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  • Vauxhall Mokka X driving on a mountain

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The new Mokka X is refined, comfortable and pleasingly robust. Which makes it the perfect companion for an adventure on the UK’s newest mountain.

 

Take the Kendal junction off the M6 and something unusual happens. It’s as if the cattle grid at the top of the exit ramp is a portal to another world.

 

A world of soaring summits set high above twinkling lakes, with stunning vistas around every sweeping bend. This is the world I enter late one evening after a seven-hour trip north from Devon. But I can’t see any of it just now, because the sun has set and my surroundings are shrouded in darkness.

 

I’m grateful, therefore, for the optional LED Adaptive Forward Lighting headlights on Vauxhall's new, muscular Mokka X. These not only illuminate the road with a wonderful brilliance, but automatically adjust their beam so as not to dazzle oncoming motorists.


I can only imagine the scenery that’s passing outside. So I hunker down in my comfortable, heated seat, which is standard on our Elite trim, and concentrate on thoughts of pie, chips, and a good night’s sleep.


Overall, the redesigned Mokka X’s cabin is a wonderfully relaxing place to be. It's an airy, roomy space with a new, clean dashboard, and smooth, metallic detailing and chrome instrument rings adding to the quality look and feel. Dual zone electronic climate control allows both driver and passenger to set the perfect temperature.

A New Mountain

Snug and comfortable, I ponder our plans for the following day, which involve the prospect of clambering up a mountain.


The mountain in question has only recently attained such status, and I’m lucky to be accompanied by an experienced hillwalker. Not just any hillwalker, though, but one of the trio of enthusiasts who surveyed the peak we’re due to scale and eventually prompted confirmation of its mountainous credentials earlier this year.

Had Myrddyn Phillips and his friends John Barnard and Graham Jackson not trekked to the summit of Calf Top and recorded its height using a GPS device, it would have remained just another hill in the Cumbrian countryside. Instead, it’s the newest mountain in England and Wales. And I’m here to find out how it happened.

A New Dawn

Apart from his Chris Bonington-style grey beard and flowing ponytail, the thing that really sets Myrddyn apart as a bona fide Man of the Mountains is his calm demeanour, as if nothing can surprise him.


Myrddyn tells me the story of his passion for surveying the hills, speaking in his soft, mid-Welsh tones. It starts with a basic love of walking. A desire to get to the wild places and see nature in its raw beauty. But, over time, Myrddyn found he wanted more from his time in the hills, wanted a means of recording his activities that transcended his own appreciation of the experience.


“I am a born collector,” he remarks. “By measuring the height of hills, fells, mountains and dales, I collect them. I have a log of data about each one, carefully chronicled. It’s just the same as collecting butterflies or stamps.”


There is one crucial difference, though: you don’t exert much energy separating stamps from envelopes or tracking down butterflies. Whereas, when it comes to measuring the height of a hill, you rather commit yourself to reaching its summit. And that, as I’m to discover, involves no small amount of effort.

To the Hills

We set off in convoy, our photographer, Myrddyn and me. Fortunately for us, the new Mokka X has a spacious boot space which comfortably takes all of our camera equipment and hiking gear without any problems. It’s a beautiful morning, with the low sun playing across the crisp brown bracken as we head east to the Dales.

 

The Mokka X is perfectly at home in this rugged landscape. The four-wheel-drive capability, augmented by Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) and Descent Control, brings welcome peace of mind in occasionally-dicey conditions. The new Mokka X also offers hill start assist, which is just as useful in city traffic jams as it was in the Cumbrian Hills. And the gutsy 136PS 1.6CDTi engine behaves admirably amid the sharp inclines of the mountain passes. The punchy engine offers an incredibly refined experience for a diesel, so much so it was christened the ‘whisper diesel’ when it was first introduced in 2015. The Mokka X is also available with a 1.4 turbo petrol engine, offering up to 152PS for an extra dose of excitement.

Eventually, we locate the pretty village of Barbon, at the foot of Calf Top. “This is our mountain,” says Myrddyn, with pride. “We measured Calf Top in 2012, but when we originally filed our data with the OS, it was 2cm short of the official height needed to qualify as a mountain, measuring 609.58 metres. Then, when the OS introduced new processing software to measure height, it added between 2cm and 4cm to every hill in England and Wales. As a result, four years after we took our measurements, Calf Top was formally acknowledged as a mountain, nudging the 609.6m (2,000ft) benchmark by just 6mm.”

 

I feel every millimetre of the climb as we make our way towards the summit. When we eventually make the high ground, Myrddyn sets up his surveying equipment – a handheld GPS device that takes bearings from satellites orbiting above and records live geophysical data about the precise spot it is located on. Myrddyn subsequently processes this on his home PC before cataloguing the result.


“There’s nothing especially clever about it,” he reflects, with characteristic modesty. “The biggest test is waiting for the data to be collected.”


Fortunately, Myrddyn takes pity on me, and sends me back down the hill after just half an hour at the peak. Time to put the Mokka X through its paces.

At home in the country

If there’s one thing I can say with confidence about Vauxhall’s new compact SUV, it’s that it loves the great outdoors. It eats up the Cumbrian country lanes with ease, the well-balanced suspension giving a crisp ride that is neither too sharp nor too sloppy.


All of this provides a good match to the car’s bold, sculpted styling. It’s been beefed up in comparison to the vehicle it replaces, known simply as the Mokka, with a lower, wider stance up front, giving it a more muscular appearance, highlighted by a wing-shaped horizontal front grille and dominant, sharp, double-wing signature LED daytime running lights.

The all-new interior includes the user-friendly dashboard, with a touch screen through which features like the stereo, phone and sat nav are controlled. This also provides the interface for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, which enable you to project certain apps from your smartphone onto the touch screen and control them through voice control. It’s great for listening to music and making calls, and it even allows you to use your phone's map app like a sat nav system via the Mokka X's new 7-ins colour touch screen.


Mokka X also comes with Vauxhall OnStar as standard, which turns your car into a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, capable of supporting up to seven devices. It also has an SOS function, and will automatically connect you to an OnStar advisor in the event of a crash. Or you can press the blue OnStar service button to speak to an advisor at any time, who will send a destination of your choice (a local restaurant, say) directly to your factory-installed sat nav, to save you from searching. When you’re in the back of beyond, features like these are a reassuring way of keeping in touch.


It certainly feels as if I’ve been in another world, and I’m reluctant to head over the M6 cattle grid and return south. But I can be sure of one thing, at least: thanks to Mokka X, I'll enjoy the ride home.