Vauxhall Viva


   Just before my brother arrived in 1969, my dad, in need of a family car, bought a Vauxhall Viva HB estate. Four years later when I came along the Viva was still providing reliable transport, and thanks to dad’s careful ownership, cautious driving style, and near religious standards of home servicing, it did so for quite a few years after that.  As time went on though childhood Sunday mornings seemed to smell less of fresh oil and car-waxes and more of body-filler and spray-paint as the Viva, like nearly all of them in fact, fell foul to the dreaded tin-worm. After many years of service, despite dad’s best efforts the Viva HB made its final journey to the local breakers and a Hillman Avenger 1600 Super took its place.

    What that means is, the Vauxhall Viva is probably the first car I remember and it was more than likely the first car I ever rode in too. Now, 36 years after the Viva went out of production and Vauxhall mothballed the name, there’s a new one. This one’s a bit smaller though.

   Although a five door the new Viva is very small in fact and has been built to compete with likes of the VW/SEAT/Skoda Up!/Mii/Citigo, Hyundai’s I10 (which is the same as Kia’s Picanto), the Suzuki Celerio and all of the other dinky city-car-come-roller-skates of the same ilk. Its styling might not be quite as distinctive as that of most of the aforementioned bunch but it’s neat and unassuming nonetheless and it won’t date nearly as quickly as Vauxhall’s other diminutive offering, the Adam.

    Power, regardless of spec, comes from a three-cylinder 999cc motor that thrums along rather willingly and drives the front wheels through a 5-speed gearbox, albeit with a slightly rubber feeling shift . I say power, 74bhp and 70lbft of torque means this little motor allows skins of rice puddings the world-over to rest easy: 0-62 mph takes 13.2 seconds.

   Strangely tough the Viva feels faster than its figures suggest and it rides well too – very well in fact, and the truth is even despite the lack reach adjustment on the steering column it’s rather comfy. OK, so it might not be the kind of car that you’ll set new lap records in and on the motorway things do feel somewhat frantic, but around town, which ultimately is where the Viva has been designed for, it feels more than nippy enough. Goldfish bowl-like visibility and super-light controls make it a doddle to park and there’s even a City button to lighten the steering yet further - honesty you won’t need it. Reversing sensors on something this small seem a bit of an overkill too. As does a third rear seatbelt. If my brother and I sat side-by-side in the rear of the new Viva there’d certainly be no room for anyone else. Nevertheless, the boot does offer enough space – just – to swallow the weekly groceries.

    As with the original Viva, Vauxhall have focused on affordability: prices start at just £7995. That said standard equipment levels aren’t particularly generous in the lower priced cars and if it’s DAB and Bluetooth and even air-con you’re after you’ll need to dig a little deeper. There’s no touchscreen either – well not until January, then Vauxhall’s second-generation Intellilink multimedia system will become available, and some of the plastics used are also a tad scratchy. What is there though has been nicely laid out and the Viva’ simple dashboard is very clear, plus everything falls within easy reach and feels like it’ll work time-after-time, ad finitum.

    As does the whole of the Viva in fact. It may not be the sharpest of city cars, either to drive, or to look at, but it does everything it’s been designed to do and it does it well. After a week in its company I can say without hesitation that with a few options fitted (Sorry Vauxhall, I can’t function without air-con these days) it’s an incredibly easy little car to live with and ultimately it would make a welcome second, or third, addition to many a family’s fleet.

   Quite whether the new Vauxhall Viva will ever become as memorable as the Vivas that my dad, my brother and I remember from our pasts though remains to be seen.


Vauxhall Viva Sl 1.0

Engine: 999cc 3Cyl 12V petrol

Transmission: 5 speed Manual, front wheel drive.

Power:  74bhp @ 6500pm

Torque: 70 lbft @ 4500rpm

0-62MPH: 13.1 Sec

Max Speed: 106 mph

CO2: 104 g/km

MPG: 62.8 combined

Price: from £9,495 (car driven) £9,995  


Many thanks to Vauxhall’s Zoe at UK press office for the loan of the Viva



Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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