"With its innovative door design, Vauxhall's Meriva aims to provide practical and versatile mobility for growing families."
Thanks to its unusual rear-hinged back doors, the Vauxhall Meriva dares to be different in the small MPV class, and with great success. The Meriva is designed to provide practical transport for growing families, and it delivers in spades – with excellent interior versatility, robust build quality and decent space for up to five people. The engine line-up consists of small petrol engines, and a pair of diesels – although they’re more expensive to buy than the petrol alternatives.
Vauxhall spent a lot of time tuning the Meriva to suit the UK's poorly surfaced roads, and the suspension copes admirably with all but the deepest potholes. The steering is light and pleasingly accurate. The high, central location of the gearlever means your hand doesn’t have to move far from the steering wheel to change gear, and the shift itself feels snappy and precise. The petrol engines offer adequate rather than stirring power, with the 118bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine providing the best day-to-day performance. The similarly priced 1.3 CDTi diesel is 10mpg more economical, but it feels underpowered in comparison.
Comfort is good for four passengers, particularly if you move the rear seats inward to improve shoulder room. With five adults on board, it feels tight in the back. Leg and headroom is good, with the rear seats sliding back to add space for taller passengers at the expense of boot space. Around town, refinement is good, but as speeds increase on the motorway, the Meriva suffers from wind and road noise, greatly reducing its appeal as a long-distance car.
With no score yet in any consumer survey, it's impossible to say how reliable the Meriva will be. The previous Meriva didn’t fare too well in this area, but the new one really is an all-new proposition, and Vauxhall's reliability has been improving markedly. It feels better-built than its predecessor; with quality materials and a tight fit and finish inside. The car gets stability and traction control as standard, but curtain airbags are optional on entry-level models.
Every aspect of the Meriva has been designed with practicality in mind. Cabin access is excellent, and the rear-hinged doors are particularly useful if you need to fit child seats. The spacious boot features a useful underfloor storage area, while rear seats provide plenty of passenger and load space options by sliding and folding in various directions. Vauxhall's optional Flexrail organiser allows you to slide stowage bins between the front and rear seats. But it promises more practicality than it delivers, while its positioning robs rear seat passengers of space to put their feet.
Value for money
This Meriva is more expensive than its predecessor, but is priced reasonably well to reflect its different positioning and new rivals. Discounts are available from dealers keen to get people behind the wheel. Vauxhall has been a bit stingy with specification on its entry-level models, which lack basics like air-conditioning, while omitting rear-seat seatbelt indicators and side curtain airbags. We think this is a shame, considering that this is a family car.
Competitive servicing costs and a wide dealer network mean Vauxhalls offer good value for money. The Meriva's fuel economy could be better – while the diesels will return up to 57mpg, you’ll really need to do a lot of miles to offset the additional purchase price you’ll pay in the showroom.