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Vauxhall Viva review

There are over five decades between the first Vauxhall Viva, which was introduced back in 1963, and this latest model. The original was marketed as a practical and affordable small car, with the same no-nonsense ethos also applied to today’s five-door city car version. Does life begin at 50 for this surprisingly modern car? 


The Vauxhall Viva is a smart-looking little car, especially from the side, with its sculpted lines rising up towards the rear haunches and into the attractive rear-end.  

If its looks aren’t distinctive enough for your tastes, the Viva also comes in 10 different colours (we’re big fans of the jazzy lime green and soft blue shades) helping it stand out from the crowd.  

Like many of its cleverly designed rivals, the Viva’s compact dimensions belie the fact that it’s a genuine 5-seater. It’s a great-looking car for trips around town, turning heads in a sea of grey. 

blue vauxhall viva side

The Vauxhall Viva is a smart-looking little car

What’s it like to drive?

The Viva handles well enough, with plenty of grip, and the ride is pleasingly refined over most surfaces. You won’t complain, though you might not be telling your mates about it.  

This is a car that’s happiest in town, where its 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine is more suited to zipping around the city streets. Light steering helps with manoeuvrability while getting into tight parking spaces is a breeze. The Viva can handle longer motorway journeys if needed though, with its surprisingly quiet cabin keeping wind and engine noise to a minimum. 

Acceleration is comparable to other cars in this class, although you’ll need to drop down a couple of gears and rev the engine hard for fast overtaking moves. Just bear in mind that this is not a car you buy for high-octane driving thrills.

blue vauxhall viva rear 

The Viva handles well enough, with plenty of grip.


The Viva offers a good driving position with decent all-around visibility, only slightly marred by the narrow rear screen. In a car of this size, reversing shouldn’t pose much of a problem. Rear-parking sensors were installed on many Vivas – so if you’re a nervous parker there should be little to worry about when squeezing into tight spaces. 

Standard seat height adjustment and a height-adjustable steering wheel come as standard so getting comfortable is a relatively easy affair. 

Equipment on the entry-level cars is quite basic, with an AM/FM radio/CD player and Bluetooth as standard. The higher spec SE Nav trim offers much more impressive levels of kit, including Vauxhall’s IntelliLink infotainment system, which features a seven-inch touchscreen with built-in sat nav, a DAB radio as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring. 

The Viva’s light and airy interior feels solid and well-built for a car in this class. Materials and hard plastics are of good quality, with gloss black trim details around the dashboard adding a premium feel to the cabin. 

vauxhall viva interior


The Vauxhall Viva’s five-door configuration provides decent access to the rear seats, so fitting a child seat shouldn’t be too onerous a task. The interior offers plenty of room for front and rear passengers, although a lack of rear headroom will make longer journeys less than ideal for backseat occupants.  

While boot space isn’t class-leading, the Viva boasts more room than the rival models Kia and Peugeot offer. There’s room for a weekly shopping trip or two carry-on-sized suitcases for a weekend away. For added practicality, there are hooks for securing shopping bags. The split 60/40 rear seats can also fold down to accommodate larger loads.  

For phones, wallets and loose change, the Viva has an array of useful cubbyholes dotted around the cabin. 

blue vauxhall viva boot

Running costs and reliability

The Viva offers impressive fuel economy, with its 1.0-litre petrol engine delivering an estimated 62.8mpg with low CO2 emissions of 104g/km. The SE ecoFLEX model does even better, offering 65.7mpg and a C02 figure of just 99g/km, which currently means you’ll have nothing to pay when it comes to annual road tax. 

Reliability is equally as impressive. The Viva’s 1.0-litre engine features in the Vauxhall range with no reported issues. Combine this with its sturdy build quality, and the Viva should give you years of dependable motoring. 

What we love

We love the Viva’s level of standard safety equipment, which includes a tyre pressure monitoring system, lane departure warning and hill-hold assist, as well as ESP with traction control and a host of airbags. The Viva is perfect for parents with younger children. You can easily get them in the back thanks to the5-door layout, and there’s room in the boot for a romantic weekend away when it all gets too much.

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Perfect for

Town and country drivers




It may not be the best-known contender in its class, but the Vauxhall Viva’s comfortable ride and smooth engine make it a compelling choice for big city dwellers who need a small family car. Impressive fuel economy figures and solid reliability just add further to its appeal.

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