The price seems ambitious, but the torque of Vauxhall’s 1.7-litre Meriva is welcome

What is it?

Overpriced. That’ll be your first thought about this flagship diesel Meriva. Because £20k seems an awful lot for even the poshest version of a junior five-seat MPV.

But this new Meriva isn’t so ‘junior’ after all. Vauxhall’s moved the goalposts.

At 4.3-metres long, the new Meriva’s within 20cm of a Citroen C4 Picasso. And with a roomy cabin, clever rear seats that slide in two dimensions, and coach-style rear-hinged rear doors, this car seems every bit as accommodating as a five-seater from the ‘C-MPV’ Scenic/C-Max segment.

See the first drive pictures of the Vauxhall Meriva 1.7 CDTi SE

What’s it like?

The Meriva SE’s well-finished and well-equipped. Our test car came with cabin materials that almost everywhere seemed the match of those you’d find in an Insignia, and better quality than those of a Citroen Picasso.

Clever storage features like a sliding, interchangable centre console module really count in the Meriva’s favour, as do comfortable part-leather seats, a great driving position and a huge panoramic sunroof.

Powering this car is the latest version of GM’s Isuzu-derived 1.7-litre turbodiesel, first used, many moons and modifications ago, in the mkIII Astra. You expect it to feel strained, but it’s been very thoroughly intergrated here, and only gets vocal beyond 4000rpm.

Its gift to the Meriva is something the weedier 1.3-litre turbodiesel engine struggles to provide: easily accessed torque. There’s more than 221lb ft on offer at 2000rpm.

You can frequently deploy all of that thanks to the slick six-speed manual gearbox; there’s enough of it that you rarely need to work the engine beyond 3500rpm; and because of it, you’re almost never caught in the wrong gear.

This car steers accurately and consistently, handles keenly, and rolls much less than a C3 Picasso, for example.

It even rides better than other Merivas; the added weight of its iron-block engine, and of the extra standard equipment (apparently that glass roof weighs a bit), has a calming influence on the car’s otherwise slightly fidgety ride.

Should I buy one?

It’s not an easy case to make. Twenty large buys you a lot of car, almost wherever you go shopping. Still, it’s only what Renault charges for a top-spec, five-seat diesel Scenic.

And if you do like the idea of getting into the back of your Vauxhall the same way Simon Cowell gets into his Roller, you’ll love this Meriva.

It’s attractive, cleverly designed, roomy and refined, and would make as practical a second car as most families are likely to need.

Vauxhall reckons the cheaper, more frugal 1.3-litre EcoFlex will be the bigger-selling diesel option in the Meriva range, but in our book, the 1.7 deserves the greater success. It’s still overpriced, for sure – but believe it or not, this car gets closer to justifying its inflated pricetag than any other model in the range.

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Vauxhall Meriva 1.7 CDTi 130 SE

Price: £20,150 Top speed: 121mph 0-62mph: 9.9sec Economy: 54.3mpg CO2: 138g/km Kerbweight: 1547kg Engine: 4 cyls, 1686cc, turbodiesel Power: 128bhp at 4000rpm Torque: 221lb ft at 2000rpm Gearbox: 6-spd manual


Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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Add a comment…
Amanitin 15 October 2010

Re: Vauxhall Meriva 1.7 CDTi SE

I have these requirements for my family car:

- sliding doors

- three child seats, or two plus an adult fit in the rear

As obvious as this may sound it's a bloody decimation of what's on offer.

Webby39 12 October 2010

Re: Vauxhall Meriva 1.7 CDTi SE

I'm sure after three years and recalls over potentialy deadly power steering this car wil cost about 7K to 8K so it wil make some sense, pity the guy who shoulders 13K in depreciation mind.

highland tourer 11 October 2010

Re: Vauxhall Meriva 1.7 CDTi SE

Seems like Vauxhall have got a little muddled on who they are aiming the car at. The previous Meriva was a practical, if ill equipped, mini mpv, similar to the Jazz in size. Almost like a budget Jazz. Whilst there are neat touches (such as the suicide rear doors which would really help young families securing their children into the rear seats), the additional width does no favours for anyone in the scenario which Vauxhall are attempting to promote (useful family friendly vehicle to load kids in - if in a parking lot, parents better be on slim-fast).

Also, the additional cost seems, to me, to push it away from the families who they are marketing it at and also places it between classes - its almost to big and expensive for the mini mpv class of c3 picasso, modus, etc and too close to the scenic, c4 picasso. I hope that this vehicle does well, but think that it seems like the size and pricing seem to limit its impact for its target audience.