Vauxhall Vivaro review

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The third generation Vauxhall Vivaro van is a more sophisticated proposition. Jonathan Crouch drives it

Ten Second Review

The best selling medium-sized van in Britain is this one, Vauxhall's Luton-made third generation Vivaro. It's a medium-sized Mercedes Vito and Volkswagen Transporter LCV rival that aims to build on the huge success of its predecessor with smarter looks, extra efficiency and plenty of technology. Like its Stellantis Group design stablemates, it's also easier to live with and nicer to drive. It is, in short, a contender that potential buyers in this segment can't ignore.

Background

Buy British. It's a plea that has an appealing ring to it but usually requires a certain level of sacrifice or compromise. Vauxhall though, reckons that neither of these things will be needed from owners of this third generation Vivaro van. Now that Ford Transits are no longer built in Blighty, it's one of the only LCV products that the UK screws together and claims class leadership in most of the key areas that'll matter to business folk.

But then so many commercial vehicle products do. This one will certainly need to make good on its glossy brochure promises if it's to face down direct medium-sized van rivals as talented as Ford's Transit Custom, Volkswagen's Transporter, Mercedes' Vito and the shared design we know as either a Renault Traffic, a Nissan Primastar or a Fiat Scudo. An even tougher challenge perhaps for Vauxhall will be in differentiating this product from its near-identical design stablemates, Peugeot's Expert and Citroen's Dispatch and Toyota's Proace.

Your selection between this vehicle and its Stellantis Group-designed counterparts may come down to deals and personal preference but if Vauxhall's claims for this MK3 Vivaro model are correct, then you could find yourself choosing this design over other market sector rivals for more concrete reasons.

Driving Experience

This time round, there's a primary choice of 1.5 or 2.0-litre diesels. The 1.5 comes in 100PS or 120PS outputs but these units are poorer than the old model's 1.6-litre diesel powerplants in terms of their ability to take heavy payloads. Which means that if you habitually carry heavier loads or engage in longer trips, you'll want to ignore it and plump for the 2.0-litre Turbo D option, which comes in 145PS or 180PS guises. The 2.0-litre models might end up being more economical too, because their higher capacity and greater torque means that you'll not need to thrash them about so often. All combustion models use a 6-speed manual gearbox, expect the top 180PS derivative which gets an 8-speed auto as standard. There's also the option of a full-electric Vivaro Electric variant which as a 136hp electric motor and a WLTP driving range of 133 miles in 50kWh form or up to 196 miles in 75kWh guise.

Refinement has taken a big step forward with diesel versions of this MK3 design, as has ride quality thanks to load-sensitive shock absorbers and a so-called 'passive' suspension system that adjusts springing and damping as required, depending on the road surface. Plus this model feels quite manoeuvrable. Across the range, top-spec variants get camera-driven kit like speed limit recognition, lane departure warning, Side Blind Spot Alert and Driver Attention Alert systems. There's also a clever 'Intelligent Speed adaptation' system that enables you to maintain a constant speed at a cruise.

Design and Build

The main visual change over previous generation Vivaros is the shorter bonnet of this MK3 model's more appealing nose. The third generation design is shorter and narrower than its predecessor and, as before, is offered in two lengths - 'L1' form (39mm shorter than before) or 'L2' (89mm shorter). Previously the longer version had a longer wheelbase. Now, it just features extended bodywork behind the rear axle, which makes the 'L2' 350mm longer than the 'L1'. You don't now get a high-roof option either, but the standard model is a little taller than before.

Inside, there's a low, quite car-like seating position with plenty of seat and wheel adjustment. As usual in this class, a three-person bench seat is fitted and there's a bulkhead flap so that longer items can be pushed through from the cargo area. The middle part of the seat folds down to create a table. The dashboard is almost identical to that you'll find in the Peugeot, Citroen and Toyota versions of this design, which means that most functions are on the central touchscreen, though the climate controls are separated out below.

