Vauxhall Vivaro review

Our Rating: 
4.5
4.5/5.0
Price Range: 
£17,995 - £23,145 (+VAT)
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Vauxhall Vivaro panel van is built in Britain and should tick the important boxes for domestic operators.

For: 
Engine refinement, ride comfort, practical load area
Against: 
Rivals offer more powerful engines

British van drivers don’t usually need much persuasion to indulge in a spot of flag-waving and the latest Vauxhall Vivaro is the commercial vehicle equivalent of twin plastic Union Jacks fluttering proudly from their window frame clamps. The Vauxhall Vivaro is built in Britain and isn’t about to let anyone forget it.

Vauxhall’s Luton plant has been churning out vehicles since 1905 and Vivaro panel vans since 2001. The original Vivaro stood up to the ravages of time superbly over its epic 12-year lifecycle. Close to 950,000 of the vans rolled off the Luton line in that period but now Vauxhall is looking to the future with a £185m investment in facilities to build the latest model. 

The Vivaro is British-built with many of its components sourced from domestic suppliers but it was designed in France by Renault. Vauxhall’s longstanding commercial vehicle partnership with the French manufacturer sees Renault building its own Trafic version of the van, as well as the high-roof versions of the Vivaro because the ceilings of the Luton plant are too low.

In addition to its Renault Trafic sister vehicle, the Vauxhall Vivaro will be squaring up to other small panel van rivals such as the Ford Transit Custom, Volkswagen Transporter, Mercedes Vito, Citroen Dispatch, Fiat Scudo and Peugeot Expert. It’s a talented bunch but the Vivaro brand has a strong foothold with a loyal customer base and 12 years of sales behind it.   

The Vivaro model range is reasonably straightforward with two wheelbases and two roof heights. Beyond that there’s a Combi minibus, plus a double cab crew van with a second row of seating and a platform cab ready to take specialist modifications.

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All models get the same front end with a bold grille and huge headlights that are supplemented by LED daytime running lights on the up-spec Sportive models. Renault has increased the interior quality markedly in this Vivaro and the cabin now has an upmarket car-like feel that’s a match for anything in the class.

Carrying capacity is up across the panel van range thanks to 100mm of extra load length in all versions but the width and height of the load area remain largely unchanged, enabling existing Vivaro owners to transfer their interior racking across to the latest model.

In the engine bay there’s an advanced line-up of 1.6-litre CDTi diesels, the more powerful of which have twin-turbochargers to help them get the job done. Economy is very impressive with the star of the show being the 118bhp BiTurbo unit with its 47.9mpg combined cycle return in ecoFLEX stop-start.  From a driving point-of-view the Vivaro’s ride comfort and refinement stand out most. It’s an excellent cruiser and while the suspension can be a little noisy over the worst bumps, it does a fine job of cosseting occupants.

MPG and Running Costs

4.5

The 1.6-litre CDTi diesel engine that now powers the whole Vauxhall Vivaro range uses a common-rail injection architecture and either one or two turbochargers to achieve some strong economy figures. Vauxhall’s ecoFLEX efficiency branding is applied to certain models in the Vivaro range, denoting the presence of stop-start, regenerative braking technology and aerodynamic improvements to further shrink the van’s carbon footprint. 

The entry-level 89bhp CDTi 90 version delivers 43.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 170g/km but with the addition of start/stop and regenerative braking, those figures improve to 46.3mpg and 160g/km. The 113bhp version of the engine achieves identical economy figures but isn’t offered with the ecoFLEX package of efficiency aids. If you want more power and economy, it’s the 118bhp CDTi 120 BiTurbo that you should plump for; its 47.9mpg and 155g/km are the Vivaro’s best figures. The range-topping 138bhp version of the BiTurbo unit is only a fraction down on that, with 46.3mpg and 160g/km of CO2.

Most economical vans

For further fuel efficiency savings Vauxhall also offers an Eco Mode button on the Vivaro’s dash. This engages a more efficient engine map with reduced torque, less power and slower throttle response. It also reduces the effectiveness of the air-conditioning system so it’s hard to see too many employee drivers pressing it voluntarily but fleet operators can have the more efficient settings installed as a default. The Eco Mode also gives drivers an indication of how economically they’re driving with green, yellow or orange lights on the display according to the current driving style and a rating out of 100 given after each journey.

Load Space and Practicality

5

The boxy load area dimensions of the original Vivaro were a hit with operators and Vauxhall left well enough alone in this version, for the most part. Operators who have racking or other internal storage modifications fitted to their old Vivaros will find that these add-ons can be easily transferred to the latest version because the important dimensions remain unaltered. There is 100mm of extra load length, however, and that spells increased load volumes ranging from 5.2m3 in the L1H1 version to 8.6m3 in the L2H2.

Vauxhall Vivaro rear doors

The maximum load length in the short-wheelbase model is 2,537mm but operators can extend this by specifying the ‘load through’ bulkhead. This basically amounts to a flap at the base of the bulkhead and a flip-up front passenger seat. Pipes or other long items can be poked through the hole, increasing the length of cargo that can be accommodated to 2,967mm or 3,750mm with the passenger seat folded. The high-roof model increases the 1,387mm load height to 1,898mm giving even more capacity.

