While it would make sense to dwell on Opel’s proud history in South Africa, the simple truth is that it’s wholly placement under former parent, General Motors, at the turn of the century dealt it a savage blow that left many asking, “why are they still here”?
Onwards with the “new Opel”
Now under the auspices of Stellantis, the iconic Blitz is experiencing a revival in the hope shunning critics while at the same time appeasing to the hearts and minds of fans who have stood by it ever since the Delta Motor Corporation days.
Initially headed by the Corsa and more recently the Zafira Life, the all-new Mokka, which Opel admits has attracted a lot of attention from South Africans since its world debut two years ago, touched down towards the end of last month as not only the marque’s third new model, but one carrying a lot of expectations.
Pleasure to succeed
Officially the second generation Opel Mokka as the previous Mokka X merely served as a facelift of the original that debuted in 2012, the pressure on the newcomer stems from it not only competing in the burgeoning upper B-SUV segment, but also the success of the nameplate that has amassed sales of over a million units thus far.
At the same time, it also needs to address the biggest elephant in the room; the notion of new Opels being nothing more than redressed Peugeots commanding a bigger price tag with no real gains on the tech or dynamics fronts.
How new is new?
While the former is indeed true as the Mokka swaps the old GM Gamma platform for the PSA-era developed EMP1 used by the Peugeot 2008, the architecture has been slightly revised to suit its sporty characteristics.
In addition, the new Mokka is also shorter and stockier than its successor, 120 kg lighter and a claimed 30% stiffer as a result of the platform’s necessity to accommodate electrification. Claimed boot space is 310-litres with the 60/40 split rear seats up.
At the national media launch, which took place at Century City in Cape Town and meandered through the Cape winelands before finishing in Durbanville, the biggest topic of discussion involved the Mokka’s styling.
Coming of the Vizor
The initiator of Opel’s Bold and Pure styling language, made-up of the sealed grille known as the Vizor, boomerang LED headlights derived from the 2018 GT X Experimental concept and the badge that denotes the central point of the design, and therefore revered to as the Opel Compass, the Mokka not only looks funky, but thanks to the coupe-like roofline, sporty in a way none of its rivals can match.
Further evidence of this is the choice of colours, which makes the most out of the lines penned by Opel’s Chief of Design Mark Adams.
There was little debate though that the Matcha Green hue appealed the most, but so did the other options comprising White Jade, Diamond Black, Quartz Grey, Power Red and Voltaic Blue.
Pure and loaded
An area where the Opel Mokka has been improved considerably is the interior. Whereas the previous generation dated badly as a result of its button heavy centre console and top mounted infotainment system that looked archaic from start, Opel has implemented a strategy called detox that puts emphasis on technology with a minimalist look.
Centre to this is the new Pure Panel that comes as standard on the range-topping GS Line. Unlike the entry-level Elegance which receives a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system and digital instrument cluster, the Pure Panel combines a ten-inch display with a twelve-inch instrument cluster in a curved design that wraps around the driver.
Visually appealing but still requiring familiarisation to figure out, it is nonetheless a big improvement from before, with the same being true of the materials used and the overall exhaustion of the cabin’s design.
For South Africa, the Opel Mokka sticks with the mentioned two trim levels with features on the Elegance comprising 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control, a tyre pressure monitor, LED headlights, cruise control, heated front seats, folding heated and electric mirrors and ambient lighting.
Standard safety items include Hill Start Assist, Blind Spot Detection, Electronic Stability Programme, Forward Collision Braking with Pedestrian Detection and Driver Attention Alert.
Standard GS Line is Opel’s latest Matrix IntelliLux adaptive LED headlights, leather instead of cloth seats with a massaging function for the driver, push-button start and keyless entry, integrated satellite navigation and LED interior lighting.
Added safety spec involves Traffic Sign Recognition, Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Avoidance Mitigation, Active Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep Assist.
Our acquaintance with the Opel Mokka involved the GS Line, which like the Elegance, is powered by a single engine; the Stellantis stalwart is the turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder PureTech petrol.
Pumping out 96kW/230Nm, seven kilowatts less but 30 Nm more than the old Mokka’s 1.4-litre turbo, the unit is mated solely to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. A manual is longer available.
It is a combination that suits the new “lightweight” Mokka as the three-pot offers more than enough punch, while the now toggle switch operated ‘box is smooth and well calibrated to the engine.
While three driving modes are offered; Eco, Normal and Sport, short spells with the latter elicited a not very pleasant soundtrack at higher revs that resulted in Normal mode being quickly re-selected.
The sporty character is also present in the ride, which is skewed towards the firmer side and resulted in bumps and imperfections being felt on the less well maintained sections of our route.
It is by no means a back-breaking sensation, though the steering’s light feel did come as a bit of a disappointment, as did the apparent lack of rear legroom during a quick “sit behind yourself test”.
A huge improvement in nearly every way from its predecessor, the like factor presented by the new Opel Mokka is without question present as it rates as a segment-norm departure both aesthetically and technologically.
However, it remains to be seen whether these talents are enough to coax South Africans into parting with R469 900 of their hard-earned Rands for the Elegance, or R519 900 for the GS Line.
The sticker prices include a three-year/120 000 km warranty as well as a four-year/60 000 km service plan.