Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Noisy, rattling diesel engines are already a thing of the past in the van world, and the regular Vivaro is already a well insulated van anyway, but the Vivaro-e's electric powertrain takes the quietness to the next level. It is therefore about as serene and relaxing as a commercial vehicle can be.
It is also very interesting to drive. The 100kW motor, producing 134bhp, might not sound that punchy compared to a top-end 200bhp diesel, but with no gears to change and instantaneous torque from the moment you press the accelerator, the Vivaro-e feels far quicker than you would expect. One stab of the pedal is all that’s needed to dismiss fears that the Corsa's powertrain might not be up to the job.
With the lightest van in the range weighing 1874kg, the Vivaro-e (plated at 3.1-tonnes) can have a total payload of 1226kg. At full weight that tips the scales at more than twice the weight of the electric Corsa, yet the Vivaro-e’s performance is not dissimilar to its diesel engine counterparts or other alternatively-fuelled vehicles in the sector.
The Vivaro has three driving modes, which are changed via a button on the dashboard. Normal mode provides you with 80% power and torque, but if you want the full amount you’ll have to switch into Power mode. Eco limits the outputs, cutting available power to 60% of the total and torque down to 70%. While it doesn’t sound like a big cut, it is enough to noticeably hold back the instantaneous burst of acceleration associated with EVs. The Vivaro-e does feel fast enough though, even in normal mode. In Power mode you would think there was a lot more than 134bhp available.
As well as the three driving modes there are also two levels of regenerative braking. Twist the key to power up the Vivaro-e and by default you’ll be in Normal driving mode, with the standard amount of gentle but noticeable regenerative braking. But the B mode button, again on the dash, increases the regenerative braking to the point that the automatic braking force is enough to activate the brake lights. It’s effective, but a third, more powerful, mode would be more welcome, while having the selection controls on the steering would also make toggling to the optimum setting easier. The implementation of the same controls on the Mercedes eVito are our pick for how these settings can be best deployed.
On the whole, though, the Vivaro-e stops and goes admirably well. Power mode is really only needed if you are carrying a heavy weight or towing (the Vivaro-e is the first electric van with a towing rate and can pull up to one tonne).
Vauxhall’s claimed range for the Vivaro-e is 143 miles for the model with the smaller 50kWh battery and 205 miles with the larger 75kWh pack. In reality those figures are unrealistic, although not as widely off the mark as you might think. We would estimate around 110 miles and 175 miles respectively are achievable with a modest load.
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