This Vauxhall Vivaro Life is, as its name suggests, based on the marque's medium-sized Vivaro van but it's certainly pretty sophisticated as well as being light, airy, and seriously spacious, with room for up to 9 people, depending on variant. If anything, its commercial vehicle roots serve as a strength and the huge interior, tough build and uncomplicated design might prove ideal for family buyers.
The Vivaro Life is more agile than you might expect a super-large MPV to be, primarily thanks to the lighter, stiffer 'EMP2' platform that Vauxhall's switch to PSA Group ownership has dictated it must have. There's a relatively nimble feeling through the turns for a big People Carrier, helped by quite a low centre of gravity and steering that, though not especially feelsome, responds quite quickly to inputs. There's a choice of two main diesel engines, a 1.5-litre unit offered with either 100 or 120PS. And the 2.0-litre powerplant we'd recommend, available with either 150 or 180PS. The most powerful model has to be had with 8-speed automatic transmission. Otherwise, you'll be using a 6-speed manual.
Refinement has been a priority with this design, as has ride quality thanks to load-sensitive shock absorbers and a so-called 'passive' suspension system that adjusts springing and damping as required, depending on the road surface. Plus this model feels quite manoeuvrable. Testers who'd found the sheer size of some other big MPVs in this segment a little daunting when dealing with narrow country lanes and squeezing through gaps in the traffic were, we found, much more easily able to acclimatise to a Vivaro Life. The bonnet's set quite high, but the nose has a squared-off shape that we've found during our testing programme makes this Vauxhall easy to place in tight urban situations.
This Vivaro Life certainly doesn't shout 'school bus' in terms of the way it looks. Well it doesn't in top 'Elite' form anyway. Vauxhall also offers a base 'Edition' version which has much more of a minibus vibe. Car-like design elements include a sharply angled windscreen and smart frontal treatment. Under the skin, this MPV utilises the PSA Group's acclaimed 'Efficient Modular Platform 2' (EMP2) as the basis to combine its relatively compact exterior dimensions with maximum roominess. Inside, his model can offer up to 9 spacious seats with 1,500 litres of boot space - or up to 4,900-litres of luggage space if you take out the removable seats.
The Vivaro Life is available in two defined lengths, 'M' and 'XL', measuring in at either 4.95m or 5.30m. At the top of the range, the 'Elite' version gets hands-free electric sliding side doors which can be activated with a wave of the foot. All versions are usually 7-seaters. However, on an 'Edition' model, there's the no-cost option of a three-person front bench seat that will make this Vauxhall a 9-seater. On the 'Elite', there's the option of two individual second row chairs that will make this a 6-seater.
Older Vivaro van models could never have provided the base for a credible luxury family MPV but it says much for the third generation design that it pulls off this trick without much difficulty. The cabin can feel really quite up-market if you go for the top 'Elite' model. We're slightly disappointed that this flagship variant can't be had in 9-seater form, but otherwise, we like this Vivaro Life quite a lot.
With rugged build, competent driving dynamics, strong economy and attractive prices, it seems well-suited to its target market and as a result, could well be worth a look for larger families.Click here to find out more about our Vauxhall Vivaro Life range