• Dashboard is easy to use, but lacks style
  • Handful of interior changes over the diesel
  • Driving position isn’t ideal

What it lacks in style, the Vivaro-e Life’s dashboard makes up for in functionality for the most part. As per its exterior, almost everything you see inside is shared with the diesel-engined Vivaro Life range, plus the van versions, as well as those sister vehicles also sold as Citroens, Peugeots and Toyotas.

If you’re a long-time Vauxhall fan you could be disappointed that the only aspect that will feel immediately identical to other cars from the brand is the griffin logo on the steering wheel. It’s no bad thing in this instance – all of the buttons and controls feel suitably robust, if not exactly delightful in operation.

What is different about the Vivaro-e Life’s dashboard?

Most of the alterations are superficial and all are limited in number.

Immediately different are the instruments, with a blue-green colour scheme and a large charge use meter instead of a rev counter.

One of the physical shortcut buttons flanking the central multimedia touchscreen is now dedicated to taking you to an electrical menu where you can see how the batteries’ reserves are being used or to set a timer for recharging.

Gone is the diesel automatic’s rotary gearknob, replaced by a metallic look rocker switch for going forwards or backwards, with a driving mode button to the left of that.

Finally – we did say they were limited – the diesels’ manual handbrake has been replaced by an electronic one with the button for it mounted on a bizarre, almost handbrake-shaped, plastic moulding immediately to the left of the driver’s seat. There’s a small storage net on the side of the unit, too.

Offset driving position

What irked us most about the diesel Vivaros – and all of the related vehicles – is that the steering wheel is offset towards the left of where it ideally needs to be. This, unfortunately, also features in the electric models.

Some will quickly get used to it and never notice it again, others will find it a bugbear that creates discomfort on longer journeys.

Otherwise, the driving position is fine, with a good range of seat adjustment, excellent all-round visibility and a sense of being in a tall car rather than a van.

Is the Vivaro-e Life comfortable?

  • Roomy, but more flexibility would be ideal
  • Rides with more composure than the diesel
  • Elite versions feel more upmarket than Editions

As with the diesels, our advice is if your budget will stretch to the Elite specification, then to do so – it’s a much more welcoming, if still very black, interior.

Lighter grey and beige interior alternatives would give it such a lift if they were available. If you’re looking for a more vibrant, upmarket interior then you will have to try out the Mercedes EQV instead.

Similarly, we would recommend adding to the Elite’s kit roster by swapping the three-person middle-row bench seat for the two captain’s chairs, complete with fold-down armrests. When fitted to face backwards, the whole of the rear cabin feels much more inviting.

As described previously, the Vivaro-e Life’s key drawback when compared with the EQV in this regard is that its rear seats can’t be slid as far back as they can in the Mercedes, making it cosy for taller passengers’ legs.

That glazed roof portion also gives more marks in favour of the Elite models, as do the climate control vents in the ceiling, with separate controls for those in the back. It’s effective even with a space this vast, and heats up quicker than diesel versions.

Electrically operated seats are fitted up front on Elites. While they’re heated and have an integral massage facility, somewhat inconveniently there is no memory function for the settings.

Ride quality better than the diesel Vivaro Life

We aren’t fans of how the diesel-engined Vivaro Life rides rougher road surfaces, especially when there are no or few passengers in the back.

For the electric version, salvation is delivered in the weight of the batteries, low down in the car’s structure. This extra mass ensures that the Vivaro-e rarely feels anything but planted regardless of the asphalt’s condition.

Even though adaptive suspension isn’t available as an option, the adjustments to the springs and dampers to accommodate the additional weight that’s now permanently on-board do a good job of ensuring a comfier ride most of the time.

Much quieter than the diesel, too

This is a welcome development in swapping the diesel engine for an electric motor. Not only is it far more hushed, particularly at low speeds, the overall experience is more refined, too.

Vibrations through the Vauxhall’s structure are also substantially reduced thanks to the smoothness of the electric drive system, meaning there are fewer rattles and squeaks from the interior fixtures and fittings.

Of course, this quieter ethos means you’re more aware of wind noise as air rushes up the windscreen pillars, as well as the sound from the tyres and suspension when road surfaces are suboptimal.

Orange 2021 Vauxhall Vivaro-e Life side elevation driving