Viva Vauxhall as a motoring icon is back
NO apologies this week for taking a trip down memory lane as our test car brought happy recollections of my childhood flooding back.
Many people over a certain age will have owned or been driven around by their parents in a Vauxhall Viva. For decades, along with Ford Escorts and Morris Marinas, the Viva was one of the most common cars on UK roads.
And now, after a break of over 35 years, the Viva is back… well in name anyway as Vauxhall revive the badge which adorned their most successful car of the 1960s and 70s..
Made from 1963 until 1979 there were three versions – the boxy HA, the more streamlined and Americaninfluenced HB and the roomier HC – and my old mum had one of every type during my childhood and teenage years.
Her first ever car was a 1964, 1,057cc dark blue base model HA – then we went upmarket with a 1967 bright red HB in ‘SL trim’ (with bucket seats, and a radio!) before her final version, a white four-door HC.
Launched this summer, the 2015 Viva is Vauxhall’s all-new five door entry-level ‘city car’ priced from £7,995 on the road.
And in a nod to its ancestors, as well as the base SE model, there is a higher-spec SL version which was our very cute, cheerful and easy-todrive test car this week – complete with very 1970s metallic powder blue paintwork.
Standard kit is good on both versions, but the SL includes things not even dreamt of in the 60s and 70s like DAB radio, multiple airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, lane departure warning, speed sensitive power steering with city mode, daytime running lights, foglights with cornering function... plus features only found on luxury cars of the day like adjustable steering wheel and seat height, cruise control, electric windows, air-con, electric/heated door mirrors and remote central locking.
Performance-wise all models have the thrummy, three-cylinder 74bhp 999cc petrol engine which delivers 0-60 in an acceptable 13.1 seconds with a top speed of 106mph. The Viva is quite comfortable and performs well at motorway speeds and MPG figures are a non-too-shabby shade over 50 urban, 72 extra-urban and 63 combined.
Class-leading technology includes ESP with traction control, cornering brake control, emergency brake assist, straight line stability control and hill start assist as standard across the range.
At £9,495, the SL spec also features ‘Morocanna’ partleather style seat trim, leather steering wheel and 15-inch alloy wheels plus six speakers, USB audio connection, Bluetooth music streaming and a mobile phone portal.
Extra cost options available include a Winter Pack (heated seats and steering wheel), rear parking sensors, metallic paint and an electric glass sliding sunroof.
Vauxhall are clearly aiming the car at people with fond memories of the old Vivas, and it seems to be working.
A very polite lady who looked to be in her mid-50s tapped on my driver’s door window on a town centre car park to ask how much the Viva was as she ‘quite liked the look of it’.
When I told her prices start from £7,995 for the SE she seemed impressed... but was a bit less-so to learn that my top-of the range SL was £9,495 plus £545 for the metallic ‘Blue Ray’ paintwork.
But you have to remember the 1964 Ellsemere Port-built Viva cost £527 at a time when the average weekly wage was just £25 – yet Vauxhall went on to sell over 1.5 million before it was replaced by the hatchback Astra in 1979.
And you can guess what my late mum’s next two cars were… although she did eventually get tempted away from Vauxhall by Ford Fiestas before finally hanging up her car keys aged 84!
●● The new Vauxhall Viva city car and, inset from top, the original HA, HB and HC. Below – yours truly with my old mum’s first Viva