First Drive: Vauxhall Vivaro Ecoflex

Date: Monday, September 12, 2011

When Vauxhall moved to beef up its green credentials at the start of the year by offering versions of its Ecoflex sub-brand on all models in its commercial vehicle line-up, the exercise was partially cosmetic.

 The lowest emission versions of the Astravan and Combo, for example, were merely re-badged.
The manufacturer’s Luton-built medium-sized van, the Vivaro, got two new Ecoflex derivatives – 90hp and 115hp versions of the 2.0-litre CDTi, both of which boast CO2 output of 185g/km.
We sampled the short wheelbase panel van 2900 115hp model.
Unlike the Ecoflex iteration of its big brother, the Movano, the Vivaro features not manually but electrically operated windows, wing mirrors and door locking.
The one fuel saving device on the eco-middleweight van compared to conventional stablemates is a speed limiter which means you won’t accelerate beyond 62mph even when you press your foot to the floor.
A spokesman for Vauxhall explains: “The only difference is the addition of a speed limiter. Bear in mind this model is badged Ecoflex because it clearly identifies to our customers the lowest CO2 Vivaro in our range.”
The current Vivaro is getting long in the tooth, having made its debut in 2001, and there won’t be a replacement until Vauxhall’s Luton plant starts producing a new one in 2013.
Tweaks and upgrades over the years (including a re-worked cab and dashboard this year) have stopped it dating too badly and the Ecoflex badge should find favour with fleets looking to cut down on running costs while flagging up their green credentials.
Vauxhall claims the 115hp Ecoflex model does not sacrifice payload capacity, which remains
at 1243kg.
On the road the Vivaro Ecoflex 115hp comfortably holds its own both in the city and out on the open road with the engine working smoothly enough with the six-speed manual transmission. Handling is steady and predictable with decent feedback through the steering wheel.
There is no discernable loss of power up to the restricted maximum speed so, unless you are trying to save time while undertaking long treks up and down motorways, there is little reason to feel hard done by.
The Vivaro’s external styling is obviously not as cutting edge as it was a decade ago but it has blended in to the commercial vehicle parc and does not stand out like a sore thumb, as some critics feared it could.
The cabin, though a little staid, is comfortable and airy, with ample storage compartments, including space for a large water bottle in the doors and an accessible cup holder for the driver to the right of the steering wheel. The double front passenger seat might be a
bit of a squeeze for a couple of large blokes.
Steering wheel mounted controls for the radio and CD player make life easy and power steering with reach adjustable steering wheel as well as height, reach and recline adjustment for the driver’s seat ensure a comfortable, upright position can be found.
Additions for the forthcoming 2012 model year Vivaro include a diesel particulate filter plus modifications to the fuel pump and a revised gearbox oil. The Euro5 Ecoflex Vivaro will get low rolling resistance tyres, an aerodynamic kit and a wide ratio gearbox.

 

Verdict
The Ecoflex option prolongs the life of the current Vivaro, giving it fresh appeal and a huge range between refuels



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