Vauxhall Viva 1.0 SE

Vauxhall Viva, old and new
Vauxhall Viva, front static
Vauxhall Viva, front action
Vauxhall Viva, side static
Vauxhall Viva, rear action
Vauxhall Viva, dashboard
Vauxhall Viva, rear static 2
Vauxhall Viva, boot

HE was in his late thirties - at a guess - and took a look at the name on the back of the strikingly blue car parked on the drive. It obviously triggered memories from years ago.

"My dad had a Viva. We used to go on holiday in it and my head stuck on the plastic seats when it got hot," he recalled with a touch of nostalgia in his voice.

No such worries in the newest car to carry a name that made its way into the motoring hearts of Britain through three generations from 1963 to 1979 as a compact, affordable family holdall.

Those are attributes that still define today's car, now built in Korea not Luton or Ellesmere Port and full of goodies that were hardly available on a Rolls-Royce back then, let alone a cheap-as-chips Viva.

The new Viva is available in four versions, priced from £7,995 to £9,495, all sharing the same 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine to give reasonable performance and, more important perhaps, excellent fuel economy.

One version, the £8,170 ecoFLEX, ducks under the 100g/km emissions threshold and you'll pay no road tax. The other three are free in their first year and then demand an insignificant £20 annually after that.

Add in 55mpg achieved in hundreds of miles of testing on all sorts of roads and the new Viva is going to be cheap to run, even if it couldn't approach the unrealistic 62.8mpg of the official test. Insurance in group four (out of 50) also points to very affordable motoring.

Being cost conscious these days does not mean your new car will arrive stripped of creature comforts. Rather the reverse, with the cheapest Viva SE having cruise control (no less), remote central locking, six airbags and a lane departure warning that can, thankfully, be turned off.

Move to the more expensive end of the range and the Viva SL positively drips with kit, from electronic climate control, alloy wheels, Bluetooth music streaming, to an excellent DAB radio, trip computer and a leather trimmed steering wheel with audio and cruise controls at your fingertips.

And there's no suggestion of sticky plastic upholstery, so the children no longer face arriving at the seaside with heads attached to the back seat...

In fact, the new Viva does a decent job of looking classy for the money, inside and out. It is also big enough to seat a couple of adults in the rear (or three children), although you might have to compromise on leg room if someone big is sitting up front.

The boot is modestly sized but sensibly shaped and the back seat flops forward to increase the space when needed.

Vauxhall says the Viva's suspension has been tuned for the sort of roads you seem to find only in the UK. It's certainly comfortable enough and obviously aimed at letting you make serene progress rather than imitating Lewis Hamilton on the grand prix grid.

Just as well, for the Viva is no ball of fire with a 106mph top speed and 0-62mph in 13.1 seconds; more powerful versions will surely follow but for the moment the car is best regarded as a gentle performer that doesn't care to be rushed.

Quite the best part about the driving experience is how a deliciously light clutch and gearchange combine with easy steering (which can be lightened further at the press of a button) to make the Viva the sort of car it's hard not to drive smoothly.

FAST FACTS

Vauxhall Viva 1.0 SE

Price: £7,995

Mechanical: 75ps, 999cc, 3cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 106mph

0-62mph: 13.1 seconds

Combined MPG: 62

Insurance Group: 3

C02 emissions: 104g/km

Bik rating: 15%

Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles

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