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Vauxhall Vivaro

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      15.10.2008 13:00
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      My kind of van

      The Vivaro is one of those vehicle oddities. If you don't drive one, you probably don't notice them much, but when you start looking, you'll see them everywhere. It's one of Britain's most popular panel vans, with thousands on the roads in the hands of private owners, utility companies or rental fleets. And although it's sold variously throughout Europe as an Opel, Renault Master and Nissan Primastar, it's a modest British success story, built primarily at the General Motors plant in Luton.

      If you drive a white van for a living, you'll appreciate the compact proportions of the Vivaro, being slightly smaller than a standard Transit. Numerous variants are available however, notably a high roofline version with full height rear doors.

      If you're just an occasional van driver, you'll most likely encounter the Vivaro in a rental company's pool of vehicles. The distinctive design conceals a clever package of engine and passenger compartment beneath an aerodynamic form. The cabin is easy to enter and exit, and the dashboard mounted gear lever means that passengers can slide across easily. The driver has a commanding position and a clear, organised dashboard with plenty of storage space. The plastic "lid" that sits above the dashboard stops paperwork and other dashboard detritus from reflecting in the windscreen. Two passengers can be accommodated on the comfortable bench seat, although if your crew is broad shouldered the man in the middle may feel the pinch.

      The cargo compartment can be specified with durable ply panelling, and you have a broad, deep area with only minor intrusion from the wheel arches. There's little snagging from the door latches, and both hinged rear doors can be unhooked to swing open to a full 180º (although not 270º against the side of the van). The considered design of the rear lights, doors and loading lip makes loading and unloading a breeze.

      The turbo diesel engines are revvy yet refined; mated with the six speed gearbox you have a strong powertrain that can pull a full load away with ease and pound the fast lane with the big boys when empty.

      So why are there so many Vivaros, Masters and Primastars out there? Because this is certainly one of the better designed and most refined vans available. It's also extremely appeaing to car drivers who only occasionally need a van: clever interior design and overall packaging make it a pleasure to drive.

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