Market and Model

Vivaro pricing starts at around £27,500 (exc VAT) - or from around £35,000 for the Vivaro Electric (after deduction of the government's Plug-in Van Grant). Either way, this LCV is available in three trim levels: 'Prime', 'Pro' and 'GS', with a choice of two lengths, 'L1' (4.95m) and 'L2' (5.30m). There's also a passenger-carrying version, the Vivaro Life. And a Doublecab variant (priced from just under £46,000 excluding VAT) that features an innovative hinged steel-mesh bulkhead that articulates forward when the second row seats are folded and not in use. 

All models are decently equipped, even base-spec variants including cruise control, a speed limiter and a DAB audio system with Bluetooth. If you can stretch your budget, 'GS' variants add in niceties like a body kit with a rear spoiler, dark 18-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, rear parking sensors, a 7-inch Multimedia central touchscreen, metallic paint, front foglamps, auto headlamps and wipers, plus a 'FlexCargo' load-through bulkhead. All variants benefit from 'Vauxhall Connect', which allows you to interact with your Vivaro via your 'phone.

Practicalities and Costs

The load area is shorter (2,512mm for the 'L1' and 2,862mm for the 'L2'), compared to 2,537mm and 2,937mm for the old Vivaro, and there's less width between the wheel arches, although it's only shrunk by a centimetre to 1.26 metres.

This MK3 Vivaro offers a little extra load area height than its predecessor, with a maximum height of 1,397mm from floor to ceiling. This compensates for a slightly shorter load bay (2,512mm for the 'L1', 2,862mm for the 'L2') and marginally less width between the wheelarches (now 1.26m). Overall, cargo capacity is slightly improved on the previous model. That means a minimum load volume of 5.3 cubic metres for the 'L1', and 6.1 cubic metres for the 'L2'. This expands to 5.8 and 6.6 cubic metres when the through-load facility is used (standard if you avoid base-spec trim), but this only applies to loads that can fit through the hole in the bulkhead.

The possible payloads you can carry with the 1.5-litre engine are fractionally down on those of the old MK2 1.6-litre model. The feeblest 100PS model can only take on 975kg, while the 120PS manages 1,079kg. The 2.0 Turbo D is better, as it can carry up to 1,458kg in 145PS guise, or up to 1,418kg in the 180PS auto. This is around 200kg more than the previous Vivaro and shows the benefit of the gutsier 2.0-litre diesel.

As for running costs, well the 1.5 120PS variant returns up to 42.1mpg on the WLTP combined cycle and 175g/km of CO2. The 100PS petrol version isn't much different at 42.8mpg and 172g/km, while the 2.0 145PS diesel has a best economy reading of 42.1mpg and 176g/km.

There's also the option of a full-electric Vivaro Electric variant which as a 136hp electric motor and a WLTP driving range of 133 miles in 50kWh form or up to 196 miles in 75kWh guise. Charging via a 7.4kW wall box will take over 7 hours for the 50kWh battery - it's more than 11 hours for the 75kWh unit. If you find a 100kW DC rapid charger when you're out and about, you'll be able to get the smaller battery from near empty to 80% full around half an hour: it'll take around 45 minutes to do the same with the larger capacity unit.

Summary

In a medium range market where there really isn't that much to choose between the very best panel vans, buying decisions often come down to very small differences. If you've an LCV brand, the more of these you can build into your product, the better placed it will be. And on that basis, this third generation Vivaro is very well placed indeed.

Of course, potential Vivaro customers convinced by Vauxhall's proposition will need to remember that in a rival Peugeot Expert, Citroen Dispatch or Toyota Proace, they could have pretty much exactly the same product with a different badge. It's at that point though that the power of Vauxhall's huge UK dealer network might well sway the decision this Luton brand's way. That and the fact in buying this vehicle, you're supporting its British build. Another small but significant difference you see. But maybe perhaps in this case, a crucial one.

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