Vauxhall Rocks Viva city car into rugged rural runabout
Vauxhall certainly offers buyers SUV and crossovers plenty to choose and has now launched a more rugged Rocks version of its Viva city car. Motoring editor Andy Russell says you pay the price for those chunkier looks.
Is the dog wagging its tail or the tail wagging the dog when it comes to the obsession the motoring public seems to have with SUVs? I wonder if customer demand drives manufacturers to come up with new innovative niche models or the car-makers creating SUV-inspired models maintain sales momentum.
We’ve got coupe-like sports activity vehicles, crossovers, beefed up estate cars and now there’s a trend to give superminis and city cars a macho makeover, 18mm more ground clearance and rugged body cladding.
Ford is doing it with Fiesta and Focus Active, Kia the Picanto X-Line and Vauxhall just rocks with its chunkier Adam Rocks and now Viva Rocks.
Looks and image
The Viva, as Vauxhall’s budget city car, is not bad looking – I rather like the standard hatchback’s simplicity – but the Viva Rocks is more distinctive with butcher bumpers including integrated skid pads and fog lights at the front, silver roof rails, muscular wheel arches, 15in bi-colour alloy wheels and rides higher.
Under the bonnet
A simple choice here – a naturally-aspirated, 75PS, three-cylinder 1.0-litre engine, specially developed for the Viva family.
Without a turbo, it doesn’t have a lot of punch but makes reasonable progress but, over 50mph, overtaking needs careful planning and a long stretch of open road as it runs out of puff at higher revs. You’re better off changing up early, and going with the flow, which resulted in 55mpg overall.
It will cruise at 70mph but, with a five-speed manual gearbox, it is pulling nearly 3,500rpm which can get wearing. Motorway miles are not the Viva Rocks’ forte – this is city car turned rural runabout.
How it drives
The ride, geared for comfort and helped by higher ground clearance and deep tyres, is rather good for a small car. The soft set-up cushions passengers on rough roads but things get a bit roly-poly through fast corners with more body lean than the standard Viva.
That said, it’s not a car designed to be a dynamic drive and comfort will be the over-riding factor for most owners.
Space and comfort
It’s roomier than it looks and four average adults have acceptable legroom if those up front forego some.
The Viva has five seats but the rear bench is flat and slabby compared to the more shapely and supportive front seats and, width-wise, I wouldn’t want to be stuck in the back with two other adults but three children wouldn’t feel the squeeze.
The 206-litre boot is deep and boxy, taking a reasonable supermarket shop with careful packing, but has a high sill. You have to lift the rigid parcel shelf upright to access the boot but, forget to put it down again, and you can’t see out of the back screen.
Rear seats split 60/40 but you have to flip the cushions upright, and remove the head rests, and they still don’t go flat – I unclipped and removed the cushions when I needed more space but there’s still a little step up.
At the wheel
Gloss black trim and brighwork highlights break it up the dark, hard plastics and you can adjust the height of the driver’s seat and steering wheel, but not the latter for reach, but most people will find a suitable set-up.
The test car was fitted with the £935 optional touchscreen navigation and infotainment system which was easy to use but the sat-nav took ages to work out where it was and give instructions.
The Viva Rocks is the most expensive member of this range and you pay for that SUV styling. Some cheaper models have more desirable equipment as standard and look better value.
SPEC AND TECH
Price: Vauxhall Viva Rocks 1.0 75PS £11,940
Engine: 999cc, 75PS, three-cylinder petrol with five-speed manual gearbox
Performance: 0-62mph 13.1 seconds; top speed 106mph
MPG: Urban 50.4; extra urban 67.3; combined 60.1
CO2 emissions: 106g/km
Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 22pc
Insurance group: 5E (out of 50)
Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles
Will it fit in the garage? L 3,676mm; W (including door mirrors) 1,876mm; H 1,532mm