Opel is big in Europe. The brand, which has been around for more than 150 years, has been in the automobile business for over a century. It’s consistently been one of the best-selling automotive brands in the continent for decades. However, Opel’s dalliance with the Middle east has not been anywhere near as steady. After a rocky relationship in the early noughties, the German brand (now owned by France’s PSA Group) came back to the UAE in early 2013, with a strong line-up of cars including hatchbacks, saloons, coupes and MPVs sold through Liberty Automobiles. Later that year we tested the Astra hatch worked on by the guys at Opel’s performance division OPC and were blown away by its performance. But despite bringing a range of decent cars, Opel has yet to make a significant dent in the market. Changing this is what the new Mokka X crossover is tasked with.

Cabin styling is similar to that of the new Astra’s and looks modern with minimal clutter

Since its launch in 2012 as the Mokka, this compact utility vehicle has found more than 600,000 homes worldwide.  The Mokka X that has now been launched in the UAE is in fact a mid-life facelift of the original Mokka. And ‘X’ is Opel’s new identifier for all its SUVs and CUVs. Although it’s a facelift, it’s quite a significant one. Everything from the grille to the headlights and bumpers have been changed.  The headlights are narrower and sleeker than before and get a signature LED strip at the top. Bumpers at the front and back have been sculpted to look more aggressive than the plain old ones, and the tweaked taillights round out the cosmetic changes. The cabin has also been spruced up with a new dashboard that’s taken cues from the new Astra hatchback. The touchscreen is now intergrated into the centre stack , and acts as an interface for the Intellilink infotainment system.

The 1.4 turbo four-pot is fairly peppy and is more than enough for a car of this size

In the UAE, the Mokka X comes equipped with a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, is good for 140bhp and 200Nm of torque. This turbo four-banger is fairly perky and does the job that’s expected of it in this segment pretty well. It feels a bit flat at low revs but that’s momentary and overall power delivery is smooth across the rev band. This makes the Mokka X a decent option for highway cruises, and the suspension has been set up with a view of offering a supple, comfortable ride. However, don’t expect it to provide much by way of driving thrills, as the handling is rather uninspiring. The steering is light and quick to respond but always leaves you feeling disconnected from the road. But for a vast majority of buyers in this segment, being entertained behind the wheel is way down the priority list.

The Mokka X is up against some stiff competition from the likes of Nissan’s Juke and Ford’s Ecosport, which are quite competitively priced. But it does make a case for itself with a decent amount of kit packed into its top-spec variant. Our tester, with its rather daft ‘Enjoy Plus’ trim designation, comes with many convenience and safety features including auto headlights, rear-view camera, parking sensors front and back, high-beam assist, tyre pressure indicator, and even front cornering lamps, which are all great for a car with a Dh78,000 price tag. You can also buy the base model for Dh71,000. It’s not the best crossover on the market, but definitely one worth considering if you want a different brand than the ubiquitous Japanese, Korean and American compacts.