As for ride quality, it depends. With only the driver on board the Vivaro can feel catastrophically under-damped at times, though the same can be said of almost all passenger vehicles with commercial roots. Unloaded, the rear axle rarely settles, though the composure of the front axle, above which front-row occupants sit almost directly, fends off the worst of it.
Loaded-up, it’s a different matter. We tried a Vivaro from the commerical-vehicle range will 350kg of ballast strapped just behind the rear bulkhead. Predictably the ride quality settles down markedly – wonderfully so, in fact. The van wafts along quite nicely and the steering also weights up a little, which is helpful because this isn’t the most confidence-inspiring rack.
If you’re used to a car the steering can feel very awkwardly geared, in as much as it doesn’t quicken as much as you’d like or expect it to. This can lead to some interesting moments mid-corner, where you can suddenly find the Vivaro’s stubby nose lagging behind what both your hands and the road are doing. That said, put in the effort and there’s a good amount of lock. This, along with the high-set front seats and excellent visibility they bring, makes the Vivaro reasonably easy work in town.
There’s also room for improvement in the manual gearbox. Its ratios are fine, and are well suited to the mid-ranking 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine’s low-down power and torque peaks, but its shift action is bizarre. Maybe it was just our test car, but selecting second gear shouldn’t involve swinging the lever to the side once past the mouth of the gate. The action is also poorly defined, though it is at least smooth.
For a van-based people-carrier, does any of this matter? Arguably not. With a bit of familiarity, the Vivaro goes well enough, and while it doesn’t do much to endear itself to its driver, neither does it do anything that genuinely frustrates. It’s quiet at a cruise and the interior is also a relative highlight, as you would expect with such a tall asking price. It’s uncluttered and breezily spacious in the front and second row, with soft seats and good-quality plastics – all from the PSA storeroom. It is, in short, pretty agreeable, and with a maximum height of 1.9 metres, you’ll also get into almost any car park you happen upon.