Vauxhall Meriva car review
- We like...Wide opening doors
- We don't...Interior is glum
Ever struggled to fit a bawling little ‘un into a child seat? Vauxhall’s with you, writes Ray Castle of motors.co.uk. It’s thought about the difficulties of getting in and out of the back seat and, with the newest Meriva, it has tried something radical. So different, in fact, that the only other cars you can buy it with are Rolls-Royces.
What we’re talking about here is, of course, a pair of doors. The rear ones hinge from the back. They and the front ones open wide – further than a regular car’s – to make it super-easy for all to clamber in and out, whichever of the five seats they’re in.
But having doors that open forwards like this could be deadly. As you’d expect, Vauxhall has worked hard to remove the risks. The doors lock themselves as soon as the car turns a wheel and stay that way, barring emergencies, until it reaches a halt. And should either door not be fastened properly, a warning light glows on the instrument panel, backed by alarm ‘bongs’.
Now this Meriva replaces a seven-year-old design bearing the same name. But park old and new wheel-to-wheel and you’ll see that the newcomer has grown a size. Where the original was definitely a mini-MPV, the new one moves up to compete against as a compact, along with Ford’s C-Max and the Renault Scenic.
As with other Vauxhalls there’s a big choice of engines and trim levels, from the basic to the plush. Here we’ve the 1.4-litre 119bhp petrol turbo engine twinned with mid-level Exclusive kit. This one’s the expected best seller of the range, which also takes in smaller and bigger petrols plus diesels.
The cabin’s dark, swathes of black plastic across the dash enlivened only by chrome on controls and silver inlays. The steering wheel, switches and heater controls are lifted from the latest Astra and they look good and work well. The plastics aren’t as good as the best you’ll find (look in a Volkswagen for these) and have none of the expensive, squish to the touch you might hope for.
Dearer models do, however, have a set of rails that run from the base of the dash as far as the back seats, carrying a three-level set of boxes, cup holders and trays. It’s a good idea, but it also robs foot room from whoever’s sat in the centre rear.
The seats are at least very comfortable and the driver’s gives a huge range of adjustments, together with a wheel that adjusts in/out and up/down. All from the tiny to the very tall should find a combo to suit them.
The boot includes a shelf to split the space available and the seat backs fold flat to free up as much room as you’d find in a mid-sized estate car. Renault’s Scenic packs in a fair chunk of extra load space, however.
The rear seats each fold separately while the outer ones slide to and fro and also – when the centre one’s folded, they squeeze in sideways to give an extra inch or so of lounging room for two in the back.
You don’t buy cars like this because they’re a whizz to drive, but the Meriva rides well and is easy to pilot. The main controls are well weighted and progressive: the steering particularly has a well-judged weight around the dead-ahead that allows precise corrections to course. And it eases comfortably along, coping well with Yorkshire’s poor and broken road surfaces. It’s not as soft-riding as some French makes but the payoff is that it leans less into corners.
Should you buy one? It is cleverly thought out and well made, although those doors need a big space free around them for you to benefit. They’ll be of little advantage in a multi-storey car park. That said, it is good to see a car maker try something different and what they’ve done will win buyers.
To view and buy new and second-hand Merivas on motors.co.uk, click here
- Engines1.4 turbo petrol
- 0-60 mph11.5
- Insurance groups
Motors.co.uk value verdict: