Vauxhall Viva 1.0 SL

Vauxhall Viva, front
Vauxhall Viva, front
Vauxhall Viva, front
Vauxhall Viva, side
Vauxhall Viva, side
Vauxhall Viva, interior
Vauxhall Viva, interior
Vauxhall Viva, rear
Vauxhall Viva, rear
Vauxhall Viva, interior

FOR some time back in the 1970s my family transport came in the shape of a Vauxhall Viva which sported a particularly unattractive pale green paint job.

My boyhood recollections of this particular car, though, are somewhat scant - the huge Ford Cortina Mk I which preceded it and the much more exciting looking Triumph Herald which came later both making more lasting impressions.

However, a quick foray onto Google tells me that it was most likely an HC model, produced between 1970 and 1979. It was definitely a saloon, and I'm relatively certain that it was a four-door.

Other than that it was, to a young kid with more of an interest in cars of the Matchbox variety, pretty unremarkable.

It was, Google also informs me, the last of three generations of Viva that Vauxhall had produced, the first having appeared in 1963, and the last of the company's cars to be totally designed in the United Kingdom.

Four decades later, though, the Viva name is back on Britain's roads - re-incarnated to replace the Agila as the entry-level model in the Vauxhall range.

The new Viva is a different car for a different age, of course.

There was no such thing as a city car in the 70s, little awareness and even fewer concerns about fuel economy and emissions.

But in some ways the 21st century Viva is similar to its predecessor - offering no-frills motoring designed to meet the needs of its day.

Back in the seventies the Viva was likely to be the only car of the household and had to be a solid all-rounder - coping with the demand of day-to-day life but also having the stamina and space to take a family of five, like ours, on the annual holiday.

In 2016 the new version lends itself more to the role of a second car for family buyers but will also appeal to city dwellers and older folk, perhaps looking to downsize after the family have fled the nest.

Going head-to-head with the likes of the popular Hyundai i10, Skoda's Citigo and Suzuki's Celerio, it faces plenty of competition in the low-cost runaround market.

In common with those rivals it employs an upright boxy stance to squeeze as much internal space as possible into its compact dimensions but the designers have worked hard to disguise this basic shape with a prominent rising shoulder line and sloping roof as well as sharp, sculpted character lines along the bonnet and flanks.

Two trim levels, SE and the SL I drove, are offered, with power coming from just one engine - a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol unit which kicks out a modest 75ps and boasts impressive average fuel economy of 62.8 miles per gallon and low carbon emissions of 104g/km.

As you'd expect, performance is steady rather than sporty but is perky enough in town traffic - where light, accurate steering and nimble handling make manoeuvring into tight spaces a doddle. Although less at home on the open road, the three-cylinder powertrain gamely keeps up with motorway speeds.

The cabin is light and airy and space generally good for a city car. Five people will be OK on shorter journeys, although rear head and legroom will be tight for tall passengers.

Soft touch surfaces are at a premium, but the same in most city cars and Vauxhall have at least tried to make the interior interesting in this SL trim car with two-tone finishes.

And where the Viva really scores over some rivals is its generous equipment levels with this range topper coming in at less than 10 grand and boasting climate control, Bluetooth, tinted rear windows, alloy wheels, electronic stability programme, heated wing mirrors, lane departure warning and cruise control. Vauxhall's mobile-phone compatible IntelliLink touchscreen infotainment system can be added as an option.

FAST FACTS

Vauxhall Viva 1.0 SL

Price: £9,495

Mechanical:75ps, 999cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed:106mph

0-62mph: 13.1 seconds

Combined MPG: 62.8

Insurance Group:4

C02 emissions: 104g/km

Bik rating: 15%

Warranty:3yrs/60,000 miles

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