AFTER the launch of its impressive new Astra last year, Opel is now hoping a revamp of its SUV will also give it added X-factor as well as setting the standard for all its future crossovers.

The Mokka has been on our roads since 2012 and since then the company has sold more than 600,000 worldwide. The new Mokka-X, which goes on sale here in October, has the weight of responsibility on its sleeker new shoulders. It is the first model to introduce the “X” segment identifier which will be used for all future Opel SUV and crossover vehicles.

So does it bear the pressure well? All in all — and in spite of the fact that I am not the biggest fan of small SUVs — I would have to say it does.

The tweaks to the exterior have certainly upped its visual appeal. Its wing-shaped horizontal front grille, sharper front wings and LED daytime running lights give it a more chiselled face while the chunky rear and front bumpers make it look like it could punch above its weight.

The one thing that let down its appearance for me was the choice of “amber orange” as one of its main colour options. It was the colour of the car I predominantly drove on test and it just didn’t have the refinement of the grey or blue options in which others were travelling.

Think Z-list gameshow host or a teenager who has been a bit over-enthusiastic with the fake tan. It’s a colour that a lot of car manufacturers are using these days to make their product stand out, but for me it does so for the wrong reasons.

Two other slight negatives were to be found in what otherwise was a very good interior. It’s not something that you should be looking at too often if you don’t want to be in an accident but the steering wheel just ain’t pretty — it reminded me of the wheel in my father’s old jeep — and not in a good way.

It’s fine in terms of its girth, in fact it is comfortably chunky — but the buttons and the dull, oversized central block in which they sit are a bit of a let down. The second issue I had was the choice of a couple of the plastics in the front of the cabin. I felt they just didn’t match the quality of the rest of the surrounds.

They were many more positives inside though. The Mokka X’s dash has taken its cue from the new Astra and the seven or eight inch touchscreens are an exceptionally crisp base for Opel’s “new generation” infotainment system. It is also easily navigated. Even a technophobe like myself was able to get myself onto its wifi-system, find my way on the satnav and find a decent radio station.

The instrument panel is much less cluttered than before with buttons and switches kept to a minimum. I agree with the company when it says it looks simpler, sharper and more precise.

The six-speed gearbox in our test car felt satisfactorily solid in the changes and the seats wrapped comfortably around the body as we negotiated our way through the Scottish Highlands. The decent lift when the 1.6 diesel engine was pushed on the tarmac was also a plus.

In such a bite-the-back-of-your-hand, picturesque setting I am glad to say the Mokka X also makes sure you have a great view of the surrounds. The large windscreen gave panoramic views of the terrain ahead while the back window gave ample view of what had just been left behind.

The central pillar between the doors was a slight visibility issue for us when turning out of a junction but only because we were driving left hand drive cars on the left side of the road.

Space-wise a B-segment SUV is never going to be the most giving but there was just about enough leg room in the rear for man of average height. The boot would also be ample for a couple of suitcases, though not much more.

Admittedly only a small percentage of Mokka X owners are likely to be frequently on the type of terrain which requires four-wheel drive. Nonetheless, the “all-wheel” drive system which is available on many of the SC and Elite models seemed decent on the rutted tracks around the Trossachs National Park.

According to Opel, depending on the road conditions the car automatically varies from 100% front-wheel drive on dry road surface to a maximum torque distribution of 50% on the front- and rear-axle, for example, when roads are covered in water.

The Mokka X arrives in Ireland in three trims S, SC and Elite. Daytime running lights, automatic cruise control, and decent connectivity with USB, Bluetooth and music navigator come as standard.

But it is a step up in price to the SC and Elite models if you want Opel’s IntelliLink infotainment systems with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on the touchscreens. It also comes with Opel’s “personal connectivity assistant” OnStar which I first experienced last year with the Astra.

That provides vehicle diagnostics, destination downloads, and roadside assistance among a myriad of services.

Overall, the new Mokka X is another case of Opel taking one of its stalwarts and making it a good deal better. As I said before small SUVs aren’t my cup of tea, but if what Opel has done to the Mokka and Astra is proof of how it will approach all its range, the future is looking bright (though please God, no more bright orange) for the manufacturer.

AT A GLANCE

Opel Mokka X

Price: Starts from €21,495 for the 1.6-litre S petrol engine with 115hp.

car driven 1.6 CDTI (136hp) S/S 4x4 AWD - €30,245.

0-100kph — 10.3 secs.

op speed — 187kph

CO2 combined - 119g/km

Economy 4.5l/100kms

Star rating: ****


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