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2012 Vauxhall Vivaro ecoFLEX van review

Vauxhall Vivaro ecoFLEX 2700 2.0 CDTi (115 PS version)

£19,948.33 (excl. VAT)

Verdict

"Like George Clooney, the Vauxhall Vivaro hasn’t lost its looks despite its age. First revealed in the year 2000, the handsome newcomer cut a dash in the company car park and it still stands out today. Add in the facts that it is comfortable, quiet and extremely practical and it should make anyone’s short list when choosing a standard sized panel van. Apparently the same goes for Mr Clooney – so I’m told."

Pros

Refined and quiet.

Plastic protection front, side and rear.

Built in Britain

Cons

Cabin is cramped for the larger figure.

Narrow loadbox may restrict racking options.

Tall windscreen catches the setting sun badly.

1. Exterior

It’s hard to believe that this futuristic van shape is now 12 years old. It looked different then, and it still looks different today. That’s down to the distinctive ‘streamlined’ profile which runs at a rakish angle from the grille, across the bonnet and up the windscreen into a ‘bubble-topped’ cab. 

The van was given a facelift in 2006 which included new profiled front and rear bumpers and a revised ‘Griffin’ logo in a new bolder V shaped chrome finished grille. New headlight units were added too with integral indicators as opposed to the separate units previously fitted in the bumpers while the rear light clusters have benefited from clear lenses as opposed to the previous ‘smoked’ finish.

The result is an unusual but smart looking van which should keep its looks thanks to the plastic armour. In addition to the plastic bumpers front and rear, there are plastic guards along its flanks and shrouding the high-up rear light clusters. Well thought out!

Our rating: 4

2. Interior

Little has changed inside the cab since the van was launched in 2001 and perhaps that’s down to the fact that it was so good in the first place. If there is a niggle, then leg room and shoulder room are a bit tight for the larger figure although the range of adjustment in the driver’s seat is amongst the best in class. The test vehicle also had the optional driver’s seat and single passenger seat, as opposed to the standard two-seater passenger bench, which had the effect of creating more room for two burly blokes. This £100 option included lumbar adjustment and an arm rest for the driver’s seat. 

For eating out (in lay-bys!) there are a couple of ‘stepped’ can holders at each end of the dash. These are ideal for cans and Styrofoam cups, but they don’t hold 500 ml bottles securely. Try driving around with a bottle of fizzy pop in here and you will find it at your feet at the first roundabout. However the ‘step’ in the base allows them to hold a mobile phone without it rattling around, but there’s just one 12v socket.

The ‘glovebox’ is a bit on the shallow side although it has a deep pocket above it while there is another handy A4 sized slot above the main central radio panel. The top of the dashboard is steeply raked like the windscreen so nothing can be placed on it without it sliding down against the glass and covering the air vents.

Another personal gripe concerns the sloping window sill on the driver’s door. It’s not comfortable to rest the right arm on it while driving – or maybe that’s the point.

Our rating: 4

3. Practicality

The whole purpose of an LCV is the box on the back, but it must have enough room up front for two or maybe three. Vauxhall have created a good box, and although the cab is pretty good, the driver and passenger doors are not as wide as they look. The protruding dashboard encroaches on space and knee room. And whilst skinny blokes and blokesses might not notice, the heavier models with dodgy knees may find manoeuvring room a bit limited.

Another factor which might find favour with certain users is that the Vivaro is narrower than some other standard sized panel vans such as the Transit and Ducato/Relay/Boxer. At 2206 mm (1904 w/o mirrors) it is 154 mm narrower than the Ford and 230 mm narrower than the continental trio. That might not seem much, but for those who operate in congested town centres and city streets it could be crucial. In fact that was why the late lamented Leyland Sherpa/LDV Pilot was such a favourite with the Royal Mail – it was like a certain brand of lager, able to reach places that other vans couldn’t!

And for those who take the ‘works’ van home at night it could make the difference between parking it in the drive beside the house, or parking it in the street.

Crucially that doesn’t affect the internal loadspace between the wheelarches.

Our rating: 5

4. Ride and Handling

There are no complaints on this score with the Vivaro. It must be one of the best riding vans on the road whether running empty or loaded. No doubt that is down to the independent front suspension with McPherson struts and the semi-independent rear end with trailing arms and load-adaptable shock absorbers. The power steering is not too strong either, offering a decent bit of feedback when at speed or manoeuvring. Enhancing the whole package is the comfortable seat and pretty good driving position. Although if I was being really picky, I would like a slightly wider driver’s seat, but maybe that’s my fault – too many laybys and too many bacon butties.

Our rating: 5

5. Performance

This being the ecoFlex model, it has the 115 PS (114 bhp) 4 cylinder turbo diesel which is optimised for good fuel economy. Anything over 100 bhp is more than adequate for a standard panel van these days, and the Vivaro’s engine with 290 Nm of torque is a smooth and refined unit. Making the best of that power is a six speed gearbox allowing it to cruise at 70 on the Motorway at just under 2500 rpm. It’s also quiet, but that’s also down to the excellent insulation around the cabin area.

Our rating: 5

6. Running Costs

Vauxhall claim a combined 40.9 mpg figure for the van, but remember this is based on those compulsory Government test figures, so real-world driving will always be different. Even so, I was getting 37 mpg without any dawdling or annoying other drivers. Co2 emissions are a pretty favourable 180 g/km (pre-facelift 214 g/km).

Each van comes with a three year, 100,000 mile Warranty and service intervals are 18,000 miles apart. It’s also worth noting that the Vivaro comes with a full stainless steel exhaust system which has a longer lifecycle than a normal mild-steel system.

Vauxhall is also expanding its network of Premier Service Centres which specialise in looking after its LCV customers. Each PSC has CV-trained technicians who will guarantee a same day repair providing parts are in stock. Alternative transport will also be provided should a vehicle need to be off the road.

When assessing running costs it’s always worth noting the insurance rating for an LCV, and in this case, it is a very commendable 4E to 6E depending on final spec.

Our rating: 5

7. Cargo Area

Although narrower than some other 5 cubic metre vans, the Vivaro loadbox is a good size with a 2.4 metre long loadfloor which is 1663 mm in width at its widest point and 1268 mm between the wheelarches. Internal height is reasonable at 1387 mm while the front wheel drive configuration ensures a loading height of 549 mm (21 inches). This should provide a fairly easy step up into the back for most folk.

In fact the only real niggle here is a small floor-level lip at the rear of the loadpsace where the full height barn doors lock into place and this can catch the toes of a pair of working boots for those who forget it’s there! On that basis, the moulded sidestep inside the sliding side door is much appreciated. There are also 8 floor level lashing rings.

Our rating: 4

8. Safety

Naturally a driver’s airbag is standard with twin airbags optional. In the same way, ESP is optional on the braking system, which comes with ABS and Brake Assist as standard.

Our rating: 4

9. Equipment

At just under £20,000, even in standard form, the Vivaro cab provides a well equipped workspace with a height, reach and recline adjustable driver’s seat and reach adjustable steering wheel. Storage is fair with a couple of deep door pockets which are shaped to hold a 1 litre bottle and large items such as maps and order books while personal storage is well catered for in and around the dashboard. 

Also extra on this vehicle were the Vision Pack comprising rain-sensitive wipers, automatic lights, parking sensors and selective door locking for £455, air-conditioning at £630 and ESP plus traction control for the braking system at an extra £400. The CD 30 T radio/CD unit was a £340 upgrade too and had a USB connection, making an already comfortable van, almost luxurious. This took the total price for the van as driven to £21,873.33.

Our rating: 4

10. Why Buy?

It still stands out from the crowd and it’s built in Britain, one of the very few vans in the UK market that can make that claim. Fly the flag.

By John Fife