Would you buy this British-built Vauxhall MPV for £40,000?

Vauxhall Vivaro Life £40,000 MPV

Vauxhall has unveiled a new MPV based on the Vivaro commercial vehicle called the Vivaro Life. There are two trim levels for it – the passenger-carrying Edition, and the Elite ‘luxury limousine’. Yes, the latter is a £40,000 Vauxhall Van…

That’s right, a £40,000 Vauxhall van…

Vauxhall Vivaro Life £40,000 MPV

That might sound a bit barmy, but there’s got to be something to the ‘luxury limousine’ description. Let’s break down the Vivaro Life Elite. Vauxhall describes it as a ‘well-appointed, go-anywhere family car or luxury limousine’. In the front, you get a head-up display and electrically adjustable heated and massage-equipped seats.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come along with a smart navigation system as part of the 7-inch touch screen in-car entertainment. As for those trickier parking manoeuvres, a 180-degree rear-view camera has you covered, as does blind spot monitoring.

Vauxhall Vivaro Life £40,000 MPV

There are five seats as standard, although you can get two individual seats in the back that can rotate for ‘conference seating’, or a third row for a total of eight seats. A table is also optional for a more opulent conference seat layout. Needless to say, the potential for luggage space dwarfs anything available in a normal car.

Sliding blinds and reclining seats mean passengers can settle down for a snooze overnight with, if they so choose, a nice view out at the night sky through the panoramic roof. Other distinctive inclusions on the Vivaro Life Elite include 17-inch diamond-cut alloys, xenon and LED lights and a split opening tailgate (have that, Range Rover) for ease of luggage loading.

Fully-electric version due in 2021

Vauxhall Vivaro Life £40,000 MPV

Being based on the EMP2 modular car platform as used by the Grandland X, the Vivaro should boast more car-like driving characteristics. While it’s initially to be offered as a diesel, an all-electric version is due in 2021. That will join the fully-electric Corsa we’ll be getting soon in Vauxhall’s EV lineup… 

The Brit-built MPV

Don’t worry, there are other versions. For the more conventional family that fancies a van-flavoured MPV, the £27,000 Vivaro Life Edition offers an intriguing alternative to conventional people carriers. Vauxhall still reckons it’s ‘built for business’ but this built-in-Luton up-to-nine-seater van could be a family favourite.

Vauxhall offers servicing and breakdown cover for £19 per month

Vauxhall service and breakdown

Adding to the list of things we can pay for monthly is Vauxhall, with its new car care package. It starts from a reasonable £19 a month.

The scheme includes three years’ servicing and roadside assistance cover, with the first MOT also thrown in. It builds upon the existing three-year warranty and one-year Vauxhall Assistance package when you buy any new Vauxhall.

The roadside assistance includes both home-start and recovery – good peace of mind for your first three years of motoring in your new car.

While the package costs £19 per month for petrol-powered cars, diesels are a little pricier, at £22 per month. Overall, you’ll end up paying £684 over three years with a petrol car, or £792 with a diesel. A one-off up-front payment for the total is available.

Given servicing is quoted on Vauxhall’s website as ‘£159 for interim or £259 for a main service’, you can expect to pay £567 just in servicing over three years. That means three years of breakdown and home-start, plus the car’s first MOT, costs you £117. Not too bad, by our reckoning.

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Volkswagen Beetle Vase [Cabrio dash]

The best car features owners didn’t know they had

Volkswagen Beetle Vase [Cabrio dash]

A survey of 2,000 UK motorists by Citnow has uncovered the 10 best-loved features owners found in their cars.

These range from interior ‘easter eggs’ that surprise and delight, to genuinely useful features that we’re surprised aren’t seen more widely.

Let’s look at the list…

Volkswagen Golf GTI: golf ball gearknob

Volkswagen Golf GTI Golf Ball Gear Shift

‘GTI’ is one of the most prestigious names in hot hatchery and by extension, one of the most revered badges on the road. Today, the Volkswagen Golf GTI is the perfect double act of genuine class-beating competency and fun throwbacks to GTIs of old. One example of the latter is the golf ball on the gearknob, which heads the list of best-loved features .

Volkswagen Beetle: flower vase

Volkswagen Beetle Vase [from above]

If you thought the golf ball shifter was a fun trinket, the Volkswagen Beetle and its dashboard vase will appeal. The ‘New Beetle’, when it arrived in 1997, aimed to distil the cultural phenomenon of the original in a contemporary package. Yes, even down to some flower power… Motoring meets botany, resulting in perhaps the weirdest feature of any car from the last 20 years. It makes number two on the list.

