What Car? says...
Chances are you’ll have heard of the Vauxhall Vivaro. It was launched all the way back in 2001, with an unusual and eye-catching design that earned it many fans – and since then, it’s become one of the best-selling vans in the country.
The original Vivaro was a re-badged version of the Renault Trafic and Nissan Primastar – but the Vivaro of 2023 is a different beast altogether.
Now that Vauxhall is part of the Stellantis Group (that's Citroën, Peugeot and Fiat to most of us) the latest, third-generation Vivaro shares its underpinnings with the Citroën Dispatch, Peugeot Expert and Fiat Scudo, as well as the Toyota Proace. And like all of those vans, it’s considered one of the best medium vans money can buy.
That’s no small feat given the big names it must contend with. Not only does the Vivaro go head-to-head with the vans with which it used to share its parts, but also those with which it does now. What’s more, it has to contend with the might of the Ford Transit, Mercedes Vito and Volkswagen Transporter. Crikey.
It’ll come as no surprise to find the Vivaro has plenty in common with its siblings. The engine range is very similar, for example, with a choice of diesel engines, and for the first time in a Vivaro, a fully electric alternative, the Vivaro-e. And both inside and outside, it’s easy to draw a line between all five vans thanks to their near-identical styling.
Because of these changes, though, Vivaro buyers moving up to the latest version from one of the previous two should pay attention to the spec sheets of the van they’re hoping to buy, because some of the payload and dimension options have changed.
For example, while you can still get your Vivaro in both standard- and long-wheelbase forms, both of these versions have been reduced slightly in length versus those that came before – so if you could only just fit your ladders in your standard-wheelbase, last-generation Vivaro, for example, this time around you might need a long-wheelbase variant instead.
By contrast, payload has actually increased on some versions, by as much as 200kg in some cases – so you might get away with a lower specification if your regular cargo is light enough.
The model range has been subject to a few tweaks, too; the most basic version has been renamed Prime, and it’s joined by the more generously equipped Pro. And at the top of the line-up sits the GS, which boasts pumped-up looks thanks to an aggressive bodykit, complete with a roof spoiler and alloy wheels.
It all sounds rather tempting, doesn’t it? But to work out whether the Vivaro is the right van for you, you’ll want to read the rest of our review, in which we cover not only the basics such as its practicality and payload, but also the driving experience and the interior feel.
And if you decide you’d like to take the plunge, you can find a welter of brilliant lease deals for the Vivaro on the What Car? Leasing home page.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Vauxhall Vivaro buyers have a choice of two Euro-6d diesel engines: either a turbocharged 1.5-litre or a turbocharged 2.0-litre.
The 1.5-litre engine makes 99bhp or 118bhp and 199lb ft or 221lb ft of torque respectively.
The 2.0-litre engine makes 118bhp, 148bhp or 178bhp. The big difference between the three versions is the far greater torque available: 251lb ft, 273lb ft and 295lb ft.
If you’re planning on towing, the 2.0-litre engine will undoubtedly make all the difference, especially as the Vivaro can tow 2.5 tonnes, which is more than some rivals.
While the 2.0-litre engine is the more refined and gutsier option, it’s interesting that it and the 1.5-litre engine overlap at 118bhp. Back-to-back comparison reveals the added torque of the 2.0-litre makes progress more effortless, but that the 1.5-litre isn't lacking in pace; it's a capable performer with a moderate load on board.
As a result, if you’re not going to operate your van fully laden it’s well worth considering the smaller engine: the initial purchase price is slightly less and running costs sightly lower, thanks to official fuel consumption of 56.5mpg for the 1.5-litre engine and 52.3mpg for the 2.0-litre.
On the road, the Vivaro is secure and comfortable to drive. The car underpinnings upon which the front half of the vehicle is based really do help it feel more dynamic and far more connected to the road than some rivals. It rides quite softly compared with some of the other vans in the mid-sized segment, but it’s comfortable with or without a load on board.
The Vivaro also offers an automatic gearbox with the 118bhp and 18bhp 2.0-litre engines. It’s not the best unit in the class, but it shifts in a fairly smooth and hassle-free manner. The standard six-speed manual gearbox feels a little bit floppy as you pull or push the lever through the gates.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The interior of this new Vivaro has undergone something of a renaissance. Out has gone the drab, poorly laid out interior of the previous generation model, and in has come something that competes with the class best.
The first impression you now get on climbing in is of the several different grades of plastic which make it a much more aesthetically pleasing place to be. The number of storage areas is also better, as is the layout, which means finding what you need is intuitive.
