I was at the computer keyboard thinking on how to start writing my road test about the new Vauxhall Viva and why Vauxhall need yet another small car range when they already have the Adam and Corsa ranges?
Just as I was pondering this point into my e-mail in-box came a press release from Vauxhall headed ‘You can teach an old Gran new tricks’.
It appears Vauxhall have commissioned a ‘Gran Can’ study involving 2,000 adults over 50 to launch their all-new Viva model. It found this older generation is less cautious than their twenty-something counterparts with almost a quarter confessing to using their savings to experience new adventures rather than saving for future investments. Top of the ‘oldies’ hit-list of things to do were booking holidays, signing up to social media, going to Zumba and on-line dating. Interestingly out of the 25 things to do on the ‘Gran Can’ list – buying a car wasn’t one of them.
I’m always amazed when motor manufacturers pigeonhole their models into buyer types by age or profession. Surely in this competitive market it turns off people outside these groups buying the product they are marketing. The new Viva with its relatively low purchase and running costs, plus the low insurance rating, appears to me to be an ideal small car for young motorists. It will also be appealing as a second car in the family or providing frugal motoring for ‘empty-nesters’. The Viva might have a retro name but it doesn’t mean buyers are of a retro age.
Getting away from ‘pie-in-the sky marketing’ and back to reality, the new Viva is a compact five door hatchback with prices starting from £7,995 and ranging up to £9,495. There is only one engine on offer, a 999cc normally aspirated 75hp petrol unit mated with a five-speed manual gearbox. Officially this engine will return 62.8mpg in the Combined Cycle and on my week long test covering everything from motorways to commuter driving my car’s figure was 50.2mpg. With CO2 emissions of 104g/km road tax is £0 for the First Year and then only £20 for Year Two onwards. Insurance is low cost as well with the car rated as Group 4E. It all adds up to relatively inexpensive motoring to suit all ages and requirements.
In addition, to meet the wide range of potential customers there are two main trim and equipment levels SE and SL which are the same trim levels carried over from the original Vauxhall Viva of the mid 1960’s. To widen the choice a bit further there are two subsidiary levels of spec for the SE. These are the self explanatory SE Air Con and SE ecoFlex – the latter returning 65.7mpg with just 99g/km.
The design of the new Viva hatchback is fairly conventional, a compact overall length of 3,675mm with five doors and with seating for five but in reality two adults up front and up to three small children in the rear. Rear legroom is minimal but headroom is good front and rear. The rear 60/40 split seat backs can be folded down and this increases the boot space from 206 to 1,013-litres. There is no spare wheel as standard but one is available for a costly extra £110. The front interior is neat, the controls well laid out plus the plastic finishes of the fascia and the design of the smart instrument cluster give a better appearance than its price suggests. The steering wheel can be adjusted for height but not for reach but I found the driving position was comfortable and the visibility good.
The specification is also competitive with the base SE version having tyre pressure monitoring, city mode steering, lane departure warning, cruise control, cornering function front fog lights, electronic stability with traction control, six airbags, electric front windows, electric and heated door mirrors plus remote central door locking. The SL trim level additions include electronic climate control, leather covered steering wheel, 15-inch alloy wheels, six speakers, Bluetooth music streaming with mobile phone portal and tinted glass. My test car also had the £500 optional glass sunroof. For an extra £1,500 the SL specification looks a good deal over the SE version.
So far so good but now we come to the performance element. This is the Viva’s weakest feature but that must be offset by the advantages of really good fuel economy and low tax gathering CO2 emissions. The naturally aspirated sub 1.0-litre triple cylinder high revving petrol 75hp unit feels less than eager in terms of acceleration, both initially from standstill and at lower overtaking speeds. Once 4,500rpm has been reached it becomes more responsive and it cruises very happily at 70mph on motorways. The 95Nm low level of torque is its downside but that would be adequate if it had a turbocharger for boosting lower down torque delivery. Top speed is 106mph and zero to 60mph takes 13.1-seconds.
Getting the right amount of engine revs for pulling away from standstill takes a while to get used to as does the long travel clutch pedal. You have to work hard to get the best from this engine except when open road cruising speeds have been reached so it’s just as well the five-speed gearbox is slick and easy to use. Engine noise intrusion, even at higher revs, was not so evident but the road noise over poorer surfaces was.
Generally the handling was surefooted which isn’t always the case with small city cars. There was a little body roll during cornering but the car remained planted and predictable. Potholes certainly take their toll on ride comfort and again this is a similar trait for most small cars but on motorways this element of performance improved. It might technically fall into the urban use city car/mini sector but it is more capable than that for open road travel.
Vauxhall might be aiming their Viva at older buyers with their ageist ‘Gran Can’ marketing campaign but it is more youthful than that. It will appeal to the young and young-at-heart empty-nesters as well as valuable middle-aged customers.
But it is not going to be an easy ‘sell’ because the new Vauxhall Viva is in a very competitive market sector facing up to the sales leading Hyundai i10, the Volkswagen up!, Suzuki Celerio, Skoda Citigo, Fiat 500, Renault Twingo and the Peugeot 108 to name just a few.
MILESTONES: New Vauxhall Viva SL 1.0 manual 5-door city car. Price: £9,495 (Prices start from £7,995) Engine/transmission: 999cc, 3-cylinder, normally aspirated petrol, 75hp at 6,500rpm, 95Nm of torque at 4,500rpm, 5-speed manual. Performance: 106mph, 0-60mph 13.1-seconds, 62.8mpg Combined Cycle (50.2mpg on test), CO2 104g/km, VED £0/£20. Insurance group: 4E. Dimensions/capacities: L 3,675mm, W 1,595mm, H 1,485mm, boot/load space 206 to 1,013-litres. Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles. For: Well equipped, good quality interior, good real life fuel economy although well short of the official figure, cheap for taxes and insurance. Against: Sluggish engine, no automatic gearbox option for ‘golden oldies’ or Motability customers, road noise intrusion at times, limited rear seat leg room. Miles Better News agency