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To celebrate the arrival of one of Vauxhall’s most iconic cars, Trusted Dealers takes a look at the history of the Vauxhall Viva below.
The Vauxhall Viva was designed as a small family car and was first produced in 1963 to rival principle competitors at the time such as the Ford Anglia and Morris Minor. Three versions were made over the 15 years of production, the HA, HB and the HC series – the last Vauxhall-designed passenger car before the Opel badge was adopted. The Viva sold more than 1.5 million units before it ceased production in 1979.
The HA Viva was the first edition of the Viva and represented Vauxhall’s initial move into the compact car market following the Second World War. Powered by a 1,057 cc four cylinder, front-mounted engine with rear wheel drive, the Viva was similar to sister company Opel’s, Kadett, and was offered as a two-door saloon. The Viva was the first car to openly be marketed towards women and it proved popular thanks to lightweight, easy to operate controls and steering, a smooth gearbox and nippy performance. During its first ten months, over 100,000 HA Vivas were made, and by 1966 the HA had achieved over 306,000 sales and had enjoyed a successful return to the small-car market.
The HB Viva was second in the Viva series announced in September 1966, and was sold by Vauxhall until 1970. It was larger than its predecessor and designed to mirror American models currently on sale at the time such as the Chevrolet Impala. It featured the same engine as the HA but with a 1159cc output. An automatic version came in 1967 which was unusual for a car of its size, and as a consequence, it was quite slow on the road. Improved suspension separated the HB from its previous model – the new design set new standards in handling for the class. Originally offered as just a 2-door saloon, a 3-door estate joined the HB range in June 1967, but it was the addition of the 4-door in October 1968 which saw the HB break sales records worldwide.
The HC Viva was developed in 1970 and came in a 2 and 4 door saloon and a fastback estate with the choice of either a standard 1159cc engine (same as the HB), a 90 tuned 1159 cc or a faster 1600 cc – the 2.0 GT version was only offered to Canada, where it became the Firenza. The Firenza was a coupe version introduced in early 1971 to compete against the Ford Capri and the Morris Marina Coupe. The engines on the HC Viva were upgraded in 1972 when the 1.6-litre became a 1.8-litre (1759 cc), and in 1973 the 1.8-litre and 2.3-litre models were rebadged as the Magnum. Over the next 6 years the Viva was revised several times and versions of the popular car were produced across the globe to include as far afield as South Africa and New Zealand. Production of the HC finally ceased in 1979 when European manufacturers made the transition from rear-wheel-drive saloons to front-wheel-drive hatchbacks in a bid to tap further into the family market.
This year the Viva is set to make a comeback – so what can we expect from this iconic car? It will come with just one 1.0-litre 74bhp petrol engine initially and a choice two specs – the SE which will cost £7,995 and the higher spec SL Viva which will be priced at £9,495. All models will benefit from safety kit such as tyre pressure monitoring, lane departure warning, cruise control and front fog lights as standard. Electric front windows, heated door mirrors, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and a multi-function trip computer are also included as standard but you’ll have to pay extra for air conditioning. The standard engine promises fuel economy of 62.8mpg and emits 104g/km. An ECOflex model will also be available offering 100g/km and full exemption from road tax. The Viva will rivals city cars such as the Skoda Citigo and the Toyota Aygo and is due to go on sale this summer.