What is it?
The third-generation Vauxhall Vivaro is the first British-built van from the brand on a chassis from its new Peugeot-Citroën owner.
New chassis, capacity, payload and economy improvements, active safety available
The new Vauxhall Vivaro is a significant update over its predecessor that, while it won’t sway buyers out of the dominant Ford Transit Custom, will ensure that the Vauxhall is the prime alternative to the Ford.
Improvements in payload, capacity, economy and emissions are welcome, as are the new active safety features, but there are some odd missing options, notably a high-roof model.
At a time when UK automotive manufacturing is beleaguered, the launch of the new Vauxhall Vivaro van is a crucial green shoot. This is the van that less than two years ago the workers at Vauxhall’s Luton plant thought they would not be building.
When PSA group, owners of Peugeot and Citroën, bought Vauxhall and Opel in 2017, the Luton workforce feared they would be for the chop. After all, not only did Peugeot and Citroën produce their own vans, Vauxhall made vans in Luton for the French brand’s deadly rival – Renault.
What has actually happened is that hundreds of millions of pounds of investment has been poured into Luton, creating a new body-pressing line and safeguarding the future of the plant for another decade.
Luton is not building Renaults any more, but Vauxhall does now have a brand-new, third-generation Vivaro to launch – built on a new modular platform from PSA Group. Thus the new Vivaro is essentially a variation on the existing Peugeot Expert and Citroën Dispatch vans (and the Toyota Proace, which also shares the same platform) that were launched two years ago.
This is important because the EMP2 platform, which also underpins Vauxhall’s new Combo small van and Grandland X SUV, has enabled the designers to make the new Vivaro more car-like in its performance and handling, and crucially add the latest active safety measures.
The Vivaro is a vastly important van to its makers – its annual sales of between 20,000 and 25,000 a year compare to just around 5,000 for the smaller Combo and 6,000 for the larger Movano. So it’s no surprise that there is a degree of evolution to this latest model.
However the Vivaro also takes on some seriously competitive opposition, including the class-leading Ford Transit Custom, Volkswagen Transporter, and PSA’s own Peugeot Expert and Citroën Dispatch. So while the sharper visuals are attractive, the important work has been done in the practical areas where commercial customers will expect to see advances.
Buying and owning a Vauxhall Vivaro
The third-generation Vivaro retains its generally compact dimensions, actually slightly smaller than its predecessor in all areas except height, but with no sacrifice in load capability. Two body lengths are available, of 4.95 metres or 5.3 metres, and the Vivaro can be ordered in panel van, double cab (seating up to six) or platform chassis versions. On the minus side, however, there’s no high-roof option so in ultimate load space the Vivaro will lag behind its direct rivals.
If you ignore high-roof models, space available within actually goes up (by a tiny amount) over the previous Vivaro. The new one is able to swallow up to 6.6m3 of cargo (5.3 in the shorter version) with a payload of up to 1,458kg, which is 200kg more than its predecessor. Towing weights increase too – you can hang a trailer load of 2,500kg on the back, 500kg better than the outgoing model.
Loading is easy – there are sliding doors on both sides and these can now be electrically opened by waving one’s foot at a sensor under the body.
Prices start from £22,020 (excluding VAT) for the panel van, which interestingly is £500 cheaper than the outgoing model. Buyers have a choice of three trim levels – Edition, Sportive and Elite, and standard equipment now includes the dual side sliding doors, driver/passenger airbags and cruise control with a speed-limiter.
A £2,250 walk opens up Sportive models – the additions include body-coloured mirrors, handles and body side moulds, alarm, automatic lights and wipers, an ‘acoustic windscreen’ and thickened side glazing.
You need the range-topping Elite, costing from £26,370, to get the full active safety package. This includes a lane departure warning, speed limit information, an active cruise control, driver attention alert and blind-spot detection.
Inside the Vauxhall Vivaro
Of most importance to commercial customers is of course the space behind the cabin and the Vivaro’s is well laid out and accommodating. It will take three Euro pallets, and you can fit one through the side doors. However the total load length is not quite up to its predecessor.
The FlexCargo feature is indicative of the clever touches on the new model. On the options list, it’s a flap that opens up under the left-hand passenger seat and allows the carrying of objects up to 4.02m long in the longer body style. And while such flaps are now common across rivals, this is one of the largest we have seen. And if not using the flap you can fold up the seat to store stuff on the cabin floor.
