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Car reviews - Holden - Viva - range

Our Opinion

We like
Pricetag, safety features, standard equipment, styling, interior space, fuel consumption, engine smoothness and refinement, low-rpm torque delivery, reasonably sharp handling, strong brakes
Room for improvement
Lacks performance compared to Corolla and Lancer, average overall driveability and presentation, lacks Astra Classic's solidity and build quality

14 Oct 2005

ARE you a value or premium person?

Holden stresses that the JF Viva is all about value-for-money while the pricier AH Astra has "the ability to compete with virtually any premium small car in the market".

The fact is, Classic or no Classic, a new TS Astra was never $17,990 with five doors, four airbags and air-conditioning.

But it wasn't ever a Daewoo either. Nor was the TS sold here two years ago (albeit in one bodystyle), the Lacetti. So "new" is a relative term.

And although Holden has managed to get rid of the cheap smell out of its South Korean import, the Viva lacks the chic charm of the TS Classic. There was something "a cut above" about the old stager.

If all this puts you off the Viva, then start saving the $4000 extra required to get into the fine Opel-sourced AH Astra (the TS's "biological" successor).

However if that's a monetary lump too big to swallow, or you're about to plonk a deposit on a Nissan Pulsar, Kia Cerato, Mitsubishi Lancer or Hyundai Elantra, then Holden has the small car for you.

This is because the Viva is quite an inviting package.

For starters, it's well proportioned and attractive inside and out. Daewoo employed experienced Italians to design the car before Holden even dreamed of getting involved. The hatchback in particular is very pleasantly resolved.

There's lots of space for a car in this class too, so as a more economical alternative to a Falcon or Commodore it could make sense to plenty of people.

Equipment levels are also impressive for the money (even when adding the $1280 ABS and spunky alloys), and the interior doesn't feel like a cut-price factory-clearance special. Some of the exterior's funkiness is translated in the shapes and textures inside.

The Viva wagon is quite appealing if it's an inexpensive and compact load lugger you're after, with its boxy cargo area and clean glassy lines.

And - surprise, surprise - the Viva is perfectly reasonable and relaxed to drive, with a smooth and refined nature to its power delivery.

However you're likely to lose the traffic light grand prix against similarly priced rivals - especially the Corolla and Lancer wagons.

The 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine seems to work best in urban areas where its low-rev torque accessibility helps it deliver smooth and fairly seamless acceleration.

But if you start exploring the higher rev ranges and the engine struggles to get things moving instantly. The auto seems to exacerbate this.

All Vivas have been fettled by Holden's engineers, so linear cornering, decisive handling and strong braking abilities sum up the dynamics.

They've also achieved results with sound-deadening and on-road quietness, because the refinement levels seem to go beyond the Viva's alter ego, the 2003-2004 Daewoo Lacetti.

But in its overall driveability and presentation there's something "fast food" (albeit perfectly nourishing) about the Viva against the TS Astra's affordable good restaurant.

With chunky styling, a rorty engine, slick gearbox and very Teutonic cabin, the Astra was a classic in more ways than one. Holden will probably hate the TS comparisons but they're inevitable given its strength and popularity.

Like the TK Barina, you'd be better off buying the outgoing model - in this case the TS Astra Classic with the anti-lock brakes special pack thrown in.

Holden openly admits using the TS as the Viva's benchmark. Since this means the yardstick is entering its eighth year, then there's the reason why you should buy the original while you still can.

Not that the Viva is at all a bad car - after a limited drive it's preferable to the Pulsar, Cerato, Elantra and Lancer it undercuts. And in some ways the new Holden small car has exceeded expectations.

It's just that value isn't enough in today's mega-choice small car segment.

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