Alec Issigonis designed the original Mini Moke in 1959 as a military vehicle. The Moke failed in this role, but over the years became a success as a fun car for warm climates. Over the years it was built in England, Australia and Portugal.
In 2012 Moke International announced they were bringing back the Moke, or as they call it MOKE. Working with Chery, the Chinese car manufacturer Moke international have updated the design with a target of the rental car fleets in small islands like St Barts. The Result is the 2016 MOKE.
Externally, the MOKE is about 300mm wider than the original, most of this width seems to be between the seats, you can see from these shots of the Red MOKE and the Blue Moke that the front seats are further apart on the newer car.
Under the skin, the changes are much more significant. Power comes from a 1000cc 67HP twin cam 16v engine that on our car drives the wheels through a 5 speed gear box. Save the 5 speed, this is a similar amount of power as a 1275 A series that was fitted to many Australian and Portuguese Mini Mokes.
Suspension is via MacPherson struts in the front and a trailing arm/dead axle arrangement in the back. The engine and suspension arrangement have necessitated that the nose is longer than the original and the bonnet is a few inches higher. Sitting behind the wheel it is clear you are not in a Mini as there is a lot of car in front of you.
Driving impressions? Well first the good news, the handling, at least at the moderate speeds possible in St Barts was nice, the steering was nicely weighted and gave some feedback despite the power steering. The MOKE is heavier than the Mini Moke and is under powered, first gear being needed on many of the steeper roads. The transmission was the major issue with the car we rented. With only 1600 km on the clock, the transmission had a huge amount of backlash in the overall transmission, this made clutch engagement a noisy and difficult endevour. A three point turn was accompanied by loud clunks at every change of direction. Add to this a very vague gear shift, particularly getting into reverse and the driving experience was unpleasant. Sitting back in to the fixed recline seat put the gear stick out of reach, so driving was more like being on the seat rather than in it.
Given the poor state of the transmission after less than 2000 km, you have to wonder how long these cars will last in a rental fleet. A quick look around the car found a few rust spots, this is the worst one.
I was never so glad to be renting rather than owning a car that I thought I loved.
I hope the car we rented is a pre-production example and is not representative of the quality that Moke International intend to deliver in the long term. With improved quality and ergonomics, the MOKE could be a success in its intended market.
The good news is there is an alternative to renting a MOKE, it is to rent an Nosmoke, an electric Moke built in France, that more closely resembles the Mini Moke and seems to have avoided some of the negatives that the MOKE’s poor quality seems to have brought. Sadly we did not get a chance to drive the Nosmoke, perhaps we will find them on another island.