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£23,130 when new
What is it? It’s a facelifted version of the family-friendly Vauxhall Meriva small MPV, with a new nose, new infotainment system and - be still your beating heart - a new engine. Ooh, is it a V8? Er, not quite. Vauxhall has dropped its new 1.6-litre diesel into the Meriva, and not before time, as the old 1.7-litre was ancient and rattly. The new 1.6 is much better. Power is up 6bhp to 134bhp, and torque is increased to 236lb ft. Despite the boost, the fuel economy and CO2 figures are also improved to 64.2mpg and 116g/km respectively. But more than just those by-the-numbers improvements, the Meriva is now, on the whole, much more refined. The turbo kicks in smoothly from 1,500rpm, and in sixth gear on the motorway it’ll pootle along quite happily at just under 2,000rpm. This is good stuff. OK, so with a 0-62mph time of 9.9 seconds it’s hardly setting the world on fire, but then Merivas have never made great getaway cars. Any criticisms? Just the one. Despite being more refined in general, the Meriva is still not up there with the best new diesels: there’s an odd resonance as the rev needle passes through 1,500rpm. Not deafening, but enough to reverberate around the cabin. Any fresh tech? Yes. The Meriva gets Vauxhall’s new Intellilink set-up, which is designed to allow your smartphone to link with the car. It’s about more than simple Bluetooth: the idea is to allow the car to scrape all your apps off your phone and use the car’s screen and voice recognition to direct everything. It’ll even let you dictate texts. Not a new phenomenon, but not bad for a humble family car. Has anything else changed? Not really. But then not much needed to change. The Meriva pioneered the idea of interesting doors in this sector - the rear ones open backwards to allow for easier access - so there was little point in going to huge expense to fix something that already worked well. The seats are flexible and fold easily, the boot is a decent size, there are loads of storage areas - what else do you need from a family car? Should I buy one then? Sort of. In isolation, it’s a great little car. Not interesting, but perfectly suited to do what it was designed to do - ferry kids around. However, since the Meriva arrived, Ford has released the B-Max. And while it may not be as attractive as the Meriva, it drives better and has equally as clever rear doors. This update gets the Meriva closer, but the Ford would still be our choice. Just.