FIRST DRIVE: It’s tasty enough but can the Opel Mokka cut it in the mini SUV jungle?

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Some critics believe the new Opel Mokka was designed by a woman.

First the uber trendy name which if you’re a shaker and mover, is as much a part of your day as Pilat’s.

Then there is the styling which speaks for itself.

Throw in the elevated driving position and the security of being behind the wheel of a car that looks like it could survive an earthquake and you’re almost there.

Paint it white with little flashes of black (monotone is sooo this year) and finally the accessories – an absolute must for the tech-savvy girl around town.

Job done.

It’s a good argument, and I concur on almost everything bar the name.

You see, any die in the wool,  Sex and The City-loving, Gok Wan tip-taking fashionista would tell you that it’d be called  …. a Skinny Latte.

Mokka is just not Hollywood enough.

No, joking aside, this little imp is in fact, quite a manly machine.

This compact crossover SUV from Opel/Vauxhall is a genuine, bone fide 4X4 – capable of mixing it up with the big boys.

The top-of-the-range 1.4 litre turbo is packing 140bhp with massive torque, proving that this little baby is a mean as it looks.

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And what a handsome little bus this is.

Roll her out alongside its two closest rivals and its all one-way traffic.

The Nissan Juke (or Puke as my 9-year-old likes to call it) and the ‘Abominable’ looking Skoda Yeti are mere brutes in this beauty pageant.

Its rugged stance and wedge-like styling gives it an air of invincibility while the aluminium skid plates both front and rear reinforces that all-wheel drive confidence.

From the front, snazzy headlamp units featuring the now trademark Star Trek-shaped LEDs are complimented by chrome fog lamp surrounds, which in turn, highlight the familiar blade lines running down both sides.

Thick rubber mouldings starting from just under a slimed down grille encase the whole body which is mirrored on top by similarly chunky roof rails – giving the whole car a go-anywhere,                     do-anything feel to it.

Inside the Mokka is as luxurious as a top-end Insignia with the latest gadgets and gizmos.

In fact, the dash is pretty much a shrunken version of big daddy’s with a familiar layout dominated by the centre console.

Build quality and finish is excellent and is what we’ve come to expect from Opel who have really lifted their game in recent years.

She’s loaded with plenty of goodies too including cruise control, Hill Start Assist, Descent Control System, digital radio and air con.

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Opt for the SC model and you get Bluetooth, parking sensors, dual zone climate control, leather steering wheel, central arm rest and 18 inch alloys.

The test model we borrowed even came with a heated steering wheel.

Another feather in its cap is the cabin space which in the compact segment can be a little bit tight.

Not here.

With 897mm in height there is ample room for five adults including a couple of six footers in the back.

Luggage space is more than adequate too with 1,371 litres in the rear and thanks to 60/40 split seats, awkward loads shouldn’t be an issue.

It’s a pity the same couldn’t be said for the drive and handling which unfortunately fail to live up to the stunning facade.

The Korean-built Mokka lacks the refinement found in the Yeti

The steering is nervous and jittery which is made all the worse by a total lack of feedback from the road.

Body roll as you’d expect in a vehicle with high centre gravity is noticeable but the wind noise in the cabin catches you’re attention first.

The suspension too was punching well below its weight and even the smallest of potholes rattle the fillings in your back teeth.

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That said, most Irish punters won’t want to go off road and the roughest terrain it’ll see will be the supermarket car park and the on-demand all-wheel drive is perfect for snow and ice.

Should you want to go off roads she’s more than capable.

The clever system is fool proof and there’s no faffing around with levers or buttons.

In normal driving conditions all of the power goes to the front wheels.

In more difficult weather or on rougher terrain the drive is split 50/50.

She’s not too bad on the juice either returning around 44mpg while road tax is €390.

As with most Irish models the diesel will be king for economy and re-sale value.

Thanks to stop/start technology the 130bhp, 1.7 litre CDTi is returning a whopping 62mpg and because the emissions are kept at 120g/km road tax is just €200.

The Mokka is a genuinely good effort from Opel but compared to the Yeti is far from the finished article.

Good looks its seems just aren’t enough these days!

Prices for the Mokka start at €19,990.

In the UK the Vauxhall Mokka costs from £15,995.

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