15 Nov: Vauxhall Vivaro ecoFLEX

Miles More in a Vivaro ecoFLEX …

There’s more to cutting fuel costs than down-sizing. A well thrashed small engine can be just as thirsty as a more relaxed larger engine, so saving fuel has as much to do with driving style as cylinder capacity, and if you buy an ‘efficiency optimised’ vehicle, then the savings can be even more impressive.

When it was first revealed to the public in 2001, the Vauxhall Vivaro looked different. The sloping nose blending into the steeply raked windscreen and the ‘bubble-top’ finish to the cab roof line made it stand out from the crowd. 11 years on, it still looks different, but that hasn’t stopped Vauxhall, and its Renault and Opel partners, from making changes.

Over the years, little has been done to the exterior design, apart from a bit more chrome around the badge and grille, but the biggest changes are under the bonnet. With the British Government seemingly hellbent on extracting every spare coin from our pockets and the crude oil speculators oblivious to the general harm they are causing in their personal pursuit of a sushi and champagne lifestyle. So, it has been left to the motor manufacturers to try and make the most of fuel efficiency.

Of course, we are all aware that oil reserves are dwindling and it’s only right that manufacturers try and help out their customers, but it shouldn’t just be left to them!

Anyway, I digress, Vauxhall now have an ‘ecoFLEX’ version of every LCV they make from the Corsa Van and Combo, to the Vivaro and Movano. The idea with these models is to make the most of what they have to help them travel further on less fuel.

So there are no radical design changes to the new ecoFLEX Vivaro, but various tweaks have improved fuel efficiency to the extent that the ‘official’ fuel consumption figures show an improvement of 3 mpg over the ‘standard’ van. That equates to 40.9 mpg compared to 37.6 mpg, but bearing in mind that these ‘official’ figures have been generated under a strictly controlled set of parameters as opposed to driving a vehicle on real roads in the real world!

CO2 emissions have dropped too, from 180g/km to 198g/km so anyone driving an ecoFLEX van can feel additionally smug about saving the planet.
Engine efficiencies on the base 2 litre CDTi engine include exhaust-gas recirculation cooling, optimised gear ratios and improved thermal management. Vauxhall has also added low-rolling resistance tyres and an aerodynamic kit to the specification, plus there is the option of fitting a speed limiter which can make further mpg savings.
If that sounds sufficient to change the driving dynamics of the vehicle, it doesn’t. There is absolutely no noticeable difference in throttle control, turbo lag or speed through the gears. So anyone driving ‘normally’ won’t notice any difference, although they should notice a slight improvement in fuel economy. However, if a driver does exercise a bit more thought and lightness of foot, then the gains are even better, easily 5 or 6 miles per gallon better than the standard van.

It’s all about driving smoothly, getting up the gears as early as possible, avoiding harsh braking and no stamping on the ‘loud’ pedal to get out and get past slower moving traffic. Just chill out and enjoy the ambience. Don’t get angry, get smooo-oooth!

Honestly, it makes a big difference to fuel economy and very little difference to journey times. And not only does a relaxed drive reduce the fuel consumption it decreases the heart rate so there is no need for an energy biscuit, or even a fag, when you arrive at your destination ahead of a day’s work. Savings all round then.

Making life even more bearable in the slower lane, are the comfort levels inside the Vivaro cab. Little has changed here since the van’s inception and that’s mostly down to the fact that it was so good in the first place. The driver’s seat and range of adjustment is amongst best in class although there is one slight niggle, the sloping window sill on the driver’s door is not conducive to resting one’s elbow!

Having said that, the test van had the 100 quid ‘two-seater’ option with two single seats, as opposed to one driver single and a double passenger seat. The price also included lumbar adjustment and arm rest. Also extra on this vehicle were the Vision Pack comprising rain-sensitive wipers, automatic lights, parking sensors and selective door locking for £455, air-conditioning at £630 and ESP plus traction control for the braking system at an extra £400. The CD 30 T radio/CD unit was a £340 upgrade too and had a USB connection, making an already comfortable van, almost luxurious.

Storage is pretty good too with a couple of ‘stepped’ can holders at each end of the dash. Although too shallow to take a 500 ml bottle, the can holders are ideal for cans (obviously!) and Styrofoam cups, but the ‘step’ in the base allows them to hold a mobile phone without it rattling around. A thoughtful and appreciative touch! Mind you, just one 12v socket is a bit mean these days.

The ‘glovebox’ is a bit on the shallow side, but is well supported with open spaces above it and above the centre of the dash, while the steeply sloping dash-top itself is a tempting place to keep newspapers, order pads and all the other rubbish that van drivers collect. However, good housekeeping will be required to ensure the air vents aren’t obstructed.

The test van loadbox was unlined, but with 8 floor-level load lashing points, it was easy enough to secure items on the bare metal floor.

Out on the road, the van is a treat to drive offering a better quality of road and noise insulated drive than many so-called executive saloons.

If you’re just going to hash around in a commercial vehicle then there is no point in going for a fuel efficient optimised vehicle, any old van will do, but if you do want to cut your fuel costs, then the ecoFLFEX makes sense.

Although the Government inspired laboratory figures suggest that the ecoFLEX Vivaro will return over 40 mpg, in real life motoring I was getting 37 mpg and that included one 120 mile non-Motorway run with a rally car engine and gearbox in the back. And you know what? I was quite impressed with that for a 2 litre engine in a commercial vehicle.

A quiet and comfortable ride is more conducive to a thoughtful and considerate driving style. And who knows, it might even make you less grumpy when cut up by an eedjit in a hurry.


  • Review Date: November 15, 2012
  • Price
  • Engine
  • Power
  • Transmission
  • Wheel Base
  • Overall Length
  • Overall width
  • Loadfloor length
  • Loadspace width
  • Payload