2019 Vauxhall Vivaro Life review: price, specs and release date

With plush seating for up to eight, can the new Vauxhall Vivaro Life tempt you away from a large SUV?...

2019 Vauxhall Vivaro Life front

Priced from £41,255 | On sale July

Big seven-seat SUVs may be en vogue at the moment, but let’s not forget the faithful MPV. Let’s face it, do you really need a raised ride height and four-wheel drive when you’re heading to a theme park with the kids? Besides, there’s a certain breed of MPV that can literally one-up those SUVs by providing space for eight.

That's where the new Vauxhall Vivaro Life steps in, aiming to provide the perfect upgrade if you’ve outgrown your Ford Galaxy while giving you the sort of interior atmosphere and lofty view that you’d enjoy in a plush SUV.

Now, you've probably noticed that the Vivaro Life looks suspiciously like a van with windows, and technically it is. However, unlike rivals such as the Ford Tourneo Custom and Volkswagen Caravelle, the Vivaro Life shares its underpinnings with SUVs, including the Vauxhall Grandland X and What Car? Award-winning Peugeot 5008. As a result, you not only get all the interior space benefits of the boxy van shape, but also get the good points of parts that aren’t quite so commercial vehicle in feel.

Like the closely related Citroën Spacetourer and Peugeot Traveller, the Vivaro Life is available in two lengths, the latter having a longer rear overhang to improve boot space. Just bear in mind that there's an even shorter version of the Toyota Proace Verso should you value ease of parking over interior space.

2019 vauxhall vivaro life side profile

2019 Vauxhall Vivaro Life 2.0 Turbo D Elite on the road

One of the first things you’ll notice about driving the Vivaro Life is the great visibility from behind the wheel. Most drivers won’t know what a commanding driving position is until they get in a Vivaro Life and start looking down on Range Rovers, while the windows are huge.

As you pick up speed, you might expect wind and road noise to become distractingly loud as they usually do in van-based people carriers, but the Vivaro Life is very nearly as hushed as a family SUV. Impressive.

Given its height and bulk, the Vivaro Life's steering is pleasingly precise, allowing you to place it on the road with ease. We took it down some tight country roads and never found it stressful, even when threading through the tightest of spots. The steering and visibility are key, but the Vivaro Life’s square sides make judging its width easy, too. What's more, all models are less than 1.9m tall, so they fit in most underground car parks.

The Vivaro Life does a good job of absorbing undulating roads, but its ride isn’t perfect, at least when empty. It tends to fidget over craggy road surfaces, while bigger potholes send shudders through the steering wheel. Drivers used to modern cars and SUVs will also be taken aback by the staggering amount of body roll, even at low speeds. The Vivaro Life doesn't feel like a rickety old minibus, but there’s no hiding the effects of its tall body on its handling.

Choosing an engine is simple: there’s a 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel with a six-speed manual gearbox or a 178bhp 2.0-litre diesel with an eight-speed automatic. We’ve tested both and found that the less powerful choice has sufficient shove to get up to motorway speeds quickly enough, despite it being slower from 0-62mph by more than two seconds. 

The automatic gearbox isn’t enough of a reason to plump for the more powerful engine, either. That’s not to say it’s bad – far from it. It’s actually pretty smooth, and while it sometimes hesitates to kick down, it’s responsive when you go to join a busy roundabout from a standstill. But it's hard to fault the manual, because it’s easy to judge the biting point of the clutch and all the gears slot in nicely, with a relatively short throw. Only in stop-start traffic will you really miss the auto.

Over a varied route in the 148bhp Vivaro Life, we managed to get around 34mpg – pretty close to the official 37mpg combined fuel economy figure. Given this MPV's size and weight, that’s not bad. Just bear in mind that manual versions of the Galaxy diesel not only drink less but are in a lower company car tax band, too.

2019 Vauxhall Vivaro Life interior

2019 Vauxhall Vivaro Life 2.0 Turbo D Elite interior

The pleasant surprises continue inside, where you’ll find a generous array of soft-touch materials on the dashboard and centre console. There are still hard and scratchy plastics, however, most noticeably on the top of the doors, which becomes a bit of a problem if you rest your arm there while driving.

The dashboard is logically laid out, with the controls falling easily to hand; there’s no need to delve into the infotainment system to control the heater here. As there’s only one plush trim level, you get a head-up display, which makes driving in an unfamiliar area easier, because your speed and the speed limit are always in your line of sight.

Also standard is a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system that features sat-nav with 3D maps and live traffic data. The screen is responsive to prods, but the font size might be a bit small for some. You can also mirror your smartphone using the standard Apple CarPlay or Android Auto functions. The stereo is pretty powerful, too, with no less than 10 speakers.

Now, you probably wouldn’t be reading this without wanting to know how good the Vivaro is for passengers. Happily, we can report that it's exceptionally roomy – with a couple of caveats. Firstly, it comes as standard as a five-seater, with a third row of three available as a no-cost option. Should you want to stretch out, you can pay extra for a pair of swivelling second row seats. This in turn gives you the option of a fold-out table in the centre.

Caveat number two is that while you can rotate the middle row so that it forms a mini conference room, you have to physically remove the seats, rotate them and then slot them back in, which is hardly the most convenient way of doing things. Tick the option box for two second-row seats instead of three, though, and they do swivel.

While space for adults is good in all rows, with plenty of head and leg room, getting out of the third row isn’t as easy as in the Caravelle, especially if you’re particularly tall or not particularly flexible. You’d best not put your nan back there, that’s for sure.

What the new Vivaro Life has over the old one is third-row seats that not only slide but also split-fold 60:40, so you can have a very versatile load area. There are no official figures yet, but shorter models can fit a couple of soft bags behind the third row, while longer variants have a much bigger boot.

More impressive is that you have about 3000 litres of cargo space in the Vivaro Life once you remove the third-row seats. If you remove the middle row as well and load luggage up to the roof, there's close to 4000 litres – roughly twice the maximum capacity of even the most practical seven-seater SUVs and much better than that of the Galaxy.

Next: 2019 Vauxhall Vivaro Life 2.0 Turbo D Elite verdict >

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