Is clever new Meriva better than MPV rivals the Renault Scenic and Citroen C3 Picasso? Test + pics
4 May 2010

The new Vauxhall Meriva has moved upmarket and added rear-hinged FlexDoors to its armoury - but does this mean it's better than urban mini-MPV rivals the Renault Scenic and Citroen C3 Picasso?

We're testing a 118bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine in the Meriva, which will propel it from 0-62mph in 11.5sec. It is in Exclusiv trim.

See the Vauxhall Meriva versus its rivals pics

For comparison we have a 118bhp 1.6-litre Citroen C3 Picasso and a 128bhp turbocharged 1.4-litre Renault Scenic. The C3 Picasso is smaller and cheaper than the Scenic and Meriva, but it's still a five-seat family car, so it's here to see if the others justify the extra money.

The Meriva sits in the middle of the engine and trim range and costs £17,365. The Scenic 1.4 TCE Dynamique costs £18,720, which includes a sat-nav. The top-spec Picasso 1.6 VTi 120 Exclusive is £15,395 on the road, but includes lots of options.

Driving impressions

Neither the Citroen nor the Renault is unpleasant to drive, but it's clear that interior space, flexibility and comfort were the development priorities, and that dynamically the main aim was to make the car safe, stable and easy to drive.

The Renault is the most detached of the three to drive. The steering is light to the point that, in low speed manoeuvres, it can feel like the steering wheel is no longer attached to the column. The gearbox is equally vague.

Soft damping also results in a lot of body roll, but it's progressive and the car stable when it's settled into a corner. The soft damping allows the Scenic to absorb the road surface with particular efficiency at urban speeds around town.

The Vauxhall is the slowest of the three - 0-62mph takes 10.9sec in the Citroen and 10.5sec in the Renault - but it is easily the most rewarding of the three to drive. All its controls are heavier, more accurate and more precise than those of its rivals.

Around town it's a shame the Meriva couldn't be configured to provide a more supple ride to go with taut body control. The high-speed ride is better, but is still unsettled over continuously rutted roads.

Refinement in the Vauxhall also fails to match the standards set by the Renault and Citroen. Engine noise can become intrusive and tyre noise can boom on less forgiving surfaces.

The C3 Picasso betters the Meriva for refinement and ride, and offers marginally more driver reward than the Scenic. However, the gearshift, though more defined that the Scenic's, is still long in the throw and notchy, and its naturally aspirated 1.6-litre engine lacks the punch of the other two cars.

Living with the cars

The 4.08-metre long C3 Picasso may be the shortest of the three, but it has the biggest boot. It's 500 litres of space is 100 litres more than the Meriva's and 63 litres more than the Renault's.

But it does have the least comfortable seats - front and back - and lack the flexibility of the others, having a 60:40 split rather than individual seats.

The Renault and Vauxhall also showcase better materials, more grown-up interiors and clever rear seats.

The Meriva is a particular triumph in terms of adult compatibility and child-friendliness. It's comfortable for the driver, and the FlexDoors add useful versatility. However, it really only offers two permanent back seats, whereas the Scenic has three, although they are narrower.

Conclusions

Despite the criticisms and obviously lower-class interior, the C3 Picasso wins, given the available space for the money - and its qualities will appeal even more if the car is only to be used for short journeys, as many are.

The Meriva comes second, striking a very good balance between being enjoyable, practical and flexible.

The Renault has many talents, but it loses out here due to the desensitised drive and high price.

The full test story is available in Autocar magazine, on sale now.

See all the latest Aston Martin Rapide reviews, news and videoSee all the latest Renault Scenic reviews, news and videoSee all the latest Citroen C3 Picasso reviews, news and video

Our Verdict

Vauxhall Meriva

The Vauxhall Meriva, with its rear-hinged back doors, is a more mature car than before, but little more innovative

Join the debate

Comments
11

4 May 2010

[quote] Neither the Citroen nor the Renault is unpleasant to drive, but it's clear that interior space, flexibility and comfort were the development priorities, and that dynamically the main aim was to make the car safe, stable and easy to drive. [/quote] *chuckle* safe and stable until it sees a moose/elk/other large antlered mammal...

4 May 2010

How can you put a Scenic up against a C3 Picasso and then complain that it is too expensive, they aren't even competing for the same market, a C4 Picasso yes but not a C3, did Renault drop off a Scenic instead of a Modus?

4 May 2010

The Opel Meriva and Citroen C3 Picasso = Super-mini based mini-MPV's.

The Renault Scenic = Compact based compact-MPV.

This comparison is as useful as a test comparing the Opel Corsa to the Renault Megane.

For a proper test, compare the Zafira to the Scenic and C4 Picasso.

4 May 2010

An interesting comparison. Bet the Citroen wins on the visibility stakes too. Important especially for school running duties. All will have shaky second hand values so a year old model of any of em will be a real bargain for a canny buyer.

Cant say which would be my final choice as I havent driven any of em .Whatever I would choose would have to undergo my bike test . ie can I get my bike in the boot without taking the wheels off.

Would still prefer a Skoda Yeti on paper to any of these at the moment as it has character in spades too .

4 May 2010

Apparently a McLaren F1 was included in the first draft due to the excellent visibility for the kids in the back but didn't make the final edit due to a lack of cup holders.

actually it is hard to compare model these days as manufacturers keep messing with the sizes, for example a Zafira is a Seven seater so you could argue it would really go up against the Grand Scenic not the regular one.

4 May 2010

I have to agree with most of the comments here: You're comparing vehicles from different categories, which makes limited sense unless you do so on purpose (doesn't seem to be the case here). Categories:

- Mini-MPVs: Renault Grand Modus, Opel/Vauxhall Meriva, Citroën C3 Picasso, Fiat Idea, Ford Fusion

- Mid-Size MPVs: Renault Scénic (or Grand Scénic if you want 7 seats), Opel/Vauxhall Zafira and Citroën C4 Picasso (also vailable in 5 and 7-seat versions), Fiat Multipla, Ford C-Max

There are other makes in both categories, but just to keep it simple.

4 May 2010

More than £17K for a mid-spec Meriva? Car prices have gone mad!

4 May 2010

[quote humphrey the pug]How can you put a Scenic up against a C3 Picasso and then complain that it is too expensive, they aren't even competing for the same market, a C4 Picasso yes but not a C3, did Renault drop off a Scenic instead of a Modus?[/quote]

It's perfectly reasonably to compare these cars, in fact I think Autocar were right to put these three together. The question you should be asking (as Autocar have) is, 'is the Scenic worth the extra cost?' to which the answer appears to be no.

4 May 2010

[quote RobotBoogie]

More than £17K for a mid-spec Meriva? Car prices have gone mad!

[/quote]

They have and why this is a fair comparison. The Meriva may be only slightly bigger than the C3 Picasso but they're charging near Scenic money for it.

4 May 2010

+1

Not the same categorie...

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