Man­u­fac­turer goes back to the fu­ture with its re­launch and re­vamp of clas­sic from our youth

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - JONATHAN CROUCH

YOU’RE prob­a­bly go­ing to have defin­ing mem­o­ries of your child­hood. One of mine is the black vinyl rear seats of my father’s Vaux­hall Viva and how they would be­come hot­ter than the sur­face of Venus dur­ing sum­mer road trips around Spain.

No air con, a rat­tly old 1.3-litre en­gine and sus­pen­sion that owed more to horse and cart tech, that old Viva never let us down. So, if you’ll for­give a cer­tain per­sonal in­dul­gence here, it’s great to see Vaux­hall re­vive the badge for a new gen­er­a­tion.

Clearly things have come on a long way since the last Viva rolled off the pro­duc­tion line in 1979, af­ter a 16year run.

Chevettes and As­tras were then the way for­ward, but there’s now space at the foot of Vaux­hall’s range for the Viva to be re­born as a five-door city­car. Let’s take a look at what’s in store.

Driv­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence

The Viva has been built around Vaux­hall’s lat­est 1.0-litre three-cylin­der petrol en­gine. In this guise, it makes 75PS worth of power, which is prob­a­bly about ad­e­quate for a city­car. More en­gines may be an­nounced in time, but the pow­er­plant re­quire­ments for a small city scoot like this are usu­ally quite sim­ple.

Mod­els of this sort re­ally don’t cover enough miles for a diesel en­gine to be worth fit­ting and lighter is bet­ter if you want the sort of jinky manoeuvrability that is de­liv­ered by the best ur­ban run­abouts.

This ECOTEC 1.0-litre en­gine drives the front wheels via a five-speed man­ual gear­box and the sus­pen­sion and steer­ing has been op­ti­mised for

com­fort on the sort of pock-marked streets that typ­ify most Bri­tish cities. Like its big­ger brother, the Adam, the Viva gets a ‘City’ mode that light­ens the steer­ing even fur­ther to help take the ef­fort out of park­ing.

De­sign and Build

Vaux­hall’s pre­vi­ous city­car of­fer­ing, the Agila, was a model that never re­ally got the credit it de­served, but the Viva looks set to do bet­ter. The styling is neat and as­sured, with none of the overtly cutesy flour­ishes that make cer­tain small cars very gen­der spe­cific.

The Viva could well ap­peal to lads as well as lasses, with its pur­pose­ful front end, sig­na­ture Z-slash that runs through the door han­dles in the side swage line, plus some neat al­loy wheel de­signs. It’s avail­able in ten ex­te­rior paint colours with a va­ri­ety of 14- to 16-inch wheel choices.

De­signed by Mark Adams’ team in Europe, the Viva is built at GM Korea’s plant in Chang­won and is a sis­ter car to the new gen­er­a­tion Chevro­let Spark model that Bri­tain now won’t get.

The in­te­rior looks well built and ma­tu­rity is again a dom­i­nat­ing theme. There’s a sig­nal lack of over-de­sign, with a sim­ple but classy two-dial in­stru­ment clus­ter, plenty of head­room, a chunky steer­ing wheel and clearly leg­i­ble mi­nor con­trols.

If you’d pre­fer some­thing a bit more outre and per­son­alised, then it’s sim­ple to step up to the brand’s trendier ADAM model, though you’d need a big­ger bud­get to do that. At 3,700mm long, the Viva is marginally longer than a Fiat 500 but has space for five in­side due to a wheel­base that’s fully 100mm longer than that of a Peu­geot 108.

Mar­ket and Model

There’s only a sin­gle five-door bodystyle and a sin­gle 1.0-litre 75PS petrol en­gine on of­fer with a man­ual gear­box. Prices start at around £8,000, rang­ing up to around £9,500 — com­pet­i­tive fig­ures for the city­car seg­ment.

Still, at least there’s a rea­son­able choice of trim. The VIVA range con­sists of two main spec lev­els: SE, and SL — which is a trim name car­ried over from the orig­i­nal Vaux­hall Viva. There are Air Con and ECOFLEX ver­sions of the SE trim, giv­ing cus­tomers a choice of four de­cently-spec­i­fied mod­els — SE, SE Air Con, SE ECOFLEX and SL.

Both VIVA trim lev­els fea­ture a tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem, city mode steer­ing, lane de­par­ture warn­ing, cruise con­trol with speed lim­iter and front fog lights with cor­ner­ing func­tion. Safety items in­clude ESP with trac­tion con­trol, cor­ner­ing brake con­trol, emer­gency brake as­sist, straight line sta­bil­ity con­trol and hill start as­sist.

All VIVA mod­els also fea­ture six airbags, AM/FM ra­dio with aux-in and steer­ing wheel con­trols, elec­tric front win­dows, elec­tric/heated mir­rors and re­mote cen­tral door lock­ing.

The green-minded VIVA SE eco-FLEX variant goes fur­ther, of­fer­ing buy­ers a front lip spoiler, an ex­tended rear spoiler with LED brake light and ul­tra-low rolling re­sis­tance tyres. At the top of the range, SL trim fea­tures elec­tronic cli­mate con­trol, Moro­canna seat trim, leather steer­ing wheel and 15-inch al­loy wheels.

Other high­lights in­clude six speak­ers, USB au­dio con­nec­tion, Blue­tooth mu­sic stream­ing and mo­bile phone por­tal. Op­tions avail­able in­clude a Win­ter Pack, rear park­ing sen­sors and an elec­tric glass slid­ing sun­roof.

Cost of Own­er­ship

The 1.0-litre en­gine makes some de­cent econ­omy fig­ures, with the ECOFLEX model record­ing 65.7mpg on the com­bined fuel econ­omy cy­cle. Even if you don’t go for that ver­sion, you’ll still see 62.8mpg. Around town, that fig­ure drops to 52.3mpg in the eco-fex and 50.4mpg in non-ecoflex cars. Emis­sions range be­tween 99g/ km and 104g/km, so choose care­fully if you want to min­imise your bills.

Resid­ual val­ues for the Viva have yet to be cal­cu­lated, but any small car with an eco­nom­i­cal en­gine and a de­cent war­ranty tends to stack up well when it comes to re­tain­ing value.


The Vaux­hall Viva is clearly tak­ing the softly-softly ap­proach to sales. It’s re­ly­ing on buy­ers to ap­pre­ci­ate its com­mon sense, no non­sense ap­proach to things. And it’s hop­ing they’ll value its ma­tu­rity and qual­ity over gim­micks.

Okay, so the Viva badge unashamedly plun­ders a bit of retro ap­peal, but Vaux­hall needs this car to be no­ticed.

Ul­ti­mately though, the ba­sics just have to be right for a model in this seg­ment. The na­tion’s best-sell­ing city­car is the Hyundai i10, a car that does all the im­por­tant,

sen­si­ble things re­ally well. This Viva looks to have been de­signed to fol­low suit.

Time will tell. The early signs look promis­ing, Vaux­hall hav­ing given this car ev­ery chance to suc­ceed. A Bri­tish badge with Ger­man her­itage from an Amer­i­can com­pany on a car that’s screwed to­gether in Korea? It just proves that even with tiny cars, man­u­fac­tur­ers have to think big.

Bright spark: the in­te­rior (above) is ma­ture, func­tional and sturdy but on the out­side (right) the car looks ex­cit­ing and still man­ages to ap­pear mod­est

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