'This?is a retail vehicle – what are you doing testing it?'
I can hear the cries now as this issue of Fleet Van lands on the desks of Britain’s van fleet operators.
And to a certain extent they may be right.
But there are a few companies that want to project a stylish, upmarket image yet have a need for commercial vehicles.
And when it comes to style and panache, no other panel van can come close to the Vauxhall Vivaro Sportive.
So while the Sportive will only ever be a niche vehicle mainly chosen by owner/drivers, nevertheless some will be bought with company cash.
And what a vehicle they will be getting.
At £15,645 ex-VAT, it comes with alloy wheels, silver metallic paint, front foglights, CD player, air conditioning, electric windows, electric heated wing mirrors, remote control alarm system, ABS brakes and a stonking 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine offering 135 bhp and 228lb-ft of torque.
A 1.9-litre powerplant with 100bhp and 177lb-ft of torque is also on offer in the Sportive at £14,310 ex-VAT but it isn’t half as much fun.
The Sportive is only available in short wheelbase standard roof format.
The Vauxhall Vivaro and its twin brother the Renault Trafic were born in 2001 and since then have been draped with garlands around the world.
There have been other new rivals since – the Volkswagen Transporter and Mercedes-Benz Vito to name but two – but neither cut quite as much of a dash as the Vivaro in my book.
The jumbo roof not only sets the van apart from its rivals but also gives the cab a wonderfully light airy feel and there are masses of plastic extras all round the van to prevent annoying knocks and scrapes.
And the metallic paint and alloys complete the picture.
If you’re worried about the local low-life making off with their prized wheels during the night, the Vivaro’s come with locking nuts.
In the front
Entry to the cab is via remote plip locking and the dash is revealed to be as stylish as the exterior.
In fact, the whole van screams style. The driver’s seat is wonderfully comfortable with plenty of side support in both the squab and the back.
The seat adjusts for rake and height and the steering wheel adjusts for rake, so it is easy to find the ideal driving position.
The standard spec here is higher than in many cars and our test vehicle had the addition of satellite navigation at £750.
There is also a curry hook on the left side of the dash, which may not sound too important at first.
But the next time you buy a takeaway – curry or otherwise – and try transporting it home without this particular item, it can become very important indeed.
I can tell you from personal experience that curry stains do not come out of a vehicle’s upholstery easily.
In the back
A full bulkhead keeps noise from the rear intruding into the cab and there are two sliding side doors for ease of entrance.
Both slide almost noiselessly back and forth and snick shut in a most unvanlike manner.
Once inside, there is precious little protection in the load area so a dose of ply-lining is a must if the van is to keep its smart interior for long.
Six load-lashing eyes are placed in the sides, just above the floor.
It means they won’t get in the way when loads are being slid in and out.
Load length is 2,415mm, load height is 1,383mm and load width is 1,663mm. Payload is 1,029kg and load volume is 5.0 cubic metres.
On the road
This van looks superb when it is just parked up but on the road it’s a stunner.
It fires up in the morning without a murmur and with a six-speed gearbox and 135bhp on tap, you’ll soon find yourself in the magistrate’s court if you’re not careful.
Handling is crisp and clean, allowing for some pretty nifty work on the corners.
In fact for all the world, you could be driving a big car.
A week with this van and I really did not want to give it back.
It’s fast, it’s feisty and it’s fun.
It will turn heads and will retain a high percentage of its original price at selling time as long as it is kept in good condition.