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Vauxhall Viva review

Will get from A to B very well, while providing Vauxhall with a bigger slice of the small car market

What is it? The new Vauxhall Viva is a small car for the masses.
Key features: Economy, practicality, high spec for price.
Our view: Will get from A to B very well, while providing Vauxhall with a bigger slice of the small car market

It was in 1963 that Vauxhall first released its Viva, a small car designed to appeal primarily for its practicality and durability. The last one, which went out of production in 1979, was the final car designed solely by Vauxhall as a British company, before the Opel conglomerate took over.

Now the Vauxhall Viva is back, stretching the company’s small car range to three alongside the larger Corsa and the lifestyle-pitched ADAM, and designed very much along similar lines to that 1963 original.

This is designed to be a no-nonsense small car that will be very easy to live with, and thoroughly practical – it won’t be writing any headlines for distinctive looks and potent performance, but then again that’s not what the clientele it’s aimed at will want.

It is no surprise Vauxhall is pouring a lot of resource into this sector – the A, or ‘city-car’ segment is growing remorselessly, now worth 10% of all cars sold in the UK, and Vauxhall believes the Viva gives it a choice of models unrivalled in the sector – especially as it is a five-door.

Viva’s will be mainly bought by a much more conservative audience than the Adam and to an extent the Corsa, though Vauxhall also expects to gain a reasonable number of young buyers, put in the Viva as a first car by their parents.

So the watchwords are that this car will be functional, conservative and value for money, but with some smart appeal too. And the first attraction will be the price – the Viva starts at £7,995 and even the most expensive SL version comes in at under £10,000.

Visually it’s not unattractive – certainly a step above previous GM small car efforts such as the Agila and the Chevrolet Spark. And inside is a similar story – the surroundings are functional, well fitted without being plush. The SL model, of course, gets the better finishes, while the important instruments of the dash are where the driver would expect to see them.

Space is adequate for the sector – the car boasts five seats, but the 206-litre boot falls a bit behind its perceived rivals such as the Skoda Citigo.

The simple outlook continues with the engine line-up. There is just one, the 1.0 petrol unit already familiar from the Corsa and Adam line-ups, but we are told specially tuned for the Viva. In this retail buyer dominated segment, by the way, there is virtually no demand for diesel.

Matched to a five-speed manual gearbox, the engine offers up 74bhp, with 70lbft of torque. That’s enough to move the Viva along with competence, without adding any adrenalin and pushing up insurance groups.

From rest 62mph comes up in a pedestrian 13.1 seconds and it will go on where allowed to 106mph, while returning official combined cycle fuel economy of 62.8mpg – the ecoFlex variant due later in the year will stretch this figure to 65.7 while dropping the CO2 emissions into free road licence territory of 99g/km. Currently it’s 104g/km which is a free first year then £20 per annum, still very impressive when you consider this is a petrol engine.

The car is refined on the road, if needing every gear available to tackle steeper gradients, and the engine note becoming intrusive if taken out of the car’s natural urban environment and onto a motorway.

The traditional McPherson strut front/torsion bar rear suspension – tuned we are told especially for UK roads – keeps matters well under control, and even pushing on through corners – again not something likely to be tried by many Viva buyers – fails to unsettle the car.

Where the Vauxhall Viva is also likely to score is on its equipment. Every version, for example, includes cruise control with a speed limiter and a lane departure warning system, not so long ago unheard of in the city car segment.

Air conditioning is specified on all but entry-level cars, and by the time you get to the top SL variant it has become climate control and sits in a specification also containing such niceties as USB and Bluetooth connectivity.

The options list meanwhile includes rear parking sensors and Vauxhall’s Intellilink infotainment system, which is based around a seven-inch touchscreen and mates with the Apple Car Play and Android Auto systems, allowing one to use one’s favourite smartphone apps through the car. DAB radio is part of the package too.

Still to come is OnStar, the connectivity technology that will allow Viva drivers

to use a portfolio of services such as emergency services, roadside recovery and smartphone remote control.

OnStar-equipped Viva’s will also be Wi-Fi hotspots, enabling up to seven devices to be connected to the car network. The system will be standard on SL models and an option on SE from January 1016.

Motoring journalists such as this one struggle to write exciting things about the Vauxhall Viva, because it is not an exciting car – but then it is not meant to be. This is a car for travelling from A to B and back without fuss, usually within town and week in and week out. The Viva will do that very well, while providing its makers with a bigger slice of the small car market.

Vauxhall Viva – key specifications

Model tested: Vauxhall Viva 5-door 1.0-litre manual, SE/SL
On sale: Summer 2015
Range price: £7,995-£9,495
Insurance group: 3 (4 with a/c)
Engines: Petrol 1.0-litre
Power (bhp):  74
Torque (lb/ft):  70
0-62mph (sec): 13.1
Top speed (mph): 106
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 62.8 (ecoFlex 65.7)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 104 (ecoFlex 99)
Key rivals: Hyundai i10, Toyota Aygo, Skoda Citigo
Test Date: May 2015

Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.
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