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In the not-to-distant past, the term SUV (Sports-Utility-Vehicle) would most definitely have conjured up an image of a massive high-riding behemoth as long as a Mercedes S-class and drinking fuel at the rate of a tanker leaking oil.

Fast forward from the sales boom of the late-90’s, the SUV as we knew it underwent a dramatic re-shaping as many automakers moved away from the gas-guzzling four-wheel drive bundu bashers, to the more compact and frugal crossover; a vehicle that did away with the go-anywhere artillery but kept the appearance, space and luxuries associated with a family off-roader.

One of the most important segments globally, and one which keeps on growing as more and more contenders join the party, the crossover has recently undergone a shake-up of its own with the introduction of the even smaller compact crossover such as the Nissan Juke, Ford EcoSport and Renault Duster.

Having signalled its intentions with the Adam boutique hatch and all-new Corsa supermini, both of which left a big impression during recent assessments, Opel has made the transition to the crossover segment with the stylish and funky Mokka.

Launched in Europe three years ago, and therefore pre-dating its above mentioned “siblings”, the Mokka uses the same platform as the Chevrolet Sonic and has proved to be a massive success with a reported 240 000 units having been shipped so far.

Despite this, age has done little to dampen the execution of Opel’s current design language as the Mokka’s combination of strong lines, smart 18-inch alloy wheels, satin silver roof rails and skidplates, chromed upper grille portion and black plastic cladding around the wheelarches, doors and at the base of the bumpers, not only affords it a very youthful appearance, but lends a touch of sportiness and the impressions that is doesn’t mind venturing (not to far as it is only front-wheel drive) off the black stuff.

Owning to its time of conception, the Mokka’s cab is more reminiscent of the Astra and Meriva than the Corsa or Adam, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

With soft touch plastics dominating the dashboard and brushed aluminium inserts doing their job to excellent effect on the doors, steering wheel and at the base of the centre console and gear lever, built quality reflects the Mokka’s positioning as a premium product while the electrically heated (driver and passenger only) leather seats are comfortable and supportive.

As is often the case, our Summit White range topping Cosmo tester came fitted with just about every feature you could ask for such as dual-zone climate control, six-speaker sound system with Bluetooth audio streaming as well as USB and Aux input, reverse camera with front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, auto on/off lights, electric windows all around, rain sense wipers, daytime running lights, Hill Start Assist, heated steering wheel, six airbags as well as ABS, EBD and ESP.

Up front, the Mokka makes use of Opel’s proven 1.4-litre Ecotec turbocharged petrol that develops 103 kW and 200 N.m of torque. Although my previous experience with the engine in the Chevrolet Cruze and Opel Astra sedan turned out to be pleasant, the fitment of a six-speed automatic gearbox in the Mokka as oppose to the sedans’ manual boxes, was to be a first.

True to its target market, the tranny is programmed for comfort and doesn’t like being rushed, but, should you wish to take control, putting the gear lever in the M position does allow for manual shifting using the button on top.

Even with the auto box, the engine had lost none of charm and features a lovely surge of low down power with minimal lag, allowing the Mokka to sprint from 0-100 km/h in 10.7 sec and on to a top speed of 191 km/h. Opel claims a combined fuel consumption figure of 7.9 L/100 km and emissions of 197 g/km.

In truth, my tenure with the Opel Mokka turned out to be enjoyable. Not being a fan of auto boxes, I had my reservations but as time went on, the Mokka’s charm started to work its magic. Although some might still find the idea of Opel as a premium marque odd, the Mokka has proved that the unthinkable can be done.