Parkers overall rating: 3.9 out of 5 3.9
  • Masses of potential interior space…
  • But the seating isn’t as flexible as it could be
  • Sliding doors are welcome on a family wagon

Vans are designed to provide largely unfettered interior space for carrying all manner of bulky and heavy items, so theoretically the Vivaro Life’s long, perpendicular bodywork should mean that there’s ample space for occupants and their possessions.

This is true to a point, but there are limitations in the Vauxhall’s details that dilute how effective it can be as a genuine people carrier for large families.

Whether you go for the M- or L-sized Vivaro Life, the passenger area is identically sized, as the longer model’s additional metalwork is all behind the rear wheels, increasing the size of the Vauxhall’s boot.

While rivals such as the Mercedes V-Class and VW Caravelle allow the rearmost seats to be slide much further back within the interior space to increase legroom at the expense of luggage capacity, the Vivaro Life’s don’t – or rather they can’t because the outer position seatbelts are installed into the sides of the car itself rather than on the seats, limiting how far back they can go.

With all of the second and third row seats facing forwards, this doesn’t cause much of a problem, with ample legroom for all, but if you prefer the middle row to face rearwards, making it feel more sociable, it can result in taller passengers arranging their legs like a closed zip. This does feel like a missed opportunity.

All of the seats in the back slide back and forth easily on rails, but the gaps between them are quite wide meaning they soon look unkempt as they attract dust, hair, food crumbs, leaves, Lego… Volkswagen has a much neater solution for this with rubber covers for the rail gaps.

Storage solutions could be improved

Access to the rear passenger area is made easier by large sliding side doors – electrically operated on Elite models – with an integral step to make entry and exit that bit more convenient.

With the standard seating layouts there isn’t a huge amount of storage space for odds and ends, so you may well consider the optional fold-up table. It’s compact – if a bit rattly – when stowed away, although on our test example the roller cover that hides a storage compartment refused to remain closed.

Elite versions have very dark (from the outside) privacy glass in the side and tailgate windows meaning it is very difficult to see into the car if the kids have left expensive bits of kit on the seats while the car’s unattended.

Up front things are better, with various cubbies, a couple of dash-top gloveboxes, multiple slots and bins in the doors, plus a couple of substantial cupholders on top of the dash. Annoyingly, there’s nowhere really of a suitable size to slot a modern smartphone unless you opt for a dash-mounted cradle, and there’s empty space between models fitted with two individual front seats that could house an enormous storage compartment or even a fridge.

How large is the Vivaro Life’s boot?

Very is the short answer, although ultimately how large could also depend upon how much muscle you have to hand.

With three rows of seats in place, the Vivaro Life M will swallow loads of up to 603 litres up to the window line, 798 litres up to roof height; for L versions those figures increase to 989 litres and 1,384 litres, respectively.

Only the Elite version has a parcel shelf to cover what’s in the boot, but even then it only covers about half of the gap from the tailgate to the seat.

If you’re strong, or have other people to assist and have somewhere to store them, you can unclip all of the rear seats from their rails to make 3,968 litres of space available in the M, 4,554 litres in the L.

In reality, lugging the seats in and out is a faff, so it’s worth noting that they can all be folded over flat and slid forwards to take up less space. That liberates approximately 2,700 litres of space in the M, 3,300 if you go for the L.

Unlike the V-Class and Caravelle, you can’t specify the Vivaro Life with an electric tailgate. More’s the pity, as it’s a tall and heavy door. Usefully, Elite models have hinged tailgate glass to allow boot access in tight spaces, but this function is best reserved for lighter items given its height.

How safe is the Vauxhall Vivaro Life?

  • Full five-star rating from Euro NCAP
  • Elite models have more safety kit as standard
  • Additional equipment optionally available

Although the Vivaro Life hasn’t specifically been crash-tested by the experts at Euro NCAP, one of it’s earlier sister cars – the Peugeot Traveller – has, meaning all of the essentially identical models can state they have five-star ratings.

All of the Vauxhall versions come with:

  • Front, side and curtain airbags for the driver and front passenger
  • Three-point seatbelts on all seats
  • Four Isofix child seat mounting points
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with traction control
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • Hill start assist
  • Daytime running lights

Upgrade to the Elite specification, as most private buyers are expected to and the kit list also includes curtain airbags for all three rows of passengers, blind spot alert, the Visibility Pack (a heat-reflective windscreen and rain-sensitive wipers), LED daytime running lights, xenon headlamps, front foglamps and parking sensors front and rear.

Optional related equipment includes the Driver Safety Pack, which comprises of semi-adaptive cruise control (it slows by backing off the throttle rather than braking, so isn’t as effective as rivals’ systems), automatic emergency braking (AEB) and a 3.5-inch colour display within the instrument panel.

Also available is the Driver Assistance Pack with lane-keep assist, speed limit information display, a driver drowsiness system and automatic main beam, plus a head-up display (HUD) as a standalone option.

Watch: Vauxhall Vivaro Life’s sister car’s Euro NCAP crash test video

Basic equipment

The basic equipment list includes equipment that is standard across all versions of the Vauxhall Vivaro Life MPV.

  • ABS
  • Cruise control
  • Driver`s airbag
  • Electric mirrors
  • Front electric windows
  • Full size spare wheel
  • Heated mirrors
  • PAS
  • Passenger`s airbag
  • Side airbags
  • Traction control

Equipment by trim level

To view equipment options for a specific trim level, please select from the following list:

Equipment included on some trim levels
  • 3x3 point rear seat belts
  • Air conditioning
  • Alarm
  • Alloy wheels
  • Climate control
  • Cloth seat trim
  • Electric driver`s seat
  • Electric passenger`s seat
  • Electric sunroof
  • Front fog lights
  • Leather seat trim
  • Lumbar support
  • Sat Nav
  • Steel wheels
  • Steering wheel rake adjustment
  • Steering wheel reach adjustment

Edition equipment

Edition standard equipment
  • Cloth seat trim
  • Steel wheels
  • Steering wheel rake adjustment
  • Steering wheel reach adjustment
Edition optional equipment
  • Air conditioning
  • Alarm

Elite equipment

Elite standard equipment
  • 3x3 point rear seat belts
  • Alarm
  • Alloy wheels
  • Climate control
  • Electric driver`s seat
  • Electric passenger`s seat
  • Front fog lights
  • Leather seat trim
  • Lumbar support
  • Sat Nav
Elite optional equipment
  • Electric sunroof

Euro NCAP Rating – 5 stars

The Vauxhall Vivaro Life MPV was tested by Euro NCAP in 2015 and was awarded a 5 star overall rating. This overall rating is calculated from the following individual ratings:

5 star rating
Test 2015
Individual safety ratings
Adult Occupant: 87%
Child Occupant: 91%
Vulnerable Road Users: 64%
Safety Assist: 78%

Euro NCAP provides motoring consumers with a realistic and independent assessment of the safety performance of some of the most popular cars sold in Europe. The safety ratings are determined from a series of vehicle tests, designed and carried out by Euro NCAP. These tests represent, in a simplified way, important real life accident scenarios that could result in injured or killed car occupants or other road users.