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In-depth reviews

Vauxhall Viva (2015-2019) review - Engines, performance and drive

The Viva is safe and composed on the move but it’s quite slow and there’s very little fun to be had

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

Engines, performance and drive Rating

3.3 out of 5

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A decade ago most city cars were unrefined, uncomfortable and slow. But in the last few years a number of models have improved the breed considerably, so the Vauxhall Viva has a tough job on its hands.

The Viva’s platform is based on the Chevrolt Spark, so it's not the most advanced, but the whole car weighs in at just 950kg. That makes it nippy and agile around town, which is helped by the light steering, easy gearchange and decent all-round visibility. The ride is acceptable, but big bumps can unsettle it. As a first car or urban runabout, it fits the brief perfectly. The Viva comes with a City steering mode, which delivers more assistance to the steering for parking manoeuvres. But the wheel is already so light that you’ll probably never need it.

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The Vauxhall Viva is not completely out of its depth on faster roads, either. Point the Viva’s stubby nose down a twisting back road, and it’s clear it doesn’t have the abilities of a Ford Ka+ or Skoda Citigo. But its handling is safe and predictable, although the firm suspension set-up is more easily unsettled by mid-corner bumps. There’s less grip on offer, plus the electrically assisted steering is overly light.

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The Viva doesn’t ride as smoothly as its rivals, either. It patters and fidgets over broken urban tarmac, while large potholes send a shudder through the cabin. The Viva Rocks, with additional ride height and suspension travel, is marginally more comfortable.

On the plus side, the high-set driving position, light controls, decent visibility and compact dimensions make the Viva a doddle to drive on crowded city streets, while parking is easy even without the optional parking sensors.

Refinement isn’t perfect, either. The engine is fairly muted and wind noise isn’t too bad, but tyre roar and suspension noise is more noticeable than in rivals such as the Skoda Citigo and Hyundai i10. Still, the standard-fit cruise control means motorway journeys are manageable.

Engine

Unlike most rivals, the Vauxhall Viva is only available with a single engine in one state of tune: a 1.0-litre petrol. The three-cylinder unit is found in the Astra and Corsa, but there it has a turbocharger to shift the heavier kerbweight. While it originally had 74bhp, later versions are slightly less powerful at 72bhp. The figures below are for the older 74bhp model.

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Vauxhall Viva vs Hyundai i10 vs Suzuki Celerio

Only a few rivals offer turbocharging in this class, and while the Viva matches the more powerful Skoda Citigo for power and torque, it loses out to the Ford Ka+, which has a four-cylinder unit. The Vauxhall tips the scales at 939kg, which is 74kg more than the Citigo and only 70kg less than the Ka+, but the Viva was the slowest car from 0-60mph when we tested them back-to-back, with a time of 13.5 seconds. Yet despite producing peak torque of 95Nm at a heady 4,500rpm, the Vauxhall matched its rivals during our in-gear tests.

The 1.0-litre engine is noisier than the similar unit in the Citigo, but it revs eagerly and benefits from a characterful rasp when extended. The gearbox also benefits from a precise action. Overall the engine is nippy around town and has a decent turn of pace in the lower gears. The main problem, however, is that it lacks low-end torque and it requires revving to get the best out of it.

Overtaking will prove difficult on faster roads, and the long fifth gear means you’ll be changing down quite often on the motorway. That’ll hurt fuel economy, too.

Of course, this is a city car, but most competitors don’t feel quite as out of their depth at speed as the Viva does. At least the engine is smooth and quiet, so it doesn’t intrude when you have to rev it out.

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