These spy photographs are of an early prototype based on the next generation Vauxhall Meriva – and could show that an SUV variant is under evaluation.
The pictured car has a wider track, slightly longer wheelbase and a raised ride height.
This suggests that there may be a ‘soft-road’ spin off to appeal to buyers who want more purposeful looks than the mini-MPV traditionally offers, but retaining its interior flexibility.
It would also tie-in with the market trend of car buyers downsizing into smaller cars. By offering several variants of a small MPV, Vauxhall and Opel hopes to plug every gap in the market and appeal to every type of car buyer.
One of the future trends for the car industry is to offer a wider range of models in the supermini segment than has previously been the case.
Mazda is expected to offer small SUVs and MPVs based on the Mazda 2 supermini in the near future, for instance, while Nissan is working along similar lines, building the Qazana soft-roader despite already selling the similarly-sized Note.
The new Meriva itself is scheduled to go on sale in 2010, with a concept car having already been shown at last year’s Geneva motor show.
Until now, attention has been focused on the car’s rear ‘suicide’ doors, which are hinged at the trailing edge. They are intended to provide better access to the rear compartment, especially for children trying to access the rear seats in confined car park situations.
This new Meriva is around 40mm longer than the existing model, as the most recent Corsa was against its predecessor, and its unusual rear-door arrangement features a centre pillar, so the front and rear doors can be opened independently, as with a normal saloon. It also boasts automatic child locking.