Time Well Spent : Vauxhall Viva Rocks – 6.5 / 10

Can a city car perform the long haul task if asked to? Take one little car, fill the boot with presents and luggage, point it to the nearest motorway and find out.

We did just so with the recently introduced Viva Rocks…

DSC_0065[1]
The recent addition to the Viva range – The Viva Rocks
When the Viva was introduced a few years back, I was one of the many who sniggered and thought to myself “what’s the bloody point“. Folk tried to put me right on this including the in-laws who recently bought one. They adore theirs and wont have a cross word said against it – fair do’s I have to admit. Bringing back a name is always a gamble to be fair, especially when the current Viva has as much in common as the original HA / HB and HC models.

Suffice to say, brand aside, the current Viva bares as much similarity and bloodline to the original Viva as I do with Morgan Freeman. The standard SE and SL models remain to be cars that don’t excite me – if nothing more than for the plain fact I find them rather dull. For me, speaking as an ex salesman, a car is okay if it looks okay, has the right price and is generally accepted in the market place. Take the last few generations of Ford Escort for example – all dismal in terms of driving appeal but strong sellers regardless.

This new Rocks model, even though in reality is little more than a styling exercise, has pretty much transformed in my opinion an also ran four seat umbrella into something jollier and smarter looking under the showroom spotlights

Not that the Viva is dismal… far from it in fact. Its cheap, easy to drive, has little on board technology to confuse the owner or go wonky and has replaced the truly awful Agila as the entry level Vauxhall car. This new trim level, even though in reality is little more than a styling exercise, has pretty much transformed in my opinion an also-ran four seat umbrella into something jollier and smarter looking under the showroom spotlights. Its diamond cut alloy wheels, lifted ride height and faux skid plates look the business.

DSC_0067[1]
The 75PS 999cc Three cylinder unit does okay but runs out of steam on motorway banks. Sounds great though and the 5 speed gearbox has an okay if slightly notchy and loose shift quality in action. No automatic or other engine options.
Under the bonnet lives the same Viva driveline of a 999cc tripple and five speed gearbox – there’s no other engine or transmission option. With just 75PS on offer a ball of fire it certainly isn’t, but where laws permit it will crack three figures flat out and reach sixty in well under 14 seconds. But it isn’t all about the speed, it has an addictive engine note in true off-beat style that made me smile when I pressed on harder than normal. Around town it has enough thrust to keep up with the flow… which is its ideal environment.

It will whistle along at 70 with just under 3500rpm showing on the dial and providing its not too windy, quiet enough to hum along to the wireless or not find yourself lip reading with your passengers

I did a good 700 miles in a week that was mainly motorway driving and in all honesty it put up on a good show. It will whistle along at 70 with just under 3500rpm showing on the dial and providing its not too windy, quiet enough to hum along to the wireless or not find yourself lip reading with your passengers. However, the power deficit compared to rivals is noticeable when long motorway hills are negotiated. It can run out of steam rather quickly and a down-change to 4th gear sees the engine spinning into the heavens.

Trundling along at the legal maximum is a fairly pleasant experience, so making too much fuss about a car with little more power than a food blender is perhaps too unfair. Everything else works just right, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning are fine and all round visibility is pretty good too. Seat comfort is okay for long journeys but the bolsters offer very little side support if you fancy some spirited corners on a country back lane. I often thought I was going to fall out of the seat.

DSC_0069[1]
Driving position is pretty good but front seats lack lateral support. Good stowage space for loose clutter and chattels. Almost everything to touch and tug seems well made despite the cheap hard plastic trim that’s in abundance.
DSC_0068[1]
Rear legroom is fine for shorter journeys but the cabin is notably narrow. Rear doors open to almost 90 degrees making the getting and out quite easy.
DSC_0070[1]
Seats split 60/40 but there is visible cost cutting when you fold them down. Cushion folding is a bit awkward and the base hinge is really cheap and nasty to the eye. Weeny boot with the seats up but quite adequate for a weekend away for two – I can vouch for that!
Vivas compact dimensions mean you almost park it in your downstairs loo. Add that to its good visibility and steering that’s lighter than an arcade game turns the phrase effortless into an understatement. The downside is steering that is bereft of communication and feel at urban speeds. But the rub here is that this car isn’t designed to be Caterham chaser in the corners or a drag racer on the straights. What it is though is a car that’s laughably easy to drive and brims over with character.

