MANY years ago when I was at school, my old physics teacher awarded a boy (not me, I fear) 12 out of 10 for a piece of work – and then spent the next half an hour explaining how it was logically possible to give such a score.
As our Vauxhall Vivaro long-term test vehicle ended its six-month stay with us last month, I felt rather like my old teacher.
This van has been such a star performer that 12 out of 10 is the least I can give it.
I can’t remember a time when the collective testers here have been so impressed with a van.
The vehicle on test was the long wheelbase crew-cab variety, with seating for six, a 4.2 cubic metre loadbay and a 1.9-litre common rail diesel powerplant offering 100bhp and 177 lb-ft of torque.
The Vivaro is, in fact, one of a set of triplets – the same vehicle is badged both as the Renault Trafic and Nissan Primastar.
But Vauxhall has by far the lion’s share of the market and can boast that its vehicle is a true Brit, hailing from the IBC factory in Luton.
The Vivaro arrived here with just 100 miles on the clock and the engine was as tight as a drum.
But as the miles ticked away, it gave up its power more freely and after 3,000 or so, it proved a right little flyer.
Fuel consumption proved a healthy 27.3 miles per gallon overall.
In the cab, the driver’s seat was wonderfully firm and figure-hugging and there was plenty of legroom, even for back seat passengers.
Every one of our testers – and a few more besides – have driven the van during its stint here and all have brought it back to me eulogising about its drivability.
Many van manufacturers claim their vans are car-like, but this one actually delivers – it really is just like driving a large car.
There was a full bulkhead behind the second row of seats but it had a window in it and the rear doors were glazed, so parking was a doddle.
Mind you, a parking sensor wouldn’t go amiss.
There were a couple of other minor niggles – the windscreen wipers were pretty pathetic for such a large screen and the water hardly reached two-thirds of the way up.
And there were no windscreen wipers at the rear.
But the general demeanour of this van was such that minor gripes were soon forgiven.
During its stay, the Vivaro undertook two major sojourns – one to Ireland and another to Le Mans in France.
The Irish trip saw myself, my son and a friend traversing the breadth of England, Wales and southern Ireland loaded down with furniture for a pal who had just bought a farm near Roscommon.
The trip piled 1,300 miles on the Vivaro’s clock and really showed this van’s worth.
Despite the fact that it must have been pretty well near its load limit, handling was in no way affected and if anything, the ride was a little less skittish.
I did all the driving and despite all those miles, I never suffered the slightest back twinge.
The Le Mans trip saw Fleet News deputy editor Steve Moody and five burly blokes carousing their way across France as part of his stag ‘do’.
Over the course of 1,000 miles, they drank, ate innumerable barbecue-flavoured burnt offerings, played darts and all voted the Vivaro one of their best buddies.
And before we knew it, it was time to return our new-found friend to its rightful owner.
In 8,000 miles the van never put a foot wrong or gave its drivers cause for concern.
We only topped the engine up with oil once and hardly needed to put any extra air in the tyres.
The only damage we caused was a couple of minor dings in one of the side panels where bulky items had knocked against it from the inside.
That proves just what a good investment ply-lining is, as this damage would not have occurred if the load area had been protected.