Modern family cars need to look good and perform well but there’s also an increasing demand for easy usability.
‘Fit for purpose’ and ‘function before form’ have become very pertinent catchphrases for today’s consumer. They are key principles in the design of the latest version of Vauxhall’s pert little Meriva MPV.
The car’s key innovation, FlexDoors are rear-hinged back doors which swing open towards the rear of the car at an angle of nearly 90 degrees, vastly improving the ease with which occupants enter and leave the cabin. Rather than having to step back, or to one side, as one would using a normal front-hinged door, the FlexDoor allows unimpeded forward access to the cabin, a factor enhanced further by the Meriva’s high roof line.
There are further benefits. Due to the larger door opening and free space around the B-pillar, parents can lift small children forwards into rear-mounted, second-stage child seats without having to contort themselves around a door. And with both the front and rear doors open and the front ones opening at a similar angle to the rear FlexDoors, a ‘parent-friendly’ zone is created with no door barrier between front and rear occupants.
Once inside the new Meriva, buyers benefit from two further groundbreaking innovations. The FlexRail adopts a completely fresh approach to the design of a car’s centre console, and provides owners with a variety of modular storage and comfort solutions that fix on to an ingenious dual-rail base, with further space liberated by use of an electronic parking brake, standard on all models. The latest Minerva provides convenient and adaptable storage for a wide variety of everyday items, from handbags and magazines, to MP3 players, CDs and colouring books.
The Meriva’s storage bin and cubby count has also increased, with features like a 1.5-litre bottle holder in each of the front doors, meaning that owners now benefit from one of the most practical cabins in class.
In addition, the current Meriva’s much-praised FlexSpace system has evolved to provide even greater practicality. Now more intuitive to use, the new Meriva’s FlexSpace allows easier fold-down of the rear seats, while moving the rear seats to create more boot, leg or shoulder room is simpler than ever.
The petrol engine line-up comprises three versions of the 16-valve 1.4-litre unit. The range starts with the Meriva’s only normally aspirated engine, featuring hollow camshafts for reduced weight and a power output of 100PS. Completing the petrol line-up, are two turbocharged 1.4 variants, producing either 120PS or 140PS (the latter taken from the new Astra range). All engines get five-speed manual gearboxes, except the 1.4 Turbo 140PS, which has a six-speed manual gearbox.
The diesel line-up starts with a 75PS, 1.3 CDTi unit which uses closed-loop catalyst technology to enhance fuel consumption. In addition, a 1.7CDTi unit producing 100PS will be available, equipped with a six-speed fully automatic gearbox.
The engine line-up has gained two additional diesel variants. The low C02-emitting ecoFLEX model will be powered by a 95PS 1.3 CDTi unit, and a second version of the 1.7 CDTi are now offered, fitted with a six-speed gearbox and producing 130PS.
The previous Minerva old 12,000 examples in the UK since its launch six years ago and, at prices from £12,995 to £21,255, the new incarnation is sure to build on this success.