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Vauxhall Viva SL 1.0

Click to view picture gallery“For generations of UK drivers the
  badge on their car has traditionally
  been one of just two: Vauxhall or
  Ford. For many of these motorists,
  this tribal loyalty is so fierce that it
  could be etched in their DNA...”

DIE-HARD VAUXHALL CUSTOMERS ALREADY have plenty of reasons to stick with the rampant Griffin emblem with cars like the Adam, Astra, Corsa, and Mokka contributing to the 200,000 new Vauxhalls that roll out of the company's UK factory gates every year. Of course, the Viva is not intended solely for Friends of Vauxhall its easygoing character and value for money will appeal to all.

Sub-10K purchase prices (7,995 for the SE and 9,495 for the range-topping SL) allied to affordable running costs and a five-seater cabin means it fits with a wide range of drivers, from those just peeling off their L-plates to families in need of a versatile second set of wheels to mature drivers with absolutely no need to cater for the needs of others. To use a saying popular when the current Viva's namesake first roamed the streets in the early 60s, the new Viva will appeal to the world and his wife.

“In our hands for a week
the Viva averaged
52.9mpg —
student drivers won’t
have to give up
their tipple, nor retirees
their holidays in
the sun...
Choosing which Viva doesn't get much easier: there are just two trim levels: SE and SL. The engine choice is even simpler there's just the one: a petrol-sipping 1.0-litre that puts out 73bhp and which is stirred by a five-speed manual 'box. In top gear that (and 70lb ft) will get you to a maximum of 106mph and off the line to 60mph in 13.1 seconds.

This 999cc three-cylinder unit is one of the latest generation of Vauxhall's engines and although 73bhp isn't earth-shattering, given that the Viva is no heavyweight it's agreeably fit for purpose. And whereas some three-pots can be a bit whizzy and thrummy on their way to peak torque, the smooth-revving 1.0-litre under the Viva's bonnet is less vociferous and notably more refined good news for all those on board.

On paper this 104g/km-emitting 'powerplant' returns 62.8mpg in the official Combined Cycle. In our hands for a week it averaged 52.9mpg. Fuel bills, then, clearly won't be a worry; neither will road tax free for the first year, it's only 20 annually from the second year onwards. So student drivers won't have to give up their tipple, nor retirees their holidays in the sun!

At 3.6-metres long, the Viva's five-door hatchback bodystyle is pleasant on the eye. Four side doors grant easy access to five seats. Size-wise the Viva sits at the top end of its 'city car' class most noticeably so in the front, where headroom is generous in spite of the lofty seating position.

The high-set, buttressed central command panel for the audio and climate controls sits nicely alongside the driver's instrument cluster, whose dials and driver information display between the speedo and rev-counter are all easily taken in at a glance. Good fit and finish and a nice smattering of chrome and gloss black detailing give it a look that's a grade higher than its price suggests.

“Most city cars aren’t
that keen to play
outside the city limits
but the Viva takes
A and B
roads in its stride...
The three-spoke wheel is good to use and there are proper thumb cut-outs plus remote buttons for the cruise control, speed limiter, phone and audio. The seats, upholstered in a smart black fabric that feels good to the touch, have light bolstering that does the job comfortable 150-mile trips can be taken for granted.

Naturally it helps that the driving position is spot-on and affords A1 visibility even through the back screen. Audible parking sensors keep you right when reversing.

Another welcome touch sun visors which are big enough to block out the glare from a low sun without obscuring too much of the road ahead. All-in-all, this Viva is an easy car to live with.

Two is the preferred number for adult rear passengers although three will go reasonably well; however, it's families with three youngsters who will be perfectly served. Getting in and out is a head-safe action and, whatever their age, whoever is travelling in the back will enjoy loads of foot room plus decent views out. Even grown-ups will have more than enough headroom in this no-fuss five-seater.

Behind the 60:40 split-fold rear seats is a regular-proportioned 206-litre boot. If you need to carry more than a bootful then flip up and tumble the seat bases and fold the backrests forward for a totally flat, 1,013-litre cargo bay. In boot mode there's a drop down over the rear sill but it's not a problem and the lightweight parcel shelf-cum-luggage compartment cover can be removed and stored away in a jiffy. Externally there's a wash-wipe for the back screen which will be much appreciated in the wetter winter months, especially on motorways.

While its light City Mode steering may well come in handy manoeuvring into tight city parking bays, hinting that it is equally at ease outside the city walls is the fitment of cruise control and a lane departure warning system.

“The smart black fabric
seats feel good
to the touch and have
light bolstering that does
the job —
comfortable 150-mile
trips can be
taken for granted...
Other kit includes electronic climate control, multifunction leather-rim steering wheel, power windows at the front (rear passengers get wind-up items), heated electric door mirrors, Bluetooth (naturally with music streaming), mobile phone portal, USB and Aux-in ports, dark tinted side windows, and a set of alloy wheels.

An Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) with traction control is also standard-fit, as too is a full set of airbags, daytime running lights, front fog lights with a cornering function, and tyre pressure monitoring. For an extra 500, a glass sunroof can lighten the already airy cabin.

The Viva is very much at home in the concrete jungle, where it makes light work of urban traffic conditions courtesy of its speed-sensitive steering, undemanding gearchange action, fine all-round visibility from the driver's seat, and a town-friendly footprint.

Most city cars aren't that keen to play outside the city limits but the Viva takes A and B roads in its stride, where it feels predictable and sure-footed and can be punted along quite safely, behaving reassuringly when cornering briskly.

Ride-wise it's satisfyingly unperturbed over the mediocre grade of blacktop slapped down over most of the UK's roads. Motorways can be cruised stress-free at the legal limit, and even when the traffic is fast-flowing you and your three-pot won't feel disadvantaged.

So wherever you're going, be it hemmed in by tower blocks or wide open green spaces, you can be sure you'll be happy to arriva in a Viva!

Vauxhall Viva SL 1.0 | 9,495
Maximum speed: 106mph | 0-60mph: 13.1 seconds | Test Average: 52.9mpg
Power: 73bhp | Torque: 70lb ft | CO2 104g/km