CITY CRUISER: The Opel Mokka X's exterior points to a gravel-road eater but it's happy in the city too. Image: Sean Parker
Cape Town - Before SUVs were as ubiquitous as scandals involving Jacob Zuma, 'people movers' or MPVs were very popular.
In fact our family car was an Opel Zafira, we had it for more than 10 years. It took us to so many places throughout South Africa; Augrabies Falls in the Northern Cape, St Lucia national park in Kwa-Zulu Natal and so many other special spots locally.
Times however have changed and if this isn't the decade of the SUV then I don't know what is. They're more popular than Donald Trump in Iowa or Wisconsin.
One of Opel's four models in South Africa
I spent a week with the Opel Mokka X, previously called the Mokka without the additional prefix. The Mokka is one of only four models in Opel's South African line-up; Adam, Corsa and Astra.
So, what's new? Well, the mechanicals remain unchanged along with the four model lineup of Enjoy and Cosmo trim choices in either manual or automatic.
Riddled with options
Powering all four Mokka X derivatives is Opel’s 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, producing 103kW/200Nm.
Our test unit, clad in silver, was fitted with an automatic transmission. It's not the best transmission to be honest and never felt in sync with the engine.
The delivery was smoothly delivered though the 'box held the gear for longer than it needed to. There is an option to change gears via the lever.
The steering is light though there's minimal feedback which is not to say it's completely lifeless. You can corner with enthusiasm and incur body roll.
I averaged around 8.0-litres/100km over a three-day test period, which was higher than Opel's claim of a 6.5-litre/100km.
Gallery: 2017 Opel Mokka X
The feature-laden Mokka X's main attributes lie in how well it consumed four adults in its dark cabin on a trip to Cape Town's West Coast. For a stubby car, the Mokka X boasts a 356 litre boot capacity which certainly wouldn't suffice for a family's weekend luggage.
Our Cosmo test unit was fitted with a couple of niceties like a R6500 sunroof and a R10 700 satellite navigation system.
The test car's priciest feature was 'light and sight' package which adds rear LED clusters and auto-levelling headlights with full LED adaptive headlights that 'guide' you around corners: This will set you back R25 000.
Step inside there are quite a few toys to play with. Granted it doesn't have a self-parking feature or stop/start technology. The Mokka X, in Cosmo, spec offers heated front seats and even a heated steering wheel.
Interior trim is revised too. The Cosmo models offer leather seats in Jasmin Jet Black. The new Astra’s dashboard architecture has also been integrated, along with improved ergonomics.
There are USB and AUX ports located in a storage binnacle below the centre dash. Steering-wheel mounted controls for the audio system/ Bluetooth and cruise control are ergonomically perfect.
Car styling is a subjective topic, and I'll let you make up your own mind from the selection of images in the story. But, I like the Mokka X's purposeful stance and high-wheel arches. The test unit's 19" wheels completed an attractive package that looks ready for gravel roads on its off weekend.
Overall, does the Mokka do a good job standing out in a crowded segment? Yes. At R368 100 the Mokka X offers more than enough space for a small family or a family with younger kids.
The ride quality is comfortable and the well-specced cabin is straight from the Astra so build-quality is high on the agenda.
The new features make the Mokka a comfortable place to explore from as this is clearly targeted at an outdoor-lifestyle buyer.
The only blight would be that gearbox, to be fair you're better off with the manual.
I can tell you this, the Zafira was hard-as-nails and took us to places I didn't expect. After experiencing the Mokka X, I can safely say it'll go even further.