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Geneva show: Holden helps to serve up a hot Mokka

Babyccino: Opel’s Mokka has been given a major mid-life makeover that includes a new 1.4-litre turbocharged powertrain calibrated in secret in Australia.

Exclusive: Latest Opel Mokka gets the Holden engine calibration treatment


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5 Feb 2016

GM HOLDEN engineers had a hand in the development of the new-look Opel Mokka X that has been revealed in images ahead of the compact SUV’s public debut at the Geneva motor show next month alongside the Holden-fabricated Opel GT sports coupe concept.

The vehicle, with a new petrol powertrain that was calibrated at Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground, is also set to turn up as the revamped Buick Encore at the New York motor show in late March.

Holden appears to have left the door open to the smallest GM SUV as a potential replacement for the Holden Trax, with the Australian company cryptically saying it has nothing to announce about Mokka “at this time”.

Although the Trax has been a winner for Holden, the Australian branch of GM has embarked on a course to bring its model range into line with that of GM sister companies Opel, Vauxhall and Buick, one step up from Chevrolet.

While Holden is not yet saying which way it will jump on Trax, it has confirmed to GoAuto that the powertrain calibration for the facelifted Mokka’s new 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine and six-speed automatic transmission was done by Holden Engineering under General Motors’ global work-share program.

Although the facelifted vehicle was masterminded by GM Europe, development mules for the updated compact SUV were spotted running round Holden’s high-security proving ground in Victoria last year. The vehicles wore disguises, but the distinctive squared-off C-pillar shape gave them away as Mokkas.

Holden Engineering has long been a specialist in powertrain calibration for GM, with recent projects including the Opel Corsa OPC.

The Australian engineers also did the global chassis tuning for the original Mokka and related Chevrolet/Holden Trax before their global launch in 2012-13, although that part of the Holden operation has been wound back since the demise of local full-product development.

The refreshed Mokka X – X being Opel’s new designation for crossover vehicles – needed extensive powertrain calibration work for its new 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine, six-speed automatic transmission and adaptive all-wheel-drive system.

Transplanted from the all-new Astra, the 112kW engine will put a spring in the step of the Mokka X when it arrives in European and United Kingdom showrooms under both Opel and Vauxhall badges in the third quarter of this year.

It is not only more powerful than the current GM 104kW 1.4-litre engine, but more fuel efficient, with idle-stop helping to keep fuel consumption down to 6.6 litres per 100km.

In Europe at least, the Mokka range will keep its recently introduced new-generation 1.6-litre “whisper diesel” in two states of tune – 81kW and 100kW.

The all-wheel-drive system on the more powerful variants has an electromagnetic clutch that engages the rear wheels when the front wheels detect slip. While the vehicle’s default driving mode is front-wheel drive, up to 50 per cent of the torque can be directed to the back axle.

Exterior wise, the revamped Mokka gets Opel’s (and Buick, Vauxhall and Holden’s) new grille treatment, with its wing-shaped motif.

The new headlamp clusters – armed with new anti-glare adaptive headlights – are topped by new signature double-line LED daytime running lights.

The front fascia has a more sculpted shape and fewer plastic inserts than before – a move that Opel says endows the Mokka with a wide, more solid and masculine stance.

Rear of the A pillars, the panels are carried over from the Series I Mokka, although fresh tail-lights get the new LED treatment.

One of the most welcome changes to Mokka is the flash new interior, with a dashboard drawing its horizontal design from the new Astra. The latest layout has a centre stack with touchscreens up to eight inches wide, equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto via GM’s Intellilink system.

In Australia, Holden has sold the Chevrolet version, the Trax, since 2013.

Although Holden sales have slipped in recent times, the Trax has been a bright spot, making a 6.2 per cent sales gain last year, to a handy 6350 units, in the fast-growing small-SUV segment.

With a lot invested in the Trax name, Holden might be reluctant to change the nameplate to Mokka should it take the leap that way, but with Mokka/Encore already carrying two names, what is one more? While Europe takes its Mokka from GM Europe’s Spanish plant, the Trax is built alongside the Mokka and Encore at GM Korea’s Bupyeong plant.

Should Holden decide to switch to Mokka or the Encore, it would seem a fairly simple procedure to turn down the tap on Trax and turn up the wick on a Holden-badged Mokka/Encore.

Before the end of the decade, Holden is expected to get an Opel-built, Insignia-based large SUV from Germany, and a fresh mid-sizer, perhaps the Chinese-built Buick Encore, to replace the ageing Captiva.

No doubt, both of these will carry the X designation.

Also at Geneva, Opel is set to spring its new compact GT coupe that was designed in Germany but built at GM Australia Design’s fabrication workshops in Melbourne.

The vehicle foreshadows Opel-Vauxhall’s new design direction, and while the car is strictly a show piece, most pundits expect GM to push ahead with something similar at some point.

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