Road test: Vauxhall Mokka and Chevrolet Trax
Badge-engineering is one of the oldest games in the book. Vehicles from the same company but carrying individual badges can be made to look disimilar and appeal to different market sectors. Yet, just how different are they when they use mostly identical parts and are made on the same production lines?
The Vauxhall Mokka and Chevrolet Trax are two such siblings from the GM stable and superficially there isn’t a great deal different. Over the last couple of weeks we have been behind the wheels of both and there have been some surprises.
The Mokka reached us (and the market) first and is styled neatly with its more slender, corporate nose and taut panel sculpting. The deep front adds purposefulness to the face; the front and rear have much real estate covered in black plastic but this is all well-designed and suits the Mokka. The sheer depth of the side is broken with the protective plastic over the deep sills and this helps break the otherwise tall profile.
Chevrolet’s Trax is quite different. Studying the shapes together, it appears the vehicles have just their front doors in common. The Trax isn’t as dainty-looking as the Mokka (which might seem an odd adjective to use for SUV-styling but everything is relative). Its wings are quite bulbous and the arches themselves, slightly squared-off. There is a big Chevy front and similar (although not identical) plastic finishing.
Vauxhall’s hard work on quality and finish is very evident
Stepping inside the Mokka, Vauxhall’s hard work on quality and finish is very evident. Only the silvered door inserts break the black expanse of dash but the controls are clear, straight-forward to use and pleasing to the touch. The chromed dials in front of the driver are smart and there is information abound. All Mokkas are extremely well specified; even the entry models come with auto lights and wipers, Bluetooth, dual zone climate control, hill descent control and 230V socket.
Jump into the Trax and the differences are very obvious. The dashboard shape is broadly the same but the instrument binnacle in particular feels low-rent compared to the Mokka. The single dial with rev counter and rectangular LCD display is straight out of the Aveo. Look to the left and the infotainment system is good, with full colour display, DAB radio and USB connectivity on the higher LT model. The seats aren’t quite as well-shaped but the interior is all neat and accommodation is similarly good. The Trax has air-con (not climate control), auto lights (not wipers), hill descent control and that 230V socket.
The Mokka rides nervously
Out and about, the Mokka rides a little nervously over lumps and bumps, even with passengers on board and a full boot. It’s choppy at speed, too. Put it into a corner, though, and it’s easy to see what those Vauxhall engineers have been up-to. Despite the height, it turns-in crisply and is exceptionally well balanced. A good turning circle and large mirrors mean manoeuvring is easy, too.
The biggest surprise for me was then driving the Chevrolet. Quite simply, the ride is superior to that of the Vauxhall. The obvious place to look was the wheels but all the vehicles I tried were fitted with 18” alloys, so I asked Chevrolet’s PR manager, Craig Cheetham why the Trax is different. Apart from a different steering rack, the Trax also has softer suspension bushes. It is these which improve the vehicle’s ride. There doesn’t seem to be much of a compromise with handling, either – it too changes direction extremely well.
At the moment, the Trax is only available with the 1.4 Turbo petrol and 1.7 diesel GM engines which are both extremely good (although the 1.6 will come on stream soon). The 1.4 petrol is smooth, quiet, clean-revving and powerful enough to pull away barely lifting the revs from idle. The diesel is a little noisier, especially when cold, but quietens down and is torquey and flexible. The Mokka has these two good engines plus the entry 1.6 petrol which should really be avoided as it is harsh and only fitted with five gears, making motorway miles a drag. Its increased fuel consumption over the 1.4 or 1.7 means the other options are likely to offset much if not all of their slightly increased purchase prices over the 1.6.
Their deep chins will prevent serious off-roading
Which one would we keep?
The styling of the Mokka is certainly more attractive and the interior finish more pleasing. With the right engine, it is also very able. The Trax, with its slightly American nose, bulkier arches and plainer dash is the less-pretty sister. It is missing a few of the toys found in the Mokka but it is still reasonably well kitted-out. The ride has it for me, though. Living at the edge of the Peak District where many of the roads are in a poor state, the Trax is simply more comfortable. In fact, after a torturous two-hundred mile, five hour journey in appalling weather behind the wheel of the Trax, I arrived relaxed and unruffled – a true testament to its capabilities.
Our pick (and as pictured): Chevrolet Trax LT AWD 1.4T petrol (£20,240 including £445 metalic paint)
Power: 140 PS (@ 4,900 – 6,000 rpm), torque: 200 Nm (@ 1,850 – 4,900 rpm), emissions: 149 g/km CO2 (band F), 0-62 mph: 9.5 secs.
Vauxhall Mokka £15,999 to £23,699 Motor Writer rating: ●●●○○
Chevrolet Trax £15,495 to £20,495 Motor Writer rating: ●●●●○Tweet