However, this does come at a price. While the size of the interior is on a par with that of rivals, previous owners will notice that it is a little claustrophobic in comparison to the older model. Most notably the travel in the driver's seat is notably shorter, meaning taller drivers may have to sit more upright than they would like, and the position of the gearlever is very close to the driver's knee. The relatively small windows and upright dashboard are also noteworthy and may not appeal to all would-be buyers.
The Vivaro's comparatively low seating position also compromises visibility a fraction, too, something that is not i not helped by the particularly small door mirrors, which not only cause issues with blindspots but also when you're reversing.
Kit levels for the Edition base model are generous. It gets Bluetooth, a DAB radio, electric windows and door mirrors, cruise control, a speed limiter, steering wheel-mounted controls and a multifunction trip computer.
Sportive vans get the FlexCargo load-though bulkhead, an alarm, a fold-flat centre seat to give you a working area, air-conditioning, rear parking sensors, automatic windscreen wipers and a 7.0in infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility.
Elite models add sat-nav, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, folding electric mirrors, front parking sensors and blindspot monitoring.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Unlike its French siblings, which offer a compact bodystyle, the Vivaro is available in only two lengths: a standard L1 or a long L2.
Maximum loadspace lengths are 2512mm for the L1 and 2862mm for the L2; with the load-through bulkhead available on Sportive vans, those figures increase by 1162mm.
Width in both vans is 1636mm and load area height is 1397mm. The L1 measures 4959mm long and the L2 5309mm long.
Load volumes equate to 5.3m3 and 6.1m3 for the two models. Payloads are impressive, with the best-performing 3.1-tonne vans able to move as much as 1458kg. The L1 and L2 sizes are available with 2.9-tonne and 2.7-tonne gross vehicle weights.
Another feature worth noting on the Vivaro is the optional easy-access side door, which uses a motion sensor under the rear bumper to detect when a foot is waved underneath the area to automatically open the door. Regular nearside and offside side doors are standard on all models, along with twin rear doors that open to 180deg.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
If you want to buy a British-built van, look no further. The Vivaro is still the only model that can proudly wear a 'Made In Britain' badge.
If the Luton-made van does tempt you, we’d recommend the higher-powered of the two 1.5-litre engines if your work requirements allow it. The 118bhp version is sufficient, and the fuel economy it achieves over the 118bhp 2.0-litre engine is worth the slight performance sacrifice.
The two engines do have slightly different servicing requirements, however, which should be factored into running costs; the 1.5-litre needs a service every 25,000 miles, while the service interval for the 2.0-litre engine is every 30,000 miles.
Specification on each of the three trim levels is generous, but we'd expect most drivers would prefer the added features of Sportive, including the 7.0in infotainment touchscreen.
As with the Peugeot Expert and Citroën Dispatch, there are a few additional extras you might also want to consider, including the hands-free loadspace access and the head-up display, which beams your speed and sat-nav info onto a small panel behind the steering wheel. Other features include forward collision alert, a drowsiness warning alert and automatic emergency braking.
All of the Vivaro's features come at a price, though, and you'll pay more for one than you would for either the Peugeot Expert or Citroën Dispatch. The Vivaro is, however, marginally cheaper to buy than Ford's Transit Custom.
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About the author
George Barrow is one of the leading van and truck reviewers, and is the UK’s only representative on the prestigious International Van of the Year jury. He has written about vans and commercial vehicles for the past 15 years, and can be found in titles including The Sun and What Van?, alongside What Car?.
Barrow is well regarded in the commercial vehicle industry, securing access to the latest models – and the people who made them – long before other titles.
Well, we wouldn’t want to give the game away before you’ve read the review. But suffice it to say that the Vivaro probably justifies its position in the best-sellers lists – after all, you don’t get to be this popular for this long without doing something right.
The Vivaro has a solid and generally above-average reputation as a dependable van. It is worth noting, however, that this reputation is based on the first- and second-generation models, and the change of platform could result in a change to this trend; the Peugeot Expert, on which the latest Vivaro is based, doesn’t have quite such a strong record.
There’s a choice of four diesels; two 1.5-litres of 99bhp and 118bhp, and two 2.0-litres that kick out 143bhp and 178bhp. There’s also a 134bhp electric motor in the Vauxhall Vivaro-e, which comes with a choice of two battery sizes – 50kWh and 75kWh.
The broadest-shouldered diesel Vivaros can carry 1458kg, though you’ll need to keep in mind that payload varies from model to model. The fully electric Vauxhall Vivaro-e meanwhile, can carry up to 1392kg.
All Vivaros are 2.2 metres wide, including their mirrors, and 1.9 metres tall. The short-wheelbase Vivaro is five metres long, while the long-wheelbase model is 5.3 metres long.
British-market Vivaros are built at Vauxhall’s Luton plant, here in the United Kingdom.