Similarly clever is the second row of seats in the passenger cab version – pull on a lever and the whole row folds flat against the back of the front seats freeing up a significant load space.
Front cabin arrangements can be chosen with two individual seats or, on all but entry models, a two-passenger bench and separate driver’s seat.
Note, however that if you go for the three-seat option whoever gets the middle one will feel short changed because the large gear lever pod robs almost all their legroom. The driver’s position is not so impressive either. It feels over cosy, and the seat, steering wheel and pedals are slightly offset to one another which is distinctly odd.
Like most vans there are plenty of spaces to lose stuff in, pockets, shelves and boxes, and the interior is generally well put together. In terms of infotainment, a multimedia system is on offer with a seven-inch touchscreen, DAB digital radio, surround-sound and smartphone integration through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. But again, getting this as standard requires buying a Sportive variant rather than a base Active.
Driving the Vauxhall Vivaro
The engine choice for the Vivaro is simple. It’s all diesel, as you would expect in this market, stretching across a new 1.5-litre unit or a 2.0-litre.
Confusingly, one can have the 1.5-litre unit with either 100hp or 120hp, and you can also have the 2.0-litre with 120hp, as well as 150hp or the range-topping 180hp. You get around 3mpg less fuel mileage with the 2.0-litre 120 compared to the 1.5 120, but you also get 340Nm of torque instead of 300Nm – you pays your money…
It’s worth mentioning that the 270Nm on the base model is an improvement over its predecessor.
Only the range-topping Elite Vivaro with the 180hp 2.0-litre engine is offered with an automatic transmission, this having eight speeds. All others have to make do with a six-speed manual.
Next year, by the way, Vauxhall will launch a battery-electric model into the Vivaro range – which could prove very tempting for delivery services in city centres with stringent emissions regulations.
All the current engines have been tested under the latest WLTP test protocol and Vauxhall claims economy improvements of up to 28%, and 19% better emissions figures.
On the road the Vivaro drives very well, once you get used to the odd seating position. In fact overall the position is not bad, placed high and with excellent visibility through the big windscreen and mirrors.
Vauxhall’s medium-sized vans have always been very car like in their road manners and the new one is no different. The steering is light to the touch but not by too much – there’s plenty of feel when cornering. It is easy to manoeuvre in tight spaces, with an excellently sharp turning circle of only 12 metres.
On the motorway it rides well, with most road surface aberrations being swallowed by the suspension even when the vehicle is unladen and acting as a large soundbox.
The new, third-generation Vauxhall Vivaro is a definite upgrade on its predecessor, particularly in terms of practicality with improvements in all the right areas, capacity, payload, towing ability, and of course economy and emissions.
There are drawbacks – the cramped cabin will disappoint some drivers, while some of their bosses will bemoan the lack of a high-roof model. Will the Vivaro achieve Vauxhall’s desire of overtaking the Transit Custom? Not likely. But it could well establish itself as the second most popular medium van, leaving the VW Transporter in its wake.
- Improved payload, capacity, economy and emissions
- Sharp styling
- Strong active safety spec available
- No high-roof model
- Cramped cabin
- Odd driving position
|Make & model||Vauxhall Vivaro||Ford Transit Custom||Volkswagen Transporter|
|Specification||Elite L1H1 2700||320 DCIV FWD L1 H1||T32 High BMT St SWB|
|List Price (excl VAT)||£26,370||£25,045||£25,050|
|Engine||1.5-litre diesel||2.0-litre diesel||2.0-litre diesel|
|Transmission||Six-speed manual||Six-speed manual||Five-speed manual|
|Power||120 hp||105 hp||102 hp|
|Torque||300 Nm||360 Nm||250 Nm|
|Max payload||1,079 kg||1,191 kg||1,058 kg|
|Max capacity||5.8 m3||6.0 m3||5.8 m3|
|Fuel economy (combined)||40.9-47.0 mpg (WLTP)||45.6-43.5 mpg (WLTP)||47.1 mpg (NEDC)|
|CO2 emissions||159-181 g/km (WLTP)||161-169 g/km (WLTP)||156 g/km (NEDC)|
|Euro NCAP rating||Not yet tested||5 stars (2012)||4 stars (2013)|