Vauxhall is now Britain’s largest indigenous van manufacturer, and with the launch of the new Vivaro at its Luton home, it is set to maintain that position. Lee Jones reviews the latest model.
It has been an avowed ambition of our business leaders in recent years to rebalance our economy in favour of manufacturing. Where once Britain was the workshop of the world, that sector’s share of the wider economy has been steadily shrinking, but there are those iconic stalwarts who have held firm on these shores. Vauxhall, for instance, has seen vehicles roll from its Luton production line from as far back as 1905, and that is a tradition that is continuing with the third generation of the Vivaro, now one of the few remaining light commercial vehicles that can genuinely wear the ‘Made in Britain’ motto. Indeed, with a multi-million pound investment in a new assembly line, including enough robots to double as a scene in the next Terminator movie, this is a site that looks set to remain secure for the foreseeable.
Whilst much has stayed the same there has also been great change, not least new owners, with this historic name in the UK automotive market now under the guardianship of PSA group. As a result, where previously the Vivaro shared a platform with Renault Trafic, today it finds its inspiration from the already very successful Citroen Dispatch, Peugeot Expert, and Toyota Proace.
The latest incarnation of a name that’s been steadily winning fans with van users since its initial launch in 2001 is actually slightly more compact than its predecessor, a feature that will no doubt find favour with tradespeople operating in our increasingly congested towns and cities. Vivaro is now available in two lengths, (L1H1 4.95m and L2H1 5.30m), three trims, while body styles include panel van, double cab for up to six occupants and a platform chassis.
It may be a leaner machine, but it still packs a punch in payload, with a maximum capacity in the business end of the vehicle of 1,458kg – up 200kg on the outgoing model. Similarly, towing weights have climbed 500kg to 2,500kg, whilst the factory-fitted tow bar option comes standard with Trailer Stability Control (TSC). TSC uses an electronic stability programme to dampen the vibrations of the trailer as necessary. If severe vibrations are detected – which indicates an unsafe and unstable driving condition – then the system will slow the vehicle to a critical pace. Access to the cab is made more convenient with twin doors on either side, and there’s increased space between the wheel arches. If you’re looking to open those doors, and happen to have a sheet of 8 by 4 about your person at the time, then fear not, because a rather convenient feature has been added. Simply move your foot towards the sensors on the vehicle and they will open automatically.
In their mission to achieve maximum cargo carrying capacity within a manageable footprint, manufacturers are increasingly looking to exploit every available space, and that’s just what Vivaro’s FlexCargo allows. If you happen to be carrying long items, such as pipes or lengths of guttering, for example, thanks to an optional flap under the front passenger seat objects up to 4.02m long can be stowed securely in the 5.30m version. Not only that, but the same system allows the back of the middle seat to fold down, transforming your cab into a mobile office, with a table for working on documents, a notebook or a tablet.
Anyone who can remember the days when electric windows on a commercial vehicle were a novelty will know that the levels of comfort in the cab, not to mention recent innovations in driver assistance technology, have transformed the end user experience. Today, the market is demanding continuous improvement and that’s what Vivaro hopes to deliver with three trim levels providing an upward scale of sophistication.
The aforementioned dual side sliding doors, driver/passenger airbags and cruise control with speed-limiter are all available as standard for the first time, whilst Sportive includes body coloured mirrors, handles and body side moulds, alarm, auto lights and wipers, acoustic windscreen and thickened side glazing.
The top-of-the range Elite model features the latest safety technology as standard, including Lane Departure Warning, Speed Limit Information, Intelligent Speed Adaptation, Driver Attention Alert and Blind Spot Detection. The Head Up Display, which provides information on speed limits without taking your eyes from the road, is a particularly useful function, and overall, with a ride and handling that few can rival, the Vivaro remains one of the best driving experiences in the medium panel van market.
Next year Vauxhall is promising the introduction of a purely electric powertrain, but it is clean and efficient diesel which presently holds sway, and there’s an array of options under the Vivaro bonnet. In the entry level 1.5D (100PS) engine, torque has been improved to 270Nm, and is also available in a 120PS version. The 2.0D Turbo D is available in either 150PS or 180PS, the latter equipped with an eight speed auto, whilst all other engine sizes utilise a six-speed transmission.
The Vauxhall Vivaro is now the third most popular vehicle in its class and, with increased capacity at its Bedfordshire home, the ambition is to extend that market share still further. What’s more, with a vehicle that will favourably compare with any in its sector, Vauxhall can still proudly sport that ‘Made in Britain’ emblem.
Pricing and specification
*Edition – From £22,020 excluding VAT
*Sportive – From £24,270 excluding VAT
*Elite – From £26,370 excluding VAT