The Vivaro’s well-executed load area is accessed through asymmetrically split rear doors with chunky handles. The left hand door carries the number plate and can now be locked independently so that items can be safely carried poking out of the right hand door.

Inside the van are 20 load lashing eyes spread across the floor and walls. The full steel bulkhead separates the cargo area form the cab and a sliding side door gives additional loading options.     

Reliability and Safety

4

The Vivaro has a decent reputation for reliability forged over the original model’s 12 years in service. The latest van has an all-new engine range so we’ll be watching closely to see how the 1.6-litre CDTi units shape up but otherwise the van seems impressively durable.

All versions of the Vauxhall Vivaro now come with ESP stability control featuring traction control, roll-over mitigation and load adaptive control. The electronics will even detect when a trailer is fitted and adjust stability control settings accordingly. There’s also a driver’s airbag thrown in and the Sportive models get rear parking sensors. On the options list there are thorax and curtain airbags as well as a rear reversing camera. 

On the security front, Vauxhall fits all its Vivaros with deadlocks and an engine imobiliser while a smart keyless entry system is on the options list. 

Driving and Performance

4

The Vivaro’s 1.6-litre engines might sound a little small for panel van duties but don’t knock them until you’ve tried them because performance is generally good.

The entry level CDTi 90 (89bhp) is best suited to urban duties and when equipped with stop-start plus the ecoFLEX modifications it would make a fine short-trip delivery van. For open road work, the CDTi 115 (113bhp) is better. Its 300Nm of torque at 1,500rpm is 40Nm up on the output of the CDTi 90 better enabling it to cope with weighty loads. 

The sweet spot in the range is the CDTi 120 (118bhp) however. This is the first of the twin-turbo engines and the one that delivers the Vivaro’s best fuel economy. Performance is strong but the real highlight is the refinement. The engine sounds very smooth, even when pressed to the top of its rev-range.

Operators with large cargos to carry may want to shell out for the Vivaro’s range-topping powerplant. The CDTi 140 (138bhp) is another twin turbo engine with 340Nm of torque (20Nm more than the CDTi 120) at 1,750rpm. It’s noticeable that the Vivaro’s rivals offer more powerful engine options but unless you’re carrying very heavy loads, the Vivaro’s biggest hitter should be up to the job.

As well as setting a very high standard for engine refinement, the Vivaro serves up a smooth ride that copes with bumpy British tarmac without crashing or sending shudders through its body. The suspension can be a little noisy but this is partly noticeable because wind, road and engine noise are so well suppressed.

Both brakes and steering inspire confidence with their predictable responses and despite being a tall panel van, the Vivaro keeps body roll in check through the corners. Special mention must go to the Vivaro’s driving position, which offers a wide range of adjustment both from the seat and the steering column that adjusts for rake and reach.

Cab and Interior

4.8

The Vivaro displays the solid build quality you’d expect from a panel van but there are some nice design touches that liven-up the look of the cab too. The stylish instrument cluster is straight out of the latest Renault Clio (a result of the Vivaro’s design being handled by Vauxhall’s commercial vehicle partner Renault) and the piano black air vents also catch the eye. The air-conditioning controls feel a little cheap by comparison, as does the entry-level DAB radio but the more advanced infotainment options are far better. 

Vauxhall Vivaro interior

Space-wise, the Vivaro benefits from a 116mm increase in cabin length and legroom for both driver and front passenger is good for this class of van. The middle berth is less spacious, as tends to be the case, but most operators who regularly need to carry more than two passengers will opt for the 6-seat crew van.

When not in use, that middle seat folds down to create a desk with space to store a laptop and a rather flimsy feeling clipboard attachment. Elsewhere there are deep storage bins in the doors and useful dash-top areas for keeping pens and paperwork safe. A total of up to 42 litres of storage is available around the cab but the lid of the dash-top storage box proved reluctant to close on our test model.

Van dimensions

Body style Height Width Length
SWB Low roof  1,971mm 1,956mm 4,999mm
SWB High roof  2,465mm 1,956mm 4,999mm
LWB Low roof 1,971mm 1,956mm 5,399mm
LWB High roof 2,465mm 1,956mm 5,399mm

Width including door mirrors: 2,283mm 

Load area dimensions

Body style Height Width Length Volume
SWB Low roof  1,387mm 1,662mm 2,537mm 5.2m3
LWB Low roof 1,387mm 1,662mm 2,937mm 6.0m3
LWB High roof 1,913mm 1,662mm 2,937mm 8.6m3

Specifications

  • Length: 4,998mm - 5,398mm
  • Width: 2,283mm
  • Height: 1,971mm - 2,465mm
  • Payload: 1,079kg - 1,269kg
  • Load volume: 5.2m3 - 8.6m3
  • Load length: 2,537mm - 2,937mm
  • Power: 89bhp - 138bhp
  • Economy: 43.5mpg - 47.9mpg
Last updated: 25 Jun, 2014
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