Long term test: Opel Mokka

The thorough testing

We all know them, those long ribbons of tarmac which lead us to the next Namibian town. Usually dead-straight, kissing the hazy horizon and made from 50 shades of grey. Out here you need a proper car, something comfortable with good road-holding, great tunes and a fuel-efficient engine.

Between all the testers at NamWheels we’ve probably driven most Namibian tar roads with every type of car you care to mention. Those we can currently think of include cheap student hatchbacks, old farm bakkies, modern SUV’s, hard-core 4×4’s, vintage sedans, one motorbike, a sporty coupé and a few luxurious sedans.

Out there on the seemingly infinite distances between filling stations and loo breaks you get to know a different side of your automobile. How long before you get numb bum, how does the suspension cope with those ramps near Mariental and how easy is it to read all instruments and displays in the harsh African sunlight?

To finally get to our subject matter, the Opel Mokka Turbo we tested didn’t present any of these issues. Although our press car was a rather impractical black-on-black, it crisscrossed Namibia for two weeks and went back to its caretaker with an extra 3,900km on the clock. And cookie crumbs in the carpets; sorry about that.

The front-wheel-drive compact SUV is propelled by a lusty 1.4-litre turbo-petrol motor worth 103kW or 200Nm. Delivered via a smooth six-speed manual gearbox, it’s that last (torque) figure which means the most in everyday driving, be it highway cruising, overtaking or slight inclines in town.

Speed freaks can gladly gear down and use the 6,000rpm redline to achieve 0-100km/h in 9.8 seconds but every driver agreed that the engine’s excellent mid-range clout suits this comfortable and stable SUV platform well. You don’t need to torture the poor thing, unless you’re in a haring hurry.

We weren’t in a haring hurry. With plenty of time to get to our various destinations, we slotted smooth music into the radio/CD/mp3/USB/Aux/Bluetooth sound system and cruised at (or just below) the speed limits. The result? Relaxing journeys with an overall average fuel use of just 7L/100km. Opel claims 6.4 from the 52L tank.

Had we not explored various towns around the country, that figure would’ve been even better. But then we wouldn’t have discovered that the Mokka is just as excellent to drive in urban environments where it offers great damping, light steering and pedals, great visibility and a decent ride height.

That was especially handy when we visited a stud farm in the east which featured big middelmannetjies and some lengthy sections of soft sand. Our intrepid lady driver simply kept her momentum constant and a keen hand on the wheel to breeze through these obstacles in what is essentially a two-wheel-drive city SUV.

Other praiseworthy items in the Mokka are its good headlights, versatile interior with space for four adults and the 356L boot. This can be extended to a handy 785L if you fold over the rear backrests. For the record, this car is 4,2m long, 1,66m high, weighs about 1,800kg and can tow 500kg (or 1,200 with brakes).

The Opel Mokka is available in four models, all with the same engine but with two trim levels as manual or automatic. Our “Cosmo” test car spoilt us with luxuries like leather, 7-inch touch-screen, heated front seats and heated steering wheel, but we wouldn’t dismiss the cheaper models because they offer decent specs and better value.

Whichever model you fancy, rest assured that we at NamWheels gave the Mokka a thorough testing over thousands of Namibian kilometers; and it never failed to impress. If you’re looking for an agile, frugal, city SUV which can also handle long distances (and the odd farm track), we highly recommend this new Opel!

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