What is it?
A small people carrier/MPV thingy. Well, ‘small’ is relative, as this Meriva is significantly bigger than its predecessor and now competes with models previously thought to be a class above – such as the five-seat Ford C-Max.
The Meriva’s USP is its funky door design, with the rears hinged at the back. Sounds like a bit of a gimmick, but use them and you soon realise they’re a stroke of genius. Parents of small children will approve.
Your impression of the Meriva’s road manners depends largely on which engine is under the bonnet and the size of the wheels fitted. The larger alloys available look great, but they do detract from the car’s comfort – and this is not supposed to be a sporty vehicle, even if the turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine is a feisty little thing. Despite that, the 1.7-litre diesel engine is the fastest, and, let’s face it, most buyers will go for the diesel anyway. There’s a 1.3-litre turbodiesel, too, but it feels out of breath even before you add passengers and luggage to the mix.
Regardless of which engine you do opt for, the Meriva is surprisingly nice to drive. And we don’t mean ‘nice’ as in ‘I just want to be friends’, it’s an enjoyable car. Despite the upright design and seating there’s very little body roll, the steering is direct and it clings on gamely if you’ve forgotten your kid’s Dora lunchbox and you need to do a U-turn in a hurry.
On the inside
This is where you’ll realise you get what you paid for. The cheapest Merivas available do without a lot of niceties, most noticeably aircon, so it’s best to pay a little more for a mid-range version. That’ll then include nicer trim. Leather is optional and probably too much of a luxury in this price bracket, but sports seats are highly recommended.
Aside from the specification, the Meriva’s interior is well thought out. The rear seats slide and tilt to allow you to balance luggage with passenger space, while the centre console has a seemingly endless range of adjustment.
‘Class-competitive’ is the best way to describe the Meriva’s running costs. Obviously, fuel economy and emissions figures vary from model to model, though Vauxhall’s engines are all pretty good in that regard. Watch out for the ecoFlex badge, as that means it’s an economy special and the 1.3-litre version with stop-start manages 68.9mpg and just 109g/km of CO2. Good, but we’d still much rather go for the smooth new 1.6-litre CDTi, which has far more pulling power yet still does 64.2mpg and 116g/km. As for petrol, even the most powerful turbo manages more than 40mpg.