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Electric people carrier’s appeal limited by battery size

Vauxhall Vivaro-e Life MPV (20 on) - rated 0 out of 5
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At a glance

New price £37,645 - £49,775
Lease from new From £493 p/m View lease deals
Used price £26,940 - £37,180
Used monthly cost From £672 per month
Fuel economy
Not tested to latest standards
View pre-2017 economy specs
Insurance group 36 How much is it to insure?

PROS

  • Refined, easy to drive despite its size
  • More comfortable than diesel versions
  • Overall ease of use impresses

CONS

  • 50kWh battery size isn’t sufficient
  • Interior fittings underwhelm
  • Greater passenger flexibility needed

Vauxhall Vivaro-e Life MPV rivals

Mercedes-Benz
EQV MPV
3.9 out of 5 3.9

Written by Keith WR Jones on

One of the most recent additions to the ranks of electric cars is the battery powered Vauxhall Vivaro-e Life, a zero-emission range to compliment the pre-existing diesel-only Vivaro Life range.

Plug-in cars enjoyed an enormous sales growth during 2020, largely at the expensive of diesel models, making a comparison of the relative virtues of these otherwise similar models particularly pertinent.

Just as the diesel Vivaro Life is a passenger-carrying MPV version of the latest Vivaro panel van, so it is with the electrified models, albeit with different battery capacities for the commercial Vivaro-e as covered throughout this review.

Orange 2021 Vauxhall Vivaro-e Life front three-quarter

Direct rivals aren’t numerous at this stage, but they include the Citroen e-SpaceTourer and Peugeot e-Traveller, which, aside from styling differences at the front and a small number of detail changes, are identical to the Vauxhall. Interestingly, Toyota will not offer its equivalent version of the Proace Verso, even though it will sell an electric Proace van.

If you want something based on a totally different design, but still electric, your sole alternative (for now, at least), is the Mercedes-Benz EQV – a BEV version of the V-Class with a flurry of minor styling modifications.

What is the Vivaro-e Life’s driving range

In a word, disappointing. Primarily this is because its battery pack, which is conveniently hidden under the floor and has zero impact on interior space, has a capacity of 50kWh. That’s fine in a more compact hatchback such as the electric Vauxhall Corsa-e, but in something the size of the Vivaro it restricts the distance it can travel between recharges badly.

Officially the range is 144 miles, but in the sub-zero temperatures we’ve tested the Vivaro-e Life in so far, it would only charge up to a displayed 128 miles, with a real-world range on a mixture of roads of 100.

That could be sufficient if it's being primarily for urban journeys as a taxi, but as a family bus it’s disappointing.

Frustratingly, Vauxhall doesn’t offer the electric Life with the same 75kWh that’s available in the Vivaro-e van. In the commercial application the range jumps to a more sensible – if not exactly startling – 205 miles, just shy of the Mercedes EQV at 213 miles.

As ever recharge times depend on your connection, with a flat-to-full replenishment using a dedicated domestic wallbox taking 7.5 hours. On test, we found a ‘very low’ to full zap-up using a 50kW public charger could be done in around an hour.   

Simple Vivaro-e Life line-up

With two trim levels – Edition and Elite – the electric Vivaro Life mirrors its diesel-engined twin, but beyond that the choice is even more straightforward.

Only one length of body is available (the longer one), there’s one 136hp electric motor option and it comes with a single-speed automatic transmission.

Entry-level Edition versions are easy to spot thanks to their largely unpainted bumpers and exterior mouldings, plus steel wheels with a plastic centre cap.

With a twin front passenger bench and three-person benches in rows two and three, the Edition is a nine-seater and not remotely plush inside. It’s aimed much more at private hire operators, businesses that shuttle employees around and families needing a large car on a budget, Air-con, cruise control and Bluetooth connectivity are included, but little else is as part of this sparse package.

Spending an extra £12,000 brings you a wealth of niceties rather befitting the Elite name. Among the long list of standard fare is a glazed roof panel, three-zone climate control, eight seats with a conventional, single-person, front passenger seat, leather upholstery, keyless entry, electrically sliding side doors and 17-inch alloy wheels to name but a few.

Should you wish to up the luxury ante a little more the middle-row bench seat can be replaced by a pair of captain’s chairs, complete with armrests and complemented by a fold-up table installed between them.

Comfier than diesel Vivaro Lifes

One of our chief critiques of the diesel counterpart was how unsettled the ride quality is when there are no passengers in the back.

Thanks to the weight of the batteries in the electric version, this is far less of an annoyance and in the most part isn’t an issue at all.

Not that you remotely buy a van-derived car such as the Vivaro-e Life for driving thrills, the weight of the batteries being so low within the vehicle’s structure also has a positive impact on how well it drives.

Nevertheless, it remains a car that’s easier to enjoy as a passenger rather than the driver, but none of the flaws of its diesel twin have been ironed out in the conversion to being an electric model as we describe later in the review.

Ordinarily, electric cars cost significantly more than their conventionally engined counterparts, but here the differential is around £3,000 – a very small figure to recoup in fuel savings.

Click through the next few pages to read everything you need to know about the Vauxhall Vivaro-e Life including its practicality, how much it costs to run, what it's like to drive – and whether we recommend buying one.

Vauxhall Vivaro-e Life MPV rivals

Mercedes-Benz
EQV MPV
3.9 out of 5 3.9