…the interior has more hard shiny plastic on display than a Blackpool souvenir shop, but at this price you are unlikely to find sumptuous trim with walnut garnishing here or anywhere else

On the inside the presentation doesn’t quite match the outside. There is enough room for four but the cabin is narrow – especially if both front occupants are not exactly svelte. For sure the interior has more hard shiny plastic on display than a Blackpool souvenir shop, but at this price you are unlikely to find sumptuous trim with walnut garnishing here or anywhere else. What is noteworthy is the space for odds and ends and the feeling that its all screwed together quite tightly… I think it will go the distance and last well.

On the minus side, there are some violent demonstrations of cost cutting. Fold down the rear seat and the hinge in which the cushion pivots on looks like something I once made in a comprehensive school metalwork lesson. Staying at the back, the parcel shelf resembles something constructed from pressed egg boxes covered in fuzzy felt*. Again, its all about the price and none of the aforementioned is going to be a deal maker or breaker – its all about managing your expectations.

DSC_0066[1]
This new “Rocks” model amounts to little more than a styling exercise… but I think its worked well – those dual tone diamond cut alloys look gorgeous and the paintwork seemed very well applied.

…a happy little soul of a car that has just enough equipment as standard to distance itself from being as basic as a Days Inn bedroom. But could do with some additional safety related kit such as lane deviation warning or blind-spot detection

The slight worry is the price being dangerously close to some fairly decent rivals like the Suzuki Ignis / Swift or the Kia Picanto – the latter having a warranty longer than time itself. You could also slide into an MG3 too, but MGs here today gone tomorrow dealer network along with customer stories of hilariously poor customer support make the MG3 really hard to recommend. OK so the Viva SL may be cheaper and slightly better equipped, but look at them side by side and draw your own conclusion on looks.

To summarise? The Vauxhall Viva Rocks is a happy little soul of a car that has just enough equipment as standard to distance itself from being as basic as a Days Inn bedroom. But it really could do with some additional safety related kit such as lane deviation warning or blind-spot detection. For me?… I like it in a cheeky sort of way and one or two passing folk in a supermarket commented on its looks and colour. Clearly someone at Vauxhall Opel has done their job right. Sometimes going back to basics doesn’t disappoint.

* Please Note… younger readers are advised to Google this 🙂

OUR RATING: 6.5 / 10

THE HUMBLE OPINION

I adore simple no frills transport and the Viva Rocks is just that. Some other pundits reckon the Rocks is a touch too expensive. But I say visit the showroom, see one, try one and if you like it shake the salesperson by their socks… you’ll be surprised how much money drops off the deal if you’re brave enough to stand your ground and haggle.

Idiot proof to operate, a good driving position and reasonably economical too make it a safe bet. On paper there is a bit of a battle to defend it against other cheaper Viva models… or with other rivals offering a little more in terms of equipment. An MG3 for example comes in a lot cheaper but lacks all round viability in terms of long term owner confidence.

But I like the character, its smart and cute looks allied to its simplicity – that’s whats done it for me and as far as I’m concerned its certainly worth a good look at.

 

MODEL TESTED: Vauxhall Viva Rocks

List Price: £11,815 excluding options

Driveline: 999cc 12v fuel Injected 3cyl with 5 speed manual gearbox

Power: 75PS with 95Nm of torque

Performance: *0 – 60 in 13.1 seconds with 106mph max

Economy: *60.1mpg combined (55.4mpg on actual test)

Co2 Output: 106 G/Km

 

WHATS GREAT?

  • Smart looking in a cute kinda way
  • Entertaining engine note
  • Safe handling and acceptable ride comfort
  • Smooth and refined enough to do a long motorway journey
  • Good all round visibility
  • Easy peasy lemon squeeze to drive

WHAT GRATES?

  • Not all that cheap
  • No other engine or gearbox offerings
  • Lack of safety related technology aids
  • Lack of a turbo means it all too easily runs out of puff
  • Next model down in the range actually has more equipment

Fore more information on the Viva Rocks CLICK HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 comments

  1. Just been onto the website and have to agree that the basic models look awful against this one.

    I can see your enthusiasm here it’s a car that makes you smile and this review certainly made me chuckle.

    Richard Green

  2. Rather dapper looking little city car in my opinion. Wonder what a nippier model would be like with the current 1.0 turbo as per the current Vauxhall Astra would be like.

  3. Aww bless it, that is sooo pretty looking. I have a viva se my parents bought me when I was at Uni and I love it. Would adore one of these do you know if the fuel tank is bigger on these new ones.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s