The Vauxhall Viva is making a comeback – 26 years after the name was dropped by the car firm. The famous badge has been revived for an innovative six-seater mini-MPV based on the chassis of the next-generation Corsa.
Seen here in its Opel guise, the Viva will slot neatly below the Zafira in the Vauxhall range, the Viva will go head-to-head with Citroen's new '2CV', Audi's A2 and the Mercedes A-Class in one of the biggest-growing sectors of the British new car market. Just like the successful Zafira, the baby Vauxhall people mover will have an extra trick up its sleeve to worry rivals – an ability to carry six occupants when competitors can only squeeze in five seats.
This has been made possible by fitting a system similar to the Zafira's Flex7 interior. Four individual seats – two in the front and two behind – will be designed for everyday use. But there will be a pair of extra items folded away under the luggage compartment floor, ready to flip up into use when they're needed. And the layout will be even more adaptable than the Zafira's, with the middle seats designed to be moved on sliding rails or taken out completely. In contrast, the Zafira has a bench which cannot be removed.
Fitting six people into a car little longer than a Corsa has required some masterly packaging. The body is longer than the regular Corsas by around 300mm, thanks to a larger rear overhang rather than an extended wheelbase, but the main advance has been made by an increase in height. Far taller than the Corsa, the Viva's extra headroom has allowed the front seats to be mounted higher, improving crash protection and effectively shortening the nose. Occupants sit more upright, too, freeing up vital legroom. Rear passengers will have footwells which sink below the front floor – as in the Audi A2 – making sure even adults can get comfortable. However, with all six seats in place, there will be precious little space for luggage.
Most of the Viva's other interior components, including the dashboard, will be shared with the next-generation Corsa, due to go on sale in the UK in November. The Viva will follow just over two years later, hitting the road in February 2003. Safety will be given a top priority, with active head restraints to prevent whiplash plus four airbags as standard in all variants. Top models will have a combined satellite navigation and CD system, with steering-wheel mounted controls.
Mechanically the newcomer will again mirror the forthcoming Corsa, although the base 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine will not be used as it can't meet performance targets in a fully laden Viva. Entry-level models are expected to cost around £10,000 and will be powered by a 75bhp 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol unit, while the top versions will use a 125bhp 1.8-litre powerplant and command a price of around £14,000. A 1.7-litre direct-injection diesel unit will also be offered.
The gearbox options should satisfy all tastes, too. A five-speed manual and four-speed automatic will suit conventional buyers, although there will also be a state-of the-art clutchless manual gearbox with gearchanges operated via steering wheel switches, as in an Alfa-Romeo 156 Selespeed.
But exterior styling will be far removed from the Corsa. Designed to appeal to young families, the Viva looks far more interesting than the next Corsa and will establish a presence of its own. Concepts such as the Zafira Snowtrekker and G90 'fuel economy special' – both of which have been doing the rounds at motor shows over the past year or so – point to a family look for all future Vauxhalls, with the angular front end already evident in the Astra. Stepped front wings and an arched roofline are typical styling features which will be seen on future models.
The Viva name has been revived from one of Vauxhall's best loved cars which remained in production from 1963 to 1977, but was eventually replaced by the Astra. Unlike the old car, the Viva tag will also be used on Opel-badged cars in Europe.