IN 1964 I made first acquaintance with a car that was to establish a dynasty in family motoring in the UK.
It was not much to look at and it was somewhat sparsely equipped but it was to be the driving force behind Vauxhall's major push into the small car market of the time.
The car was, of course the Viva and I drove one of the very first examples to come off the line at the then new Ellesmere Port factory.
Little did I think that more than half a century later I would be getting into the driving seat of a Vauxhall of the same name.
The Viva of the 1960s, the HA model, sold 300,000 units and was just the ticket for motorists who wanted a no-nonsense, inexpensive family car.
And the Viva of today answers the same need.
The latest model joins Vauxhall's growing small-car family, which already includes ADAM and Corsa, but is clearly defined from these models by its value, functionality, range and dimensions.
Costing £9,495.00, the SL model I drove could not be faulted on value, economy and driving enjoyment.
Under the bonnet lay one of the latest three-cylinder petrol engines, a unit that is playing its part in making petrol power once again a viable engine option.
At 999cc it packed a surprising amount of punch for its size and although the little Viva is essentially a city car it performed adequately on motorway trips. You do have to make full use of the gears but this is understandable with such a small engine.
Unlike some of its rivals the Viva can accommodate up to five people and has the convenience of five doors, making it a clever option in te family motoring market.
Competing in the small car market, the Viva's rivals include the Hyundai i10, Volkswagen up!, Toyota Aygo, Peugeot 108 and Citroen C1 so it has its work cut out to make the headway Vauxhall expects.
After first appearing in the ADAM Rocks Air and subsequently the new Corsa and the ADAM hatchbacks, the Viva is the latest Vauxhall to feature the new three-cylinder ECOTEC engine.
Specially developed for the Viva, it is mated to a slick five-speed transmission.
The three-cylinder engine is made from light aluminium and has better running characteristics and lower noise emission than some four-cylinder units. Annoying vibrations that can be the trademark of some three-cylinder engines have been eliminated.
A three-cylinder engine is an inherently efficient unit, with internal friction considerably lower than in a comparable four-cylinder unit. To make the engine as light as possible, the crankshaft is hollow cast, the oil pump drive is especially low friction and the oil pump works at two pressure levels - a special feature in this class.
With a specification including such items as six speakers, a comprehensive connectivity function, leather covered steering wheel curtain airbags and a raft of goodies usualy found on more expensive cars, the little Viva of today is light years ahead of the functional saloon that became the pride of Ellesmere Port and sparked off a whole succession of Viva, Magnum and Firenza models.