Vauxhall Corsa: Flexfix integrated bike rack

Vauxhall FlexFix Bike Rack

The Beetle’s vase can be best described as a gimmick that’s most useful when you’re without a place to store your pens. The Flexfix slide-out bike rack on the Corsa (available as far back as 2000) is of rather more use to more people. Clever packaging makes it third on the best-loved list.

Skoda: integrated umbrella

Skoda Superb Umbrella

This one, especially for Brits, is a no-brainer, and somthing you’ll find in both a Rolls-Royce and a Skoda Superb. The door-stored umbrella has to be a godsend whenever you park up in wet weather. The challenge is remembering that it’s tucked away there.

Mini: ambient lighting

MINI Ambient Lighting

In the coolness stakes, this is close to the top. Ambient lighting has proliferated throughout the car market, but the playful implementation in the Mini is rated one of the best-loved features by buyers.

Honda: Magic Seats

Honda Magic Seats

Heading the list of practical but not necessarily cool quirks are Honda’s ‘Magic Seats’. These flip-up rear seats, which create a floor-to-ceiling storage space, debuted on the Jazz in the early 2000s and eventually made their way onto the Civic. Unlike a lot of what’s on this list, they are a genuinely useful feature if your Jazz or Civic is thus equipped!

Mini Convertible: Openometer

MINI Openometer

Aaaaaand… we’re back to the gimmicks. It doesn’t get much sillier than the Mini Convetible’s ‘Openometer’. This gauge records the amount of time you have spent travelling with the roof down. At least you can say with the utmost certainty how much sunshine you’ve got, before deciding whether to buy another drop-top.

Nissan: curry hook

Nissan Curry Hook

As unknown features go, this is about as middle-of-the-road as they get. How many cars do you know of with a hook specifically for takeaways? Er, none? Well, there is one. From 1996, the Nissan Almera came equipped with this feature, which you can now find in the boots of many new cars.

Renault Modus: Boot Chute

Renault Modus Boot Chute

This is a feature that was absolutely infamous at the time, mostly among journalists. The boot chute is one of those great ideas that simply didn’t catch on (the name surely didn’t help, although this was, remember, the company that also gave us the Renault Wind).

Too close to a car or a wall behind you? Need to load shopping? No problem! The lower part of the tailgate opened to create a ‘Boot Chute’. It provided excellent access for luggage in confined spaces. Bring it back, Renault!

DS 3: perfume dispenser

DS 3 Perfume Dispenser

The last item on the list is the DS 3’s perfume dispenser. Of course, it’s not actually exclusive to the DS. Many cars are now getting integrated fragrances, but it remains a laughable hidden feature.

Or is it? Plenty of us fit our own air fresheners, so why should a built-in one seem weird? Regardless, it rounds off the top 10 hidden features that buyers love.

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Vauxhall Calibra

Vauxhall Calibra V6 review: a classic coupe that still turns heads

Vauxhall Calibra

Take a best-selling family saloon, re-skin it with a curvaceous body that could have straight from an Italian styling house and you have the Vauxhall Calibra. It was based on the Vauxhall Cavalier and designed in-house, not by Italians, but by Wayne Cherry, GM’s American-born Design Director.

This is not an uncommon approach to building coupes: start with an unexciting saloon or hatchback and sex it up. VW did it with the Scirocco and Audi TT, both to great effect. The key is to start off with well-engineered building blocks, something both VW and Vauxhall/Opel had to their advantage.

What we have here, then, is a three-door, four-seat coupe, its wide-opening tailgate neatly disguised within the flowing lines down to the rear bumper. Launched in 1989, the Calibra was sold in the UK for the best part of 10 years, although it’s rare to see one now – especially anything as nice as this extremely low mileage example from Vauxhall’s heritage fleet.

Vauxhall Calibra

Power came originally from a couple of 2.0-litre petrol engines: either 8-valve/115hp or 16-valve/150hp. In 1992 a four-wheel-drive 2.0-litre turbocharged Calibra was launched. A power output of 200hp still sounds respectable, but the Turbo wasn’t popular at the time and now has the shadow of expensive gearbox problems hanging over it.

The car we have here is the last proper iteration of the Calibra, the 2.5-litre V6. With around 168hp, it wasn’t as fast as the Turbo, but the silky V6 engine brought a whole new level of sophistication, arguably making the Calibra more of a grand tourer than it had any right to be.

