The Vauxhall Meriva was first released in 2003 as a top competitor against several small MPVs. The second generation model was released in 2008 at the Geneva Motor Show. This time around, the new Merica sports well-proportioned column inches on its flexdoors and rearward-opening rear doors. But even with such generous expansions, how will the latest Meriva fare against the C3 Picasso, Renault Modus, or the Nissan Note?
The latest Meriva sports a heavier and larger body. It’s 4.3m length makes it 30cm longer than the previous model