Calling all my fellow parents out there! Looking for an affordable, easy-drive new family car? Well, have I got news for you. You’ve probably seen it in the ads: it’s the new Vauxhall Viva and it’s a brilliant all-rounder for a family and for city driving. The manufacturers call it “cheeky” and it’s certainly great value for money. It starts at only £7,995 for the basic SE model and even the top SL spec is well under £10,000.
It’s roomier than the Corsa, more practical than the Adam and cheaper than both! Its other obvious rival that comes to mind is the Hyundai i10, the What Car? City Car of the Year. But in fact, I reckon the Viva is even better equipped.
Since Vauxhall announced the price and specs for this lovely family run-around, I’m sure other parents like me have been waiting keenly to get their hands on it for a test drive, to see if it’s as good as they promised. Well, now I have, so here’s my run-down of what you need to know.
This nippy city car combines style with a compact, well-proportioned exterior. Metallic paint options available from £500 can add some zing and help you stand out in a sea of on-street or shopping-centre parking. The more extreme colours I’m talking about include fresh green (lime really), a subtle and a sparkling blue, and, wait for it, mystic violet. That’s a real stand-outer – handy, too, if the distractions of getting the kids out when you arrived meant you didn’t take proper note of where you left it.
Vauxhall has succeeded in its aim of producing an up-to-date version that keeps the original Viva’s philosophy of ‘clean lines, durability and practicality’. The body looks a little like the Corsa, with a bold grille across the front and “stylishly inset fog lamps”. To say nothing of the additional benefit they offer of being able to see more of the bends in the road. The lights have been designed to stay on in daylight too, lending both style and safety.
The clever metallic wheel trims really add to the stylish theme. What’s clever about them? Well, on the basic SE model, they’re actually plastic, made to look like alloys. They look great, and they’re good at keeping the weight, and the price down. Every little count’s. If you want the real McCoy though, go for the top spec, where the alloys are genuine.
The heated mirrors will save you a bit of precious time on winter school runs. Reservation of electric windows for the front makes it easy for you and will also stop the kids fiddling with the buttons in the back.
The cabin is pretty roomy – perfect for bringing the kids and their friends home for tea. Three full seats across the back, with airbags, mark out the Vauxhall Viva from some of the competing small city cars.
There’s enough legroom in the back for a tall adult and whilst you wouldn’t want to have them endure a long distance drive, the Viva is plenty large enough for ‘me-time’ runs with friends to the pub in the evening.
The height-adjustable driver’s seat makes it easy to get comfy after tall partners have been at the wheel. And the steering column is tiltable too, so you can make it just what you need.
It’s really stylish: the look of the dashboard is bang up-to-date and a leather steering wheel comes as standard on the top spec model. The radio, headlights, cruise control and more can be managed from handy steering wheel controls – great for minimising driving distractions.
I don’t know about you but I rarely set out with the kids without making sure my mobile is fully charged (the last thing I want to do, if I get into any difficulty, is to trail them sleepily to the nearest public phone to summon help). But if you tend to forget to charge up first, go in for the top spec that comes with a USB port and Bluetooth.
All the stuff for most activities will fit neatly in the 206-litre boot. And it extends, by folding down the back seats, to create 1,013 litres. Enough for the drum kit or scout camp gear. And you wouldn’t be limited to taking just the drummer – you can put the guitarist in the back too if you pile the drums up and split the seats instead.
On the road
Small and light, it drives well: available with one engine only, Vauxhall have made sure it does the job. At 74bhp it’s light but with plenty of torque, doing 0-62mph in 13.1 seconds. So you can accelerate in and out of those routine urban driving challenges whilst barely ruffling the hair of your toddler’s head.
GM’s new 1.0-litre, three-cylinder Ecotec engine powers all the models. You’ll need to go for the mid-ecoFLEX version to (just) beat the tax-free 100g/km CO2 emissions rating. But at £20 tax for the rest, it’s hardly worth bleating about.
Driving around town is made easy with the light steering and decent visibility. It’s easy to park on a sixpence, which is just as well if you’re fighting for parking with the other parents taxiing to the kids’ activities. But if its compact size is not sufficient to cope with really tight urban parking, you can always add parking sensors as an extra. There’s also a hill-start assist option, to let you get out of any steep incline cleanly every time.
And if you’re a mum like me, you’ll be looking for kiddie safety features, right? Firstly, the airbags extend to the sides and the roof of the car to protect your precious cargo. You can let the speed limiter on the cruise control take care of speed traps. And tyre pressure monitors and lane departure warning mean you can cross these off your list of things to remember. Particularly helpful if your head is already full of the wails from the back! Let the Viva do it for you.
Overall the Vauxhall Viva takes the stress out of city driving, giving good visibility, acceleration, light steering and easy parking. The option of five full seats, zippy little engine and low tax provide the sense; the metallic options, alloy-look wheels and stylish dashboard complete the look. For a mum in a hurry, it would certainly take the frazzle out of juggling my routine – and put the fun back in doing the run-arounds!