Engine-wise there’s a choice of 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre turbodiesels (they’re PSA BlueHDi units, though rebadged ‘Turbo D’) ranging from 98bhp to 178bhp and with usefully long service intervals of at least 25,000 miles. Lower-powered versions get a six-speed manual while the top-spec cars get an eight-speed automatic. All are front-driven – Vauxhall’s IntelliGrip system, which uses brake and ESP intervention to maximise traction, is said to help out in less than ideal conditions.
Understanding the Vivaro Life range
The straight Vivaro is the workhorse van of the sort we see every day. It starts at £26,400, with a payload of 1458kg (up 200kg) and a trailer load of 2500kg (up 500kg).
Here we drive the more expensive Life, which’ll make up only around a tenth of total Vivaro sales and is aimed at families, chauffeurs and the general movement of people rather than goods. You can have it in either Edition flavour, which with modular seating for nine is geared towards taxi duties, or in Elite, which is quite fancy for this kind of car, has a maximum of eight perches and is the one tested here.
With the Elite you get electric, leather-trimmed massage seats in the front and a panoramic roof along with a rear-view camera, head-up display and a touchscreen infotainment display whose crisp graphics give away its Peugeot heritage. The list of standard kit is extremely long, in fact, though our car's wide-spaced, swivelling second-row seats cost an extra £800, and its foldable table £495.
The grand total is substantial: £45,310, above an list price of £42,420.
What is the Vivaro Life like to drive?
Still here? In that case, you'll be pleased to know the Vivaro is reasonably well-mannered on the road, and much more obedient than you might expect. The horrendous flex present in some traditional vans – the sort whereby the front of the vehicle corners in an orientation entirely different from that of the rear – is largely absent, and that’s thanks to the new car-derived platform.
As for ride quality, it depends. With only the driver on board the Vivaro can feel catastrophically under-damped at times, though the same can be said of almost all passenger vehicles with commercial roots. Unloaded, the rear axle rarely settles, though the composure of the front axle, above which front-row occupants sit almost directly, fends off the worst of it.
Loaded-up, it's a different matter. We tried a Vivaro from the commerical-vehicle range will 350kg of ballast strapped just behind the rear bulkhead. Predictably the ride quality settles down markedly – wonderfully so, in fact. The van wafts along quite nicely and the steering also weights up a little, which is helpful because this isn't the most confidence-inspiring rack.
If you're used to a car the steering can feel very awkwardly geared, in as much as it doesn’t quicken as much as you’d like or expect it to. This can lead to some interesting moments mid-corner, where you can suddenly find the Vivaro’s stubby nose lagging behind what both your hands and the road are doing. That said, put in the effort and there's a good amount of lock. This, along with the high-set front seats and excellent visibility they bring, makes the Vivaro reasonably easy work in town.
There's also room for improvement in the manual gearbox. Its ratios are fine, and are well suited to the mid-ranking 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine’s low-down power and torque peaks, but its shift action is bizarre. Maybe it was just our test car, but selecting second gear shouldn’t involve swinging the lever to the side once past the mouth of the gate. The action is also poorly defined, though it is at least smooth.