact within one of Opel-Vauxhall's rivals that its own small but sadly unsuccessful European-built MPV is headed for the chop. I had asked him why still no news on a facelifted model and got that answer: perhaps that will help you to work it out. Such is the pace of change now that the brand in question is switching its own efforts in the B-MPV segment to rush a B-SUV into production as quickly as possible.
No doubt the 2008 and Captur will soon start to steal a slice of the Mokka's pie, and then the 500X and 'Jeepster' will be after some of the action for Fiat and Jeep from 2014, as will the EcoSport and Honda's challenger plus others. But right now, and who would have thought this possible from the old GM - it's hard to argue against the fact that the Mokka is a deserved best in class.