Opel Mokka previews the new Holden Trax soft-roader
GM’s global Mokka-Trax SUV twins are built in a former Daewoo factory to a German design after Australian testing
ANOTHER week, another faux-wheel-drive. This one comes to us courtesy of Opel, the German division of General Motors. We will see it in Australia first as the Holden Trax later this year, and then as the Opel Mokka early next year.
It’s all part of General Motors becoming one big, happy, global family. The Mokka-Trax twins are made in Korea in a former Daewoo factory but they were designed and engineered in Germany with some Australian testing thrown in for good measure.
The starting price should be about $25,000— we won’t know until closer to the respective on-sale dates.
This model will put Opel and Holden in obvious competition for the first time. They currently compete in the small-car class with the Holden Cruze and Opel Astra, which are the same cars underneath but have different bodies.
The Mokka and Trax are mostly identical but for the design of the grille and the dashboard. That is why Opel and Holden sales and marketing teams are in a huddle to find out how to make these cars seem different in customers’ eyes.
For both groups this compact softroader can’t come soon enough. Holden just had its lowest sales in 19 years and Opel is trying to gain a foothold in Australia, having set up in the world’s most competitive new-car market late last year.
An affordable contender in the booming SUV class is crucial. The trouble is, this car is going gangbusters overseas so Australia’s initial allocations will be limited. That sigh you can hear is from Holden and Opel dealers.
In Europe, the Mokka has lanekeeping technology and a tiny camera that can read speed limit signs. Those systems are not confirmed for Australia, partly because of cost and partly because our street signs are so cluttered by advertising billboards as to confuse the cameras.
Top-line models have a forward collision alert system (though not with auto braking), auto-dipping high beam and xenon headlights that follow the direction of the steering.
Towing capacity is 1200kg braked, 500kg unbraked.
Ostensibly the coffee-derived name is due to the Mokka packing a lot in a small package. For all its bold and brash presence, would you believe that there is a Holden Barina underneath?
But don’t dismiss it on that basis. For starters, the latest Barina is a more capable car than it is given credit, especially since the post-GFC upgrades.
The Mokka has Opel’s audio and airconditioning controls, which aren’t as intuitive as on some other cars. But other practicalities make up for it. There are three storage levels in the doors alone, and a decent-sized console and glovebox. There are 19 storage cubbies. You’ll never find your phone again.
The dash material is soft to the touch, the seats are comfortable and vision all around is pretty good, despite the tapering window line.
Opel and Holden would be wise to make a rear view-camera standard on all models. Hyundai and Toyota have cameras on $23,990 hatchbacks; it would be a sin of omission to not have such an essential safety feature on this family-size car.
Cargo space is average, and you have either a space-saver spare or an inflation kit in the boot. Maximum volume with the latter is 356 litres with the seats up and 1372 litres down. That’s less than a Nissan Dualis and not much more than a Volkswagen Golf or most other small cars.
Six airbags and stability control are standard and in Europe it earns a five-star safety rating. Also standard across the range are hill-descent control and hill-hold assistance, to help get moving on steep hills.
First, the good news. Opel ships Continental tyres from a factory in Portugal to Korea so that its Mokkas are fitted with quality European rubber. Here’s hoping Opel Australia gets the same deal.
The Trax is likely to take the Kumho Solus tyre (as fitted to most of the brand’s other Korean-built cars), which is adequate in dry but has below-average grip in the wet.
On our first drive in Germany, however, the Mokka was equipped with Pirelli winter tyres. They gripped well but it was unclear whether they were responsible for the suspension feeling slightly busy over bumps, or whether that was a trait of the car. We’ll refrain from further judgement until we test it on local roads.
We drove a 1.4-litre turbo petrol model, which has a satisfactory amount of urge, neither classleading nor worst. The engine was smooth, as was the six-speed manual shifter. The six-speed auto comes in September, in time for the Australian release.
As with many new cars, the Mokka has idle stop-start technology. And as with most drivers of such cars, I found the off switch and left the engine running. The Mokka’s spec sheet claims a 10.8m turning circle, a bit more than a small car and average for a softroader of this size. It felt broader.
First impressions are that the Opel Mokka/Holden Trax is the best example yet of a globally engineered, Korean-builtGM vehicle. The twins will be worthy alternatives to the current crop of compact soft-roaders. Holden and Opel will sell every one they eventually lay their hands on.