Vauxhall Meriva MPV
Price £12,625 - £22,360
- Innovative rear doors
- Interior versatility and practicality
- Quality materials
- Basic entry models
- Not comfortable for five adults
- Low-power engines
At a glance
"With its innovative door design, the Vauxhall Meriva provides practical and versatile mobility for growing families."
The Vauxhall Meriva dares to be a little bit different to other small MPVs in its class – and does that with some success. Its main USPs are its unusual rear-hinged back doors, which make it very practical for growing families, with easy access to the interior.
Its thunder has been stolen somewhat recently by the amazing Ford B-MAX's huge side opening, but the Meriva still offers excellent interior versatility, strong build quality and comfortable space for up to five people.
The engine line-up consists of some small petrol engines and a pair of diesels – with the latter costing quite a bit more than the former. However, the diesels are worth considering if you regularly clock up higher mileages, especially Vauxhall's latest 1.6-litre CDTi 'Whisper Diesel' engine.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Fuel economy could be better but new diesel engines are quiet
Vauxhall's new 1.6-litre CDTi 'Whisper Diesel' engine is the most economical of all the Vauxhall Meriva engines, doing 64.2mpg and emitting just 116g/km of CO2. The diesels are more expensive to buy but cheaper to run – meaning only high-mileage drivers will benefit from the reduced running costs.
The 118bhp 1.4-litre 16v Turbocharged petrol engine offers low emissions of 47.1mpg and 140g/km of CO2. If you want an automatic gearbox, these figures will suffer, making the car slightly more expensive to run.
Competitive servicing costs and a wide dealer network make the Vauxhall Meriva decent value for money, but rivals like the Hyundai ix20 and Kia Venga offer a better warranty package for used car buyers.
Interior & comfort
The Meriva suffers from wind and road noise on the motorway
Four passengers can fit comfortably inside the Meriva, especially if you move the back seats slightly inward to create extra shoulder room. However, there's no denying that when you have five adults on board, it does feel cramped in the rear. That said, head and legroom are good, with the rear seats sliding back to create more legroom for taller passengers, as long you don’t mind sacrificing some boot space.
The Meriva is calm and composed when driving around town, but as you start to gain speed on the motorway, it does suffer from an annoying amount of wind and road noise, which greatly reduces its appeal as a car for long-distance journeys.
Practicality & boot space
Innovative doors are handy but there's not as much room as you'd expect
With the standard-fit split-fold rear seats in place, the Meriva offers 397 litres of boot space. Fold down the back seats flat and that expands to a much bigger 1,496 litres, which will be more than most drivers will ever really need. The boot also comes with a handy under-floor storage compartment for stowing away valuables and objects you want to hide from prying eyes.
The Meriva was clearly designed with practicality very much in mind, even if it isn’t quite up to scratch. Access to the interior is very good, with the rear-hinged doors proving particularly useful if you need to fit child seats. The back seats offer plenty of passenger space, but are also pretty flexible thanks to their ability to slide and fold in various directions.
Vauxhall's optional Flexrail organiser even allows you to slide storage bins between the front and rear seats. But in reality it promises more practicality than it delivers, with its positioning actually reducing space for passengers feet in the back.
Reliability & safety
Scores five stars for safety in Euro NCAP crash tests
The Meriva ranked 118th in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, failing to crack the list of top 100 cars. Vauxhall only managed to get three cars into that top 100, which reflects its individual performance in the manufacturers section of the survey, where it fell a hefty 13 places down to 26th after a superb showing as the most improved car maker in 2012.
So what does that really tell us about the Meriva's reliability? Well, the previous model didn’t perform very well in this area at all, so the fact that the new car is better is something of a moot point because it pretty much had to be. When you’re inside it does feel substantially better built than its predecessor, constructed with improved quality materials, with a tight fit and finish throughout.
It did secure the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, with electronic stability control and traction control fitted as standard, although curtain airbags are an optional extra on entry-level models.
Engines, drive & performance
Suspension copes admirably with all but deepest potholes
The petrol engines in the Meriva offer reasonable rather than exciting levels of performance, with the 118bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine providing the best day-to-day driving experience. The similarly priced 1.3-litre CDTi diesel does provide better fuel economy, but it feels underpowered in comparison, so isn’t really worth it unless you cover high mileages and want maximum mpg.
Vauxhall focused on tuning the Meriva to drive on the UK's poorly surfaced roads, so the suspension copes very well with virtually everything but the deepest potholes. Plus, the steering is light and pleasingly accurate, so you always feel in control.
The high, central location of the gearlever also means that your hand doesn’t have to move very far away from the steering wheel to change gear, and the gear change itself feels snappy and precise.
Price, value for money & options
Not enough standard equipment but big discounts are available
The entry-level Meriva is a bit stingy with the standard equipment, leaving out basic accessories like air-conditioning (which is only understandable if you’re paying dirt-cheap prices, like for the Dacia Duster), a rear seatbelt warning and side curtain airbags.
If you want the best deal possible, you'll need to shop around – but because dealers are eager to get people behind the wheel so you should be able to find a good discount. However, expect resale values to be poor in the used car market, so you’re unlikely to see much of your money back when you do sell it second-hand.
What the others say
There is lots to admire about the Vauxhall Meriva - its engine range is strong and includes an excellent 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol unit that's smooth, powerful and economical. The Insignia inspired interior is one of the best in class, while the car rides and drives almost as well as the Ford Focus. But its the unique door arrangement and versatile seating that are standout. The doors are hinged on opposite edges, meaning they open at almost 90 degrees, and allow you uninterrupted access to the front and rear seats at the same time.
Not a class-leader, by any means. But if you get a big enough discount – and only need to carry four people – the Vauxhall Meriva has some clever tricks up its sleeve.
On the move the Meriva is easy to drive, helped by light steering and excellent visibility, so it's ideal in towns and cities. The interior is impressive too, with an easy-to-use layout and good quality materials borrowed from the Astra and Insignia.
If you're looking for a small MPV, the Meriva is a worth considering. The quirky Flexdoors are a user-friendly feature and it has a spacious interior with good rear passenger room. Rather oddly for a family car it feels like a driver's MPV, with a handling balance baised towards the sporting side. If you're after the last word in comfort, you may well want to look elsewhere.