What is it?
The all-new Meriva replacement. Car enthusiasts might be forgiven for having overlooked the first Vauxhall Meriva, easily dismissed as a worthy mini-MPV, best suited for a trip to Tesco. In fact, Vauxhall/Opel chalked up its millionth Meriva sale last July.
The new Meriva builds on the exceptional interior flexibility of the old model, but it’s bigger, rather more sophisticated and pioneers rear-hinged rear doors doors as the ideal solution for a family car.
What’s it like?
At 4.28m long, the Meriva is marginally shorter than the Zafira, but is probably best seen as a direct alternative to the new Astra. Its semi-raised driving position, sliding and expanding (widthways) rear seats and the huge open-air storage bin running down the centre of the car make the Meriva a notably practical proposition. The rear-hinged doors are a masterstroke, making it easier to get in the rear cabin, whatever your age or size.
The new Meriva is also much more of premium product - an expression of Vauxhall/Opel’s desire to inch itself upmarket with every new product launch. The car’s dash and interior are a league ahead - nicely drawn and nicely made. Aside from a few hard plastics in hidden areas, there’s an air of quality.
Although the chassis settings have not been changed for the UK, the steering has been remapped. The EU-spec steering has a strong self-centring action, whereas UK cars aim to ‘reflect the reality’ of what’s happening at the tyre’s contact patches.
Driven back to back, there’s no doubt the UK-developed steering is better, allowing the driver to more actively steer the car around. The ride and handling are best described as neat and tidy. It’s rather more single-minded than the compact-MPV norm, but it can get a little noisy and occasionally upset by broken road surfaces.
This Meriva had the higher-powered version of the 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine. Both units a somewhat noisy under hard acceleration and this 137bhp version also marginally more strained at the top end. However, the test car had just 196 miles on the clock, so it’s unfair to make a definitive judgment about the motor’s ultimate refinement.
Should I buy one?
This is a highly innovative compact MPV, with superb interior flexibility. It’s well made and pleasant to drive, and the rear-hinged doors and configurable rear seat just can’t be matched by the opposition. It’s much more practical than the similar-size and similarly priced Astra.
Overall, a very clever and appealing machine, if one priced against the Ford C-Max and Citroen C4 rather than smaller, more conventional, mini-MPVs.