First Drive

2015 Vauxhall Viva 1.0 SE review

The Viva name is back on an all-new five-door city car, but does Vauxhall's frugal hatchback have what it takes to succeed in such a competitive market?

Words ByWhat Car? team

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The original Vauxhall Viva, which first went on sale in 1963, was marketed as a practical and affordable small car.

Now, 52 years on, the classic Viva name is back, on an all-new five-door city car. It’s claimed to be well equipped, easy to drive and ideal for everyday use, but it faces stiff competition from the likes of the Suzuki Celerio and Hyundai i10.

The front-wheel drive Vauxhall is based on a new platform and powered by a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, which is coupled to a five-speed manual gearbox. Buyers can pick from two trim levels, SE and SL.

Entry-level Β£7995 SE models come with cruise control, electric front windows, heated mirrors and fog lights as standard. It’s this model that Vauxhall expects to be the most popular, but many may be disappointed that it doesn't have USB, digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity or air-con.

Adding Vauxhall's Β£425 'Intellilink' 7.0in colour touchscreen brings all the above multimedia functions (although no Viva has a CD player), and you can add air-con for Β£495, too.

Flagship SL trim is well equipped including Bluetooth and a USB input, and has more style features including 15in alloys and a leather steering wheel, but you'll still have to pay for the colour touchscreen, so we'd say speccing up the base SE gets you more kit for less money.

What’s the 2015 Vauxhall Viva 1.0 SE like to drive?

As you’d hope for a small city car, the Viva is easy to drive. The controls are all light and predictable, although the clutch action can occasionally be a little difficult to judge, and in its natural urban habitat, the Viva dispatches corners with ease and without excessive body roll, so it feels safe and secure. It even rides well, staying mostly composed even over rough, patched up roads.

However, even around town the Viva's steering can feel quite vague, with quite inconsistent responses depending on how much lock you've applied, and if you venture out onto the motorway you'll feel as if you have to make small steering inputs constantly to keep the car in a steady, straight line.

The naturally aspirated engine is fine at lower speeds, but it does need revving very hard if you want faster progress and it doesn't pick up quite as well as some other rivals. It's not something that will bother most city car owners, but a Suzuki Celerio is noticeably quicker to 30mph, and across the 30-70mph sprint.

The saving grace is that the Vauxhall's engine is smooth-revving, and the five-speed manual gearbox is no chore to use. It's fairly economical, too. Vauxhall claims 62.8mpg, and it managed 48.9mpg in our real world True MPG tests.

A cleaner β€˜ecoFLEX’ version of the SE model is available, which is free to tax each year, saving Β£20 of VED tax over the standard Viva thanks to CO2 emissions of 99g/km. The ecoFLEX costs an extra Β£175 to buy, though, and is only fractionally more efficient – so it’ll likely take a long time to recoup that difference in price.

What’s the 2015 Vauxhall Viva 1.0 SE like inside?

The Viva features a neatly appointed and practical interior. There’s lots of room up front and, while the steering column doesn’t adjust for reach, it’s relatively easy to find a comfortable driving position thanks to standard height adjustment on the driver's seat.

Two tall adults will be fine in the back seats for short journeys, but the Viva doesn't have as much leg or headroom as some rivals, including the Suzuki Celerio and Hyundai i10, and the raked-back roofline makes it feel a bit dark back there, too. The boot is spacious enough for daily duties, and the rear seats split and fold flat provided you lift the seat bases up.

The material quality throughout the cabin generally feels very good - better than in many rivals, even in this base trim - and touches like the smartly styled instrument cluster lend the Viva a pleasantly high-end feel. While there's a fair bit of tyre noise, even at lower speeds, it's quite refined by the standards of these small cars, and the engine is also one of the quieter ones in this class, if you're happy to make sedate progress and keep to the lower rev ranges.

The Viva hasn’t been Euro NCAP crash tested yet, but it does come with a wide array of safety equipment as standard, including electronic stability control, six airbags, tyre pressure monitoring and even lane assist. There’s no spare wheel as standard, though, but one is available for a tolerable Β£110.

Should I buy one?

Vauxhall’s new Viva is a car that has many strong points, and is competitive on the key ones. If you like the way it looks - one of its key selling points, undoubtedly - then you should certainly consider it. The trouble is that the market is brimming with great small cars, and the Viva does little to stand out amongst them.

Currently, at least, its PCP finance offers aren't that competitive, so you could get a well-specced Hyundai i10 or Skoda Citigo for a similar monthly cost, while if you're buying outright, a similarly priced Suzuki Celerio - while noisier and cheaper feeling inside - has a bigger cabin, more efficient engine, and is better equipped, with air-con and the key multimedia connections as standard.

Overall, the Viva is likeable and does the job of a small car perfectly well, but just be sure that one of the other more rounded alternatives doesn't suit your needs and finances better.

What Car? says...

The rivals:

Hyundai i10

Skoda Citigo

Vauxhall Viva 1.0 SE

Engine size 1.0-litre petrol

Price from Β£7995

Power 74bhp

Torque 70lb ft

0-62mph 13.1 seconds

Top speed 106mph

Fuel economy 62.8mpg

CO2 104g/km