News of the week:
- The facelifted Ford Focus ST has landed in South Africa.
- The Focus ST is one of the most popular hot hatch cars to the local market today and it rivals the Golf GTI, Megane RS, Volvo C30 and the Astra OPC.
- The facelifted model receives a freshened up design, sharpened chassis and new keeping-with-the-times gadgetry inside.
- It is still available with two specification models, the ST1 and the ST3 – differ in terms of specification levels.
- It has a restyled front end with slimmer headlights, a taller grille and more chiselled bumper design, and the ST3 version is further set apart by HID Bi-Xenon adaptive headlights and LED daytime running lights.
- Both models receive 18” alloys, but the ST3 can be ordered with 19” dark grey alloys and red brake callipers.
- It’s powered by a turbocharged 2.0L power plant that produces 184kW and 360Nm of torque. Ford claims a 0-100kph in 6.5 seconds and a top speed of 248kph. Now, while this seems great on paper, it’s not that quick in the real world and up against the formidable Golf or the Megane in a robot-to-robot dice or the ¼ mile drag race.
- But what it does have is better handling. Ford strengthened the body structure to reduce body flex and honed the sports suspension with new front springs, shocks and stiffer bushes.
- The Electronic Torque Vectoring Control was also optimised and the ESC gains Ford’s new Enhanced Transitional Stability system.
- On the inside, the ST3 is now fitted with Ford’s Sync2 infotainment system linked to a high-definition 20.3cm colour touch-screen, while the ST1 uses the first-generation Sync system.
- It’s priced at R381 900 for the ST1 and R421 900 for the ST3. It’s far more expensive than its launch price at a little over R300 000 in 2012. The Prices include a four-year/120 000km warranty and four-year/80 000km service plan.
Road Test: Opel Mokka
For a while there General Motors focused heavily on its Chevrolet products and treated its Opel brand almost like an afterthought.
But Opel’s well and truly ingratiated itself back into the GM fold, and it’s this German side of the stable that has been firing a barrage of product at us lately. Following the recent launches of the new Adam and Corsa hatchbacks, the Mokka landed in South Africa in March this year as Opel’s first foray into the local SUV market.
Available in front-wheel-drive only, this compact crossover has no offroading aspirations and despite Opel targeting consumers “who have a taste for adventure”, the Mokka’s slightly raised ride height isn’t going to tackle the Dakar Rally.
The adventure side of things is purely cosmetic in the form of some plastic body cladding, contrasting sill and wheelarch mouldings, and roof rails to give the Mokka that outdoorsy look. Under the trendy garb is a family-sized cabin with a generous list of gadgets and comforts.
The Mokka is offered in four different models, all powered by the same 1.4-litre turbopetrol engine. There are two trim levels – Enjoy and Cosmo – and a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions.
There’s no spec-skimping on the entry-level Enjoy model which comes standard with features like electronic climate control, cruise control, an onboard computer, tilt- and telescopic steering wheel, a radio/CD/Bluetooth/aux audio system, and foldable heated side mirrors. Standard safety items include ABS brakes, ESP, plus six airbags.
But if you want leather seats instead of the Enjoy’s cloth-covered ones, an extra R37 000 gets you the Mokka Cosmo derivative which also comes with niceties like a heated steering wheel and heated front seats (which we found particularly enjoyable during the recent cold spell) along with automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a reverse camera, and a 230v power supply, to name a few.
The more expensive Cosmo also gets a 7-inch colour Intellilink display for the infotainment system, preloaded with the Stitcher internet radio app.
I like the look and feel of the cars cruising out of Opel’s factory these days, and even while the company was battling financial instability a couple of years back, it’s clear that its engineering and design departments continued at full steam.
Continuing the classy theme set by the new Corsa and Adam, the Mokka’s passenger quarters present a neat and manicured look for this price range. The materials are a decent quality, including a soft-touch dashboard which conveys so much better perceived quality than plastic that’s hard to the touch.
Space management is good in this compact SUV and the cabin is roomy enough for four adults with no shortage of leg- and head-room, although the boot is average-sized at 356 litres. If you’re lugging bulky objects the 60/40 rear seats flip down flat to expand the cargo hold to 785 litres. The spare wheel is a space-saver.
In terms of ergonomics the Mokka’s infotainment system has a large central display surrounded by a rather large number of buttons, but it’s all fairly straightforward to use.
With outputs of 103kW and 200Nm the little 1.4 Ecotec turbo engine’s an honest performer. Even though it can’t match the sizzle of the 140kW Nissan Juke, the Mokka has punchy acceleration that’s well-suited to the bump and grind of urban commuting, and it’s an easy cruiser too. Refinement levels are decent, except it does get a bit loud and buzzy at high revs.
The automatic Mokka Cosmo on test here gives a two-pedalled option to drivers who prefer to do less work during their commuting, but pairing a small engine with an automatic gearbox is seldom an entirely happy marriage.
The Mokka’s gearshifts are reasonably smooth during normal driving, but when you ask for a bit of pace the car seems to go into semi panic mode as the transmission kicks down and sends the engine revs into the stratosphere.
You can override this by using the gearstick, but there are no F1-style paddles on the steering wheel. For the automatic model Opel quotes performance figures of 0-100kmph in 10.7 seconds and a top speed of 191kph.
With a low ground clearance of just 131mm (compared to some rivals which offer up to 180mm), the Mokka makes no pretence at being an offroad vehicle and even scaling some pavements presents a challenge. The suspension is on the firm side and it has a fairly choppy ride particularly on poorly maintained roads, and this car doesn’t enjoy speed humps.
On the plus side the taut suspension makes the Mokka scoot around corners very smartly, where it displays no top-heaviness.
Along with bearded men and people who take selfies, compact SUVs seem to be everywhere you look these days. The Opel Mokka is a roomy and trendy newcomer to this burgeoning segment, with a vast features list and obligatory “taste for adventure” image, but it faces a tough challenge from Nissan’s higher-riding and more powerful but slightly oddball Juke.
OPEL MOKKA VERSUS RIVALS
Opel Mokka 1.4 T Cosmo auto – 103kW/200Nm, length 4 278 mm, boot 356 litres, ground clearance 131mm, service plan 5-years/90 000km, warranty 5-years/120 000km – Price R335 500
Nissan Juke 1.6T Tekna – 140kW/240Nm, length 4 135mm, boot 354 litres, ground clearance 180mm, service plan 3-years/45 000km, warranty 3-years/100 000km – Price R325 900
Mini Cooper Countryman 1.6 auto – 90kW/160Nm, length 4 097mm, boot 350 litres, ground clearance 145mm, maintenance plan 3-years/100 000km, warranty 2-years/unlimited mileage – price R362 748