There comes a time in everyone’s life when they need a van. This may fill the average motorist with dread as they summon up images of noisy, cumbersome vehicles which are difficult to manoeuvre in everyday traffic.

That may have been the case in the past but happily is no longer if my recent experience with a Vauxhall Vivaro is anything to go by.

Faced with the task of shifting a pile of furniture from the North East back to Oxford, the Vivaro managed it effortlessly. If only it had loaded and unloaded itself, then I would have considered the experience completely pain-free.

The great thing about the Vivaro is that it is so car-like. Driving it is straightforward and there is plenty of punch from the two-litre diesel, even with a heavy load.

The seats are comfortable although proved a little hard on a long journey, although when you consider it, most vans will probably only be used over relatively short distances.

And there are a host of modern conveniences such as electric windows and Bluetooth telephone system, while a six-speed gearbox proved effortless to use.

This car-like quality of the Vivaro is not necessarily the case with all modern vans.

I had previously hired one and tried out a Ford Transit first. The legroom in the Vivaro against the market leader seemed far better, the seats were more comfortable and the driving position better. As far as I was concerned, there was no argument.

The Vivaro is very much at home on the motorway and it is almost easy to forget you are driving a comparatively large vehicle.

Overtaking can be achieved confidently and it will happily cruise at the legal limit, so you do not need to factor in any extra journey time just because you are driving a van.

Economy is almost up there with car standards too and it is possible to achieve close to 40mpg, depending on the load while the fuel tank is much bigger than a car and offers a good range. Recently introduced two-year service intervals will also help keep costs down.

Of course the driving experience is important but not as much as how much it can carry at the business end of the operation.

The Vivaro comes with either short or long wheelbase options, a choice of high or standard roofs and a double cab, giving a maximum load floor length of up to 110.8 inches or 2815mm. In other words, it happily swallowed a king-size mattress — and then some. The maximum loadspace volume is up to 297 cu ft, which I admit I filled — but it was certainly enough.

Accessing the space is also easy thanks to large rear doors which can click open individually and will not slam shut behind you when you are loading. There is also a large sliding door at the side which is easy to operate with no yanking required.

As for weight, the Vivaro is capable of carrying up to 1,254kg. But even carrying that much, the automatically adaptable suspension will ensure the van will not slope or sag, something which would affect the handling adversely.

Sometimes you feel you could do with that on some ordinary cars.

The Vivaro proved to be a capable performer both on the road and in its ability to haul large loads and for that it has to be commended.

A new version is due out this year but it is difficult to see where it will improve on an already good all-rounder.

Ultimately I was sad to see the Vivaro go, especially as I am sure I am going to have to move a pile more stuff in the near future and there is an argument here for buying one as a daily drive, which I am sure many people do.


Van supplied by Skurrays, Oxford Motor Park, Kidlington

01865 856 500