So, how does the Calibra V6 stand up today? We drove it to Normandy for a four-day classic car event – enough miles to stretch its legs properly.

Calibra to the continent

Vauxhall Calibra

We took the ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe and then headed down to Forges-les-Eaux, along winding D-roads through quiet villages and dense forests, scenes to be repeated over the following three days. What you notice immediately about the Calibra is how civilised it is. That V6 engine is a gem, not especially powerful by today’s standards but honestly quick and genuinely refined.

The leather interior provides a low, sporty seating position and some real comfort, while there’s room for a couple of adults in the rear as long as they’re not too tall.

Luggage space is impressive, and there’s masses of volume available with the rear seat folded. I know this from experience, by the way: nearly 30 years ago when the Calibra was still new, I carried four garden chairs back from Switzerland. 

Vauxhall Calibra

There’s no escaping the Calibra’s origins, although most today will have forgotten what a Cavalier dashboard looked like, so with its white dials, the Calibra V6 simply feels classic rather than outdated.

The ride and handling are far from sporty, however, which means you’d be better off enjoying the easy power steering and decent air-con than chasing old Golf GTIs across the countryside.

Take that on board, and you’ll revel in a long journey in a Calibra V6. It may be more than 20 years old, but this classic Vauxhall gets more desirable all the time.

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Vauxhall Corsa

25 years of the Vauxhall Corsa: meet the ancestors

Vauxhall Corsa

We’ve all got stories to tell about the Vauxhall Corsa. A regular in the UK’s bestselling cars shortlist since it was launched in 1993, we’ve all either owned one, driven one or probably have a significant memory involving one.

Vauxhall’s popular supermini celebrates its 25th year on sale in the UK in 2018, so we headed to the firm’s head office in Luton for a day discovering the Corsa’s heritage. Without further ado, this is what we drove.

Watch: celebrating 25 years of the Vauxhall Corsa

1990 Vauxhall Nova

Why start a feature celebrating a 25 years of the Vauxhall Corsa with a drive in a car that’s a) more than 25 years old and b) not a Corsa? Well, in markets other than the UK, the Vauxhall Nova was actually badged ‘Corsa’. The Corsa name wasn’t launched in the UK until 1993 as Vauxhall marketing chiefs believed it sounded too much like the word ‘coarser’.

Even if you don’t consider the Nova part of the Corsa’s history, it’s interesting to drive one as a precursor to the car we all think of as the Corsa.

I’ve driven this Nova before. Back in February 2016, I spent a cold week with H167 FNK. Since then, it’s remained high up on my list of favourite cars I’ve ever driven. Yes, a Vauxhall Nova.

Despite being ‘just’ a 1.2 Merit, FNK feels special. Its odometer is slowly edging towards 20,000 miles, and it still feels box-fresh. Clearly a local car, with its ‘Plowmans of Luton’ dealer sticker on the rear window, it must be one of the best examples of a Nova left on the roads. 

It feels small, but it’s not unpleasant to drive. With a little bit of choke on start-up, it happily keeps up with modern traffic, although you’re very aware of its diminutive dimensions on the busy streets of Luton.

I soon notice that I’m driving along with a smile on my face, and cameraman Bradley points out that I’m no longer being grumpy about the awful weather and poor driving standards of other motorists. Driving a car like this in 2018 makes you slow down, relax and enjoy the experience. While they were once 10-a-penny, in a world of ever bigger, faster and more aggressive cars, the humble Nova is something that really deserves to be appreciated.

2004 Vauxhall Corsa C

When I was 17 – not that long ago – this is the car everyone had for their first motor. Actually, that’s a lie – a regular Corsa C is the car everyone had for their first motor. We could but dream of affording the insurance on a 1.8 GSi.

Today, it feels old. It comes as more of a shock than the Nova in some ways – I guess I was expecting the Nova to feel ancient, but I still think of a 2004 Corsa as relatively modern. Finding a comfortable driving position is difficult, with no adjustment in the steering wheel, and there’s a strong smell of cheap air freshener.

I feel vulnerable in it – again, perhaps more so than the Nova – partly aware of all the Corsa Cs owned by friends that ended up wrapped around trees. It feels quick, though, it’s 8.0-second 0-62mph time impressive in a time before 300hp hot hatches.

Although it’s not slow in a straight line, things fall apart slightly in the corners. It just doesn’t handle as well as a Ford Fiesta of the same vintage does. There’s lots of body-roll, while the light steering doesn’t give you a lot of confidence. Of course, hooning down a B-road isn’t natural Corsa territory (even if some enthusiastic owners might argue otherwise). Around town it’s easy to drive – easier than the Nova – and visibility is good.

