Vauxhall Viva SL – Review
By Liam Bird
Just before my brother was born 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. It has been built to compete with likes of the Up!, Mii, Citigo, Hyundai’s i10 (which is the same as Kia’s Picanto), the Suzuki Celerio as well as all 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. Plus, 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. It thrums along rather willingly and drives the front wheels through a 5-speed gearbox, albeit with a slightly rubber feeling shift. 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 though the Viva feels faster than its figures suggest. It rides well too – very well in fact. The truth is, even despite the lack of 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. There’s even a City button to lighten the steering yet further – honestly, you won’t need it. Reversing sensors on something this small seem a bit of an overkill too. As does a third rear seat belt. 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.
“Nicely laid out”
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. 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. Also, some of the plastics used are a tad scratchy. What is there though has been nicely laid out. The Viva’ simple dashboard is very clear, plus everything falls within easy reach and feels like it’ll work time-after-time, ad infinitum.
As does the whole of the Vauxhall Viva SL 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 SL 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