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.
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