• It’s longer and more expensive, but does bigger mean better?
  • Headlights are shaped to match the tail lights
  • The sweeping ‘V’ gives the Meriva a “distinctly Vauxhall” face
  • Some cars get 16in alloys while others feature 17in items
  • Here’s that ‘V’ graphic theme also seen on the front; this is supposed to be a wing-shaped graphic
  • Dash is lower and further forward than before, to increase the feeling of space
  • Boot offers 400 litres with rear seats pushed forward, 1500 litres when folded
  • Stereo and heating controls share the design themes of the Insignia and Astra
  • Instruments are 80mm lower and 80mm further forward than on the Meriva’s predecessor
  • Feels plush. Vantage point is midway between that of a regular hatch and a van
  • Three-seat rear bench can be converted into a roomier two-seat configuration
  • The engine is at its best working in the mid-range
  • This forced-induction engine is more linear than it is punchy
  • The engine range reflects the current trend for downsizing
  • It rides comfortably most of the time but can be fidgety at slower speeds
  • The brake responses are too inconsistent to make for smooth on-the-limit progress
  • A more mature car than before, but little more innovative

This is where the Vauxhall Meriva will stand or fall and where its forerunner succeeded so strongly, offering remarkable space and comfort in such a small length. The new one offers more of the same, but with extra overall cabin volume courtesy of its increased length and wheelbase. And, of course, those novel rear doors.

Are they a success? A qualified one, yes. When it’s possible to open the doors wide, they undoubtedly offer easier access to the rear seats. They allow better access for installing child seats, because if you’re leaning in through the door, you’re naturally facing towards the seat.

Vicky Parrott

Deputy reviews editor
Some of the storage options are impressive

In tighter spaces, however, that’s no advantage; a conventional door aligns your back with the seat you’re sliding into. And what if a driver and rear passenger want to exit on the same side in a tight space? They can’t at the same time, because they end up trapped between the doors, without sufficient space to close either.

In the cabin, there’s a semi-raised, comfortable driving position that’s higher than a conventional hatch’s but well short of being van-like. Spread before the driver is a dashboard which carries forward themes from the Insignia and Astra.

Some of the detail switchgear is the same, in fact, although here it’s better in feel than in early Insignias, as Vauxhall seems to have mastered constructing the buttons with good tolerances and a classy feel. Certainly, the interior ambience is much more mature than before and soft-feel plastics are used widely, going some way to justifying the near-£20,000 price of our SE test car.

The highlights, though, are the rear seats, which can seat three on a bench but work far better as separate chairs for two. The centre part of the rear bench folds and falls slightly, allowing the outer two chairs to be moved backwards and, simultaneously on a rail, inwards to give rear passengers more leg and elbow room.

Some of the storage options are also impressive. For instance, there’s a centre console cubby that can be slid back and forth on a central pair of rails, which, combined with an electronic parking brake and high, forward-mounted gearlever, gives the front cabin an airy feel (although we’d still prefer a conventional handbrake).

With the rear seats in place (and in their forward position), boot space is a respectable 400 litres, and it rises to 1500 litres with the seats completely folded. As with the Corsa, a novel but expensive bumper-mounted bicycle carrier can be specified.

Entry-level kit levels are passable, with the cheapest Expression featuring ots of safety equipment, an aux-in port, electric windows, electric heated mirrors and remote central locking.

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