My thoughts about the new Vauxhall Meriva were dominated by its eye-catching, rear-hinged, rear doors - until I tried one out last week. Here’s what I learned:
Lesson one: don’t take home a car with rear-hinged rear doors and announce to the wife that you are going to strap the kids in to test how practical ‘suicide doors’ are. Just like Vauxhall, she’ll prefer it if you refer to them as FlexDoors.
Lesson two: You’ll suddenly remember how much you love your kids. No matter how much faith you have in Vauxhall’s technicians, the FlexDoor’s automatically lock with such a thump as you pull away that it’s hard not to be reminded that there’s a lot of innovative engineering between them and oblivion. FlexDoors are 100 per cent safe, of course, but parenthood is great for bringing on illogical paranoia.
Lesson three: FlexDoors are more practical than standard doors, but only a little bit. The Meriva’s wide openings made putting child seats in that bit easier, but if I’m honest I expected more from this much-vaunted innovation.
If you want an easy time slotting young kids in and out of a car, you’d be better advised to spend your money on some premium swivelling car seats than a Meriva.
Of course, the FlexDoors have practicality benefits beyond seating small children, but that was my primary focus.
Lesson four: FlexDoors don't solve every problem. If you reverse park, go to the boot and then go to get a kid out, you are left wafting the door back and forth as you extract them from the car and then try to get away from the space in just the same way as you are in a conventional car.
Lesson five: The real revelation of the Meriva was its full length panoramic sunroof, which kept the kids entertained for a couple of 100-mile runs. Yes, it can get a bit wearing to be told a thousand times that the roof’s dirty, or that there’s (another) cloud in the sky, but not even an in-car DVD player has been as successful at distracting them on a long journey.
So would I buy a Meriva? I'd certainly shortlist one, but from my experiences the FlexDoors distract from the real qualities of the Meriva, which stands out as a practical, high-riding and pleasant enough to drive alternative to a small family car.