First Drive: Vauxhall Vivaro Life

Sometimes, you just don’t want excitement. You want to get from A to B in a car stuffed full with your family and associated stuff, which is where the Vauxhall Vivaro Life comes in.

Gone is the boxy old Vivaro, replaced by a smoother, more refined shape that looks remarkably similar to the Peugeot Traveller and Citroen SpaceTourer. Thee’s a good reason for that; after Vauxhall was purchased by Groupe PSA, the company behind Citroen and Peugeot, it made sense to base the new model on existing architecture.

The Vivaro Life looks like a van but drives more like a car.

That means there’s the EMP2 chassis underneath the bulky bodywork, which is a modular platform that’s shared in vehicles as diverse as the Peugeot 508 saloon, DS 3 Crossback crossover and Citroen C5 Aircross SUV. That promises a driving experience that’s a little less van-like and a little more car-like.

You get a choice of PSA’s engines, too. Both turbodiesels, you can pick between a 1.5-litre that produces 100hp or 120hp, or upgrade to the 2.0-litre and its 150 or 180hp output. The smaller engine gets a six-speed manual gearbox, while the larger unit gets the choice of a smooth eight-speed auto box. All are front-wheel drive, as Vauxhall has borrowed the IntelliGrip system that works the brakes, throttle and various computer wizardry to maximise traction.

It all works well, to a point. There’s a solidity that’s missing from many van-derived models that feels reassuring on the road, and there are hints of precision to the steering, but you’re not going to want to thread this along a country road at high speed. Taking corners involves a lot of spinning of the steering wheel which feels unnatural for a regular car driver, but van drivers will find it entirely normal. The high seating position and sizeable glass area allow you to place the Vivaro on the road with accuracy, though.

Ride quality varies depending on load which, again, is common amongst vehicles like this. On your own, it’s all a little bouncy, with the rear of the Vivaro skipping around over bumps and imperfections. Load the vehicle up with passengers and it settles down nicely, absorbing the worst of the road and being generally very pleasant.

Executive seating is a feature of the Vauxhall Vivaro Life Elite.

The same goes for the interior, at least in this Elite model. There are up to eight seats in this spec, and they’re all good. However, resist temptation and stick to six- or seven-seat options and they’re spectacular, with the option of specifying the middle seats as individual swivelling seats. Combined with fold-out tables, the space in the back can be turned into a dining room, boardroom or even play area.

The seats in the front are electrically adjustable and include a massage function, and that’s joined by a lengthy roster of equipment; a panoramic roof, rear-view camera and head-up display, as well as navigation, a DAB radio with ten speakers, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay all controlled through a seven-inch touchscreen.

There’s no shortage of safety kit either, although it’s disappointing to see that emergency automatic braking is an optional extra.

That might put off some family buyers, but most will be considering space and practicality ahead of most other thoughts. If that’s the case, then the Vivaro Life stacks up well, especially when the third row of seats can be removed to create a 3,000-litre load space. No ‘normal’ SUV or estate car can manage anywhere near that amount, which effectively provides you with an eight-seater and a van in the same car.

You’ll already know if this is the right kind of vehicle for you and, if it is, then the Vauxhall Vivaro Life makes a strong case for itself. The only problem so does its siblings from Citroen and Peugeot, and don’t forget the badge-engineered Toyota ProAce Verso which is all but identical to all three models.

The four are the equal best in class, so your decision could come down to mundane things like the best deal, PCP rate or even dealer location. Whatever way you go, you’re onto a winner.

Model Tested: Vauxhall Vivaro Life Elite L 2.0 (180PS) Auto
Price: £44,790
Range: 29,220 – £44,790
Top speed: 105 mph
0-62 mph: 10.4 seconds
Power: 180 PS (178 bhp)
Torque: 400 Nm (295 lb ft)
Monthly PCP*: £612
Official economy: 37.2 mpg
Road test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 199 g/km
Car Tax: £455
Insurance group: 26E

* Monthly PCP estimate based on 20% deposit, 36-month term, 5% APR, final payment of 40%.

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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, DAD.info and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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