The swinging Sixties – the era of Beatlemania, mini skirts, first man on the Moon – oh, and the arrival of the Vauxhall Viva.
And now, 52 years on, the Viva is making a comeback – although it will cost you slightly more than the £478 you’d have had to fork out for its predecessor. The entry level SE model will cost you £7,995, cheaper than most of its rivals – such as the Kia Picanto, Hyundai i10 or Toyota Aygo — in what is a very competitive sector of the market. For that, you get a five-door hatchback with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine, available in just the two trim levels – SE and SL.The Viva is only available with a five-speed manual gearbox at the moment, although a automatic option is set to join the range next year.
Even the entry-level SE model is well-equipped with cruise control, lane departure warning, CityMode steering option, electric front windows, heated door mirrors, central locking and six airbags.
Our test car was the SL, which includes 15-inch alloy wheels, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, tinted rear windows, electric aircon and leather steering wheel. As you’d expect from a city car, the Viva is most at home in and around town – it’s easy to drive, has good visibility and handles and steers well. Parking is a doddle (you can even opt for parking sensors as an additional extra), and the low running costs and excellent fuel economy (combined figure of 62.8mpg) should prove attractive to many would-be buyers too.
There’s also an ecoFlex version which boasts additional economy and is exempt from road tax, but it does cost an extra £175, so you’d have to weigh up whether the savings are worth it over the standard model.
Out of town, however, the Viva can struggle just a little – on motorway journeys or hills, for instance, the lack of power can be a bit evident, and you find yourself having to change down the gears to coax enough ‘oomph’ out of that 1.0-litre engine for overtaking.It’s reasonably roomy inside too – but although it does come with three full seatbelts in the rear, I’m not too sure how well that little engine would cope with a full five adults, to be honest. The boot isn’t the biggest in its class, but is more than adequate for what it will be expected to swallow – and with the rear seats folded down, it more than competes with the rivals in its sector. There are plenty of little pockets and cubby holes for all those bits and pieces too.
Other familiar little cars from the past have certainly done well in their reincarnations – witness the Fiat 500 and Mini to name but two – only time will tell whether the Viva is set to enjoy the revival which Vauxhall are hoping for.