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£9,855 when new
Vauxhall Viva. The name’s familiar, no? The Viva was Vauxhall’s remarkably big-selling British-built small family car of the 1960s and 1970s. Ask your grandfather. And now it’s back. Well, the name is. This one’s a sub-mini five-door, made by GM in Korea but designed in Europe. It’s a rival for the likes of the Panda, the Up/Mii/Citigo, the C1/108/Aygo and the i10/Picanto. Holiday hire car? Could be, if you’re a staycationer. If you’re away in Europe it goes by the name of Opel Karl.
Bodyshop courtesy car? Possibly, though Vauxhall doesn’t expect to sell many for fleet use. Most will be for private punters. A diverse group of people as it happens. How so? Some of them will be youngsters, as it’ll be their first car, likely bought by their parents. Most will be much older. What Vauxhall calls, with engaging modesty, ‘A to B motorists’ rather than enthusiasts. Will it suit them? Space for the teenagers’ mates or the OAPs’ grandkids is adequate and there are five seatbelts. It’s cheap to insure and tax (there’s a sub-100g/km version on hard tyres). All of those people will want value, and it certainly offers that. Opening price is under £8,000 on the road. And that includes cruise control, fogs, lane departure warning, six airbags, aux-in, trip computer and remote locking. A/C is a reasonable extra £500. Strangely among all that beneficence, Vauxhall still asks you to pay extra for Bluetooth. Even so, the base Viva stacks up against considerably less cheap mid-spec versions from the rivals. It’s a bargain.
It’s cheap, but is it cheerful? The engine is brand-new. It’s a three-cylinder with variable valve timing. It’s based on the one out of the new Corsa. But it’s stripped of the turbo and DI and balance shafts. It’s a sweet enough thing, quieter than the similarly-specced one in the Aygo et al. But although its power, 75bhp, is perfectly decent for the class, the 70lb ft of torque hardly is, so you’re always having to cane the life out of the little thing. On top of which the car I tested was barely run in. I suspect it might later loosen up. At least the five-speed gearbox has a slick shift. The steering is high-geared, but doesn’t give you much feedback. Never mind, it’s a well-mannered chassis and secure in corners. It lives up to the eternal truth that in constrained real roads and roundabouts, you’ll have more fun in a slow, un-grippy car that you’re driving flat-out than in something much quicker that’s forced by circumstances into dawdling. Is it comfortable? The ride is actually a bit firm if it’s just you in the car. With one or two passengers it levels out noticeably, though I fancy it’s still less plush than an Up. There’s a bit of road noise on coarse tarmac, but no worse than the class average. Seats and driving position are fine. So is it the perfect first car? Well, the Viva does have a killer app. Or it will do after January 2016, when it becomes fully connected. A sub-£500 option brings Vauxhall’s IntelliLink, a big centre TFT. This connects to your phone via USB, netting you navigation, web radio and voice-texting via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’ll also have the option of OnStar, which turns the Viva into a wifi-hotspot and connects it via data and voice to a call centre. The remote human being will send navigation directions and summon emergency help and remotely track the Viva if stolen. Though frankly we don’t see the Viva as a prime target for the thieving community.