The first-generation Vauxhall Meriva was introduced in 2003 and, at a touch over four metres in length, it rivalled a relatively limited number of small MPVs. It did rather well, too, selling more than a million units, thanks to novel features like its Flexspace rear seating system, in which the rear chairs slide inwards and backwards.

This is the second-generation Meriva and was previewed by the Meriva concept at the 2008 Geneva motor show.

Flexdoors: it’s all about them. Vauxhall’s new Meriva owes a fair portion of the generous column inches it has generated to what are now perceived as its innovative rearward-opening rear doors.

Few manufacturers currently offering doors which hinge backwards independently of the fronts. The arrangement has added a certain intrigue to a car that, for all its virtues, has in the past been perceived as steady but unremarkable.

Remarkable, though, were its sales. The previous Meriva offered novel rear seating and generous cabin space compared with its rivals, which then numbered rather fewer than now. It sold a million units, when converted vans like the Citroën Berlingo Multispace were the primary opposition.

Today, the Meriva has far broader competition, including more advanced and refined cars such as Citroën’s C3 Picasso, as well as extended superminis like the Nissan Note and Renault Captur. It’s even positioned to pitch against larger cars like the Ford C-Max and Citroën C4 Picasso, or conventional family hatches like Vauxhall’s own Astra.

Top 5 Family hatchbacks

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Vauxhall range

Driven this week

  • Honda Clarity Fuell Cell
    First Drive
    26 April 2017
    You can't buy the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, but the innovative hatchback does enough to show that hydrogen models deserve a more mainstream future
  • Nissan Micra
    Car review
    26 April 2017
    Has this much-needed reinvention turned it into a real contender once again?
  • 2017 Nissan X-Trail 2.0 dCi 177 4WD N-Vision
    First Drive
    26 April 2017
    Customer requests for a 2.0-litre diesel X-Trail are answered; it’s punchier than the 1.6-litre, but no more refined
  • Honda Civic
    Car review
    21 April 2017
    Honda’s 10th-generation Civic hatchback goes global — but is that good news?
  • Toyota Prius Plug-in
    First Drive
    21 April 2017
    Second-generation Toyota Prius Plug-in hybrid gets a bigger battery with new 39-mile electric range, more tech and styling updates, but it's expensive