BMW’s classiest tuners work their thoughtful magic on the ultimate diesel X3
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Vauxhall Mokka. Remind me… Open your eyes. The Mokka is everywhere. It’s consistently in the UK’s top 10 seller list. That carries it to the head of the increasingly congested sales table for small crossovers. And now? Now we have the Mokka X, its mid-life facelift. The designers stepped up with new headlights (all-LED in upper trims) bolted into new front wings, a wider grille, and fresh front and rear bumpers. Inside, there’s a complete new dash. Touchscreens (7in or 8in) are standard. The instruments are new, nicely backlit in LED white. Any advantage to this fiddling? The outside looks smoother and more modern, definitely. Inside, we bid a not-fond farewell to the old low-res screen and over-abundance of buttons. The new infotainment systems include OnStar as standard on all models. This brings high-speed in-car wifi, remote accident and breakdown rescue, remote fault diagnosis, theft tracking and remote lock/unlocking. The base-model system uses Apple Carplay/Android Auto to mirror your phone’s navigation and music on the screen. The top-level system has that too, but also its own nav. You can call the OnStar centre and have them send a destination to your system. Or at least you can in theory. Of three attempted destinations I used in my test drive, it managed only one. In the first case the call centre guy repeated the address back to me, then sent me 41 miles from where I wanted to be. I noticed in good time, and ignored it. On another occasion the system failed to accept the download at all. Never mind, even without that feature (which few other cars have anyway) it’s otherwise an excellent screen system, with smooth quick graphics and sensible menus. What about the mechanics? Less news here. As before there’s a smooth and quiet 1.6 diesel, and a 1.4 turbo petrol. What is added at the top of the petrol range is another slightly more powerful but all-new 1.4 petrol. It makes 152bhp versus 140 for the existing 1.4T. Yet Vauxhall doesn’t seem very confident about it. The new 1.4 is fitted only to the automatic 4x4. The manual 4x4, and the FWD, make do with the old unit. And to be honest the new one brings little improvement. It’s barely quieter and the performance and CO2 – albeit we’re talking auto versus manual – show no significant difference. So if they didn’t improve the dynamics, was it perfect already? Even among crossovers, performance is merely OK, with the quickest version making 62mph in a mid-field 9.3sec. The steering is fairly accurate and body roll well-supressed but you’d never call the cornering fun. Still, that’s standard for the class. The ride is fairly supple over big bumps and potholed tracks, as you’d hope for a crossover. But on what seem to be smooth roads, it constantly jostles, and kicks up a fair amount of tyre noise. But people don’t buy small crossovers for their dynamics… Just as well. So how is it when used as intended purpose? Pretty good. There’s lots of ground clearance so even the FWD versions are capable on lumpy tracks and speed bumps. It’s a bit bigger than most rivals, and as a family car the Mokka fields decent rear room, if a slightly constricted boot. If it’s bigger than the rest of the small crossovers, is it more expensive? No. In fact it’s well-kitted and comfortably undercuts the Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade and the like. A well-kitted FWD manual is under £20k. Why’s it X-rated? All Vauxhall crossovers will have the X suffix. Notwithstanding the Mokka is right now the only Vauxhall crossover. More will come, including one based on the new Peugeot 3008 next year (GM and PSA agreed that joint-venture back in 2012 when both were in dire financial trouble). Then there’s a full-size one in 2019 based on one of GM’s American crossover platforms, likely the Cadillac XT5’s.