Sunday, 16 December 2018

Viva packs a punch

THE Vauxhall Viva and I go way back — in fact, as far back as my first days as a motorist.

THE Vauxhall Viva and I go way back — in fact, as far back as my first days as a motorist.

At the age of 19, I worked as a reporter/feature writer — my first job on any periodical — for a trade newspaper based in Chancery Lane, London.

The office car was a Sixties’ Vauxhall Viva. Looking back at Vivas of that time I recognise now that it was one of the original HA models.

I remember it was blue and was “shod” — as motoring writers used to say — with Michelin “X” tyres. I believe that those tyres and the handling of the Vauxhall Viva saved me from what could have been a nasty road accident.

I was driving quite quickly and encountered a very long gradual bend in the wet. The Viva went into a terrifying slide. I held on for dear life to the steering wheel as the car slid and slid.



Any second, I expected the Viva to flip over but I reckon that those radial tyres — the Michelin Xs — saved my bacon. After what seemed like an age, I managed to correct the skid and return the car to normal, though I recall pulling over to catch my breath.

I was reminded of this early driving experience when Vauxhall offered me a test drive in the new 2015 Vauxhall Viva.

The Viva was a great success for Vauxhall from the launch of the Viva HA in 1963. The Viva was the UK’s first unitary construction (monocoque) model, initially built in Luton then Ellesmere Port — home to each generation of compact Vauxhall family car ever since.

The longest production run of any Viva model was the HC, which was a mainstay of the Vauxhall range from 1970 to 1979.

The trick to my mind of reviving successful model names is to cash in on nostalgia but give it a 21st century twist. This has become a lucrative strategy for certain iconic models that saw their heyday in the Sixties.

I would not say, although undoubtedly successful, that the Viva was in this category. It was what Vauxhall promised at the time, a workaday, small family saloon at an affordable price.

And it was a “saloon”, a label now usually reserved for medium to larger, prestige models. Small cars are in 2015 of the city, super mini or hatchback type, a fierce worldwide marketplace that Vauxhall has quickly pitched the new Viva into since its debut at the Geneva Motor Show.

The 2015 Viva has little resemblance to its ancestor and in that respect differs from born again iconic cars that capitalise on their strong nostalgic looks to appeal to a new audience.

Vauxhall instead has demonstrably moved on with the new Viva and says the new car displays the carmaker’s “sculptured, precise” 21st century design philosophy.

So what did I think of it? The model I tested came in what was to me a “challenging” colour. This of course is a matter of taste and a very personal aspect of any car purchase.

But despite the colour I liked the Viva’s looks. It is to be sure not a particularly standout, individual design but the car’s lines are clean, up-to-the-minute and pleasing to the eye.

Inside too is pleasant enough and the seats were surprisingly comfortable on a longish drive. Though I worry a little about whether the Viva is going to compete with near competitors.

It has the attributes of available modern technology but Vauxhall must be prepared to move forward again quickly in keeping up with other innovative carmakers.

For a small-engined car it packs a bit of punch from the off but can struggle when overtaking on major roads. Motorway cruising speeds I found surprisingly good.

The Viva is the latest Vauxhall to feature the new 1.0-litre three-cylinder ECOTEC engine.

Vauxhall says it achieves up to 65.7mpg on the combined cycle with CO2 emissions of 99g/km. There is a manual five-speed transmission.

So I would view the Viva as a work in progress — a rather unusual viewpoint for a car that has a successful historical track record at least in name.

I think Vauxhall’s job with the Viva is to prove again that although it is competitively priced, it is a desirable buy in what is surely the most competitive sector of all.

Incidentally, when I mention Michelin X tyres to anyone nowadays they look mystified. Readers of a certain age might remember the originals. The “X” goes back to 1946 when Michelin developed the radial tyre (known as the “X”).

Further back, in 1934, this great innovator introduced a tyre that if punctured, would run on a foam lining; a design now known as a run-flat tyre.



Fact file:

ON the road price (including Fresh Green metallic paint, £545): £8,540

New 1.0-litre three-cylinder ECOTEC engine

Economy: 65.7mpg combined and 99g/km CO

2

UK-developed chassis with benchmark comfort and safety

IntelliLink available on all models from early 2016

Range priced from £7,995 to £9,495

Two trim levels: SE and SL

Standard features include:

Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)

Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) with traction control

Driver’s and front passenger’s airbags

Front seat side-impact airbags

Curtain airbags

Tyre pressure monitoring system

Lane departure warning

Perimeter alarm system



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