Is it a modern classic? No. Will it be? I doubt it’ll ever be on my shopping list, even if it does become ultra-rare.

2017 Vauxhall Corsa E

In a competitive supermini world with the likes of the new Ford Fiesta and Seat Ibiza putting in very convincing arguments for your monthly PCP payment, it’s easy to forget just how good the latest Corsa is.

Driving the Nova and Corsa C beforehand might have warped my view slightly, but the new Corsa’s interior is pretty good. Red dash inlays (standard on the SRi) brighten up the inside, as does red stitching – no doubt appealing to young drivers (and me). The infotainment system is easy to use, with CarPlay as standard. We’ve got used to such luxuries now. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a car in this sector without them.

Engine wise, the 1.4-litre turbo petrol feels eager. Noticeably easy to drive compared to the older cars, you feel safer in the latest Corsa because of the size of it (it’s 399mm longer than the Nova and 182mm longer than the Corsa C).

Even in the handling stakes – whether darting around city streets or on rural roads – the Corsa E feels safe yet fun. It’s no new Fiesta, admittedly, but it’s perfectly pleasant to drive.

Sure, if I was driving alongside modern-day rivals, I probably wouldn’t be quite so positive about the Corsa E. But I’m not, so I will. Besides, I ran one for six months as part of the MR long-term fleet and really enjoyed it. Vauxhall might be going through tricky times at the moment, but I for am looking forward to seeing what the next 25 years brings for the Corsa.

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The Vauxhall Vivaro van is built in Luton

Vauxhall to build new vans in Luton ‘despite Brexit’

The Vauxhall Vivaro van is built in LutonMore than 1,400 automotive industry jobs at Vauxhall’s van plant in Luton have been secured after new owner PSA Peugeot Citroen announced plans to build the next-generation Vivaro van at the historic factory.

The site may even produce Peugeot- and Citroen-branded vans in the future. 

The news follows Groupe PSA’s record LCV unit sales of 476,500 in 2017, an increase of 15 percent on 2016. The investment in Luton is driven through a performance plan negotiated between the Unite trade union and the Luton plant, despite what Vauxhall calls “Brexit uncertainties”.

Business secretary Greg Clark said: “Today’s decision is a vote of confidence in Vauxhall’s high-skilled workforce and the UK’s world-leading automotive sector. This investment in upgrading the production platform will safeguard and grow jobs, ensuring the future of the Luton plant well into the next decade and help ensure the plant is well positioned for future Vauxhall models to be made in the UK.

“We have been clear in our commitment to the automotive sector which is why, through the Industrial Strategy, we established a landmark Automotive Sector Deal that will see us working with industry to put the UK at the forefront of new technologies.”

PSA bought General Motors’ European business in 2017 and there had been widespread speculation surrounding the future of the Vauxhall plants in Luton and Ellesmere Port. 

In 2017, the Luton plant produced 60,000 Opel and Vauxhall Vivaros, but the investment, which is said to total £100m, including £9m from the UK government, could increase capacity to around 100,000 vehicles a year.

‘Major milestone’ for Luton plant

Carlos Tavares, chairman of the managing board Groupe PSA, said: “Performance is the trigger for sustainability and I would like to thank all stakeholders involved and underline the open mindset of our union partners, as well as that of the UK Government.

“This is a major milestone for the future of the Luton plant and a key enabler to serve our ambitions in the commercial vehicle market, guaranteeing customers the best offering in this segment”

PSA considered building Vivaro vans in Germany and Poland, but the UK site “had a natural advantage because it already houses a paint shop fitted to produce van-sized vehicles – an operation that would be expensive to set up elsewhere,” said the FT. 

The news is a welcome boost for UK commercial vehicle manufacturing, which fell 24.2 percent in February to 6,019 units. Exports still drive UK production volumes, with almost 70 percent of UK-built vans, trucks, buses and coaches destined for global customers.

Luton home of the Vauxhall Vivaro

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), welcomed PSA’s decision, saying: “This announcement is great news for the UK automotive sector and, especially, the Luton plant.

“The UK continues to be a centre of excellence for vehicle production thanks to our engineering expertise, high levels of productivity and a collaborative relationship with [the] government which has enabled us to build a robust industrial strategy and a sector deal.

“We will continue to work with policy makers to ensure the UK remains as competitive as possible now and in the future so we can continue to build on our long heritage in vehicle manufacturing.”

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