Convenience counts for a lot when choosing a family vehicle – a factor that’s making Vauxhall’s Meriva a winner in its class.
The key is the clever touch of rear-hinged back doors that swing in the opposite direction to normal, at an angle of almost 80 degrees – providing dramatically enhanced access for rear seat passengers. It’s clever and unique, except that is on the ridiculously expensive and very rare Maybach, which costs more than 30 times as much.
There are further benefits when transporting children as the larger door opening and free space around the B-pillar mean parents can lift children towards the rear-mounted, second-stage child seats without having to contort themselves around the door. The Meriva’s high roofline helps too.
A lot of thought has also gone into interior design. Vauxhall’s FlexiRail system provides owners with a variety of modular storage and comfort solutions, swallowing up variety of everyday items, from handbags and magazines to MP3 players, CDs and colouring books.
The latest Merida’s count of cubbyholes and storage bins, with such features as a 1.5-=litre bottle-holder in each of the front doors, make it one of the most practical offerings in the small MPV class that it defined when its first version launched, back in 2003.
Rear seat comfort has also been enhanced, now offering the biggest range of adjustment in class.
New for this latest model is a panoramic sunroof that comes as standard on SE versions.
Engine choices are between three 160-valve 1.4 petrol units of from 75 to 140 PS output and four diesel variants, including a 1.7-litre CDTI. Two versions are available with six-speed automatic gearboxes.
The 1.3-litre Meriva Exclusiv CDTi ecoFLEX I drove has fuel-saving stop-start technology making for a highly economical 68.9 sec combined cycle fuel consumption figure yet still offering a 104-mph top speed potential.
The £19,845 base price of the test car was swollen to a still competitive £21,700 by the addition of such extra cost options as 17-inch five spoke alloys, a sat-nav system, electrically heated front seats and steering wheel and a sliding centre storage module between the two front seats – the parking brake now being operated by a space-saving electric switch rather than a lever.
Now with a longer wheelbase, the latest Meriva lifts itself out of the small MPV sector to become a five-seat compact MPV ready to do sales battle against such rivals as the Citroën C4 Picasso, Renault Scenic and Ford C-Max.
In six years. UK buyers have turned the keys of more than 112,000 Merivas. Given its entry into a wider market sector, Vauxhall are convinced they can expand substantially on such success.