First Drive: Vauxhall Viva Rocks – 7/10

Mike Humble:

Vauxhall hope to generate some extra showroom traffic and appeal to the little no-nonsense, no frills Viva range with the addition of a new model – the Rocks. Its another one of those “urban tough” cars but at a price that’s on the right side of affordable.

Does the Rocks have the minerals or is it just yet another example of style over substance?

What a difference a little bit of style tweaking can do. The Viva Rocks

To those of a certain age, every time I hear the name Viva my mind spools back to my childhood living at 33 Stooperdale Avenue. I think of our elderly next door neighbour at number 31. Mrs North and her immaculate red Viva HC 1300SL… prim, proper and devout church go-er, she had about as much ability at driving back then as I have at tightrope walking today. Thanks to Mrs North, the Viva will forever throw up a mental image of nice middle class old codgers knocking the hell out of their gearboxes.

So you imagine my amusement when Vauxhall re-invented the same moniker a few years back. Even more horrific were the simple standard colour schemes they came in – varicose vein blue, mortuary white and Karl Malden nose red. But lets not lose  the thread here, there most certainly is a HUGE market for plain and simple cars. The current Viva does everything a car needs to do in a stripped back form and most of all its been reasonably successful for the company.

Not everyone needs a fully decked out SUV that drives or parks itself. All some owners require is little more than a four seater umbrella to pop to the shops, commute to the parkway rail station or buzz around the county. The Viva does all this and more but the age demographic of the typical buyer goes back once again to dear old Rhoda North of number 31. With the most simple of tweaks and a dash of mock alloy skid plates, the Rocks, thanks to a ride increase of just under 2cm now looks rather cute.

The same 1.0 three cylinder 75ps driveline is fitted which remains naturally aspirated. There’s some smart looking 15 inch alloys too and when the aforementioned is allied to its alloy effect roof rails the whole package is uplifted to something with a bit more snazz and a little less Sanatogen. My brief drive in the thick of Luton rush hour traffic found the Viva Rocks to bimble along in and out of lanes and taking advantage of every millimetre of spare roadspace.

Around town the 1.0 75Ps engine does okay and has smile inducing sound to it. Runs out of puff easily though. It begs for a turbo… I think!

The triple 1.0 engine has a nice off-beat snarl to it when you stomp on the throttle. It spins right round the little rev counter and its power delivery is linear. You really can play the urban toreador in the Viva, its only when at higher speeds in higher gears it runs out of fun. But that’s not what the car is all about really, it claims nothing more than to be a happy go lucky tin box for town. It rides well enough, its refined well enough and the steering is quick and arcade game light if totally bereft of feel.

Though if steering feel is of an utmost priority then I doubt you could transport three best mates into the city in a Caterham… so live with it. Despite almost every inch of plastic being cold and hard, nothing feels below par for the money. The test car seemed well assembled and comfortable in general and I also like the way they have squeezed every inch of available space from the body shell. Good sized cup holders, plenty of trinket trays here and there plus a 60/40 split rear seat too.

Clear dash, comfy chairs, loads of clutter holes and features niceties such as air-con and cruise. When driven responsibly, its actually quite refined. Oddly though, the next model down (SL) has slightly more toys… annoying!
Interior and boot space are fine for its dimensions. Feels tough and rustic too. A grin inducing steer in town or city. Should appeal to the younger customer whereby the other Viva models… erm… don’t. A happy little car in my opinion.

Of course it will do a longer journey too but for the man / boy / lady / girl about town the Viva Rocks looks stylish and charming to the eye – why didn’t they do this earlier? This leads me onto one more thing – Vauxhall have a 1.0 engine but with a turbo offering 100Ps. Does the reworked moniker have to stay with Viva Rocks…. Firenza droop snoot or Magnum Blydenstein edition anyone?

Just a thought!

  • Vauxhall Viva Rocks
  • From £11,530
  • 60.1mpg & 106 G/Km Co2
  • 0 – 60 in 13.1 seconds – 106mph

Equipment Highlights: Alloy rims, electric windows & mirrors, Air Conditioning, ESP, Cruise control, Front fog lamps, 2x Isofix points, Remote locking, Multi-function trip computer.

Whats Great:

  • Surprisingly stylish and cute in the right colour
  • Younger people should at least view and consider
  • Urban vim and vigour
  • Feels robust and tough
  • Quick snappy gearchange
  • Low running costs
  • Entertaining engine note when making progress

What Grates:

  • Next trim level down has slightly more equipment
  • 2mpg defecit over other models owing to wheels and ride height
  • Only one colour choice off the peg (Kermit green) other shades at extra cost
  • A little bit too much body roll when twirling the steering wheel with enthusiasm
  • Runs out of puff a little on hills and long gradients owing to non turbo engine
  • Other than lane assist and ESP there’s little else in terms of extra or advanced safety assistance equipment

For further information on the Vauxhall Viva Rocks CLICK HERE


  1. Our neighbour has a Viva SE in a sky blue colour. It’s pretty horrible thanks to the nasty wheeltrims and she won’t have a bad word said about it. But this new model looks jolly and reminds me of the Polo Dune.

    I reckon a sooped up version would work too.

    Have a safe and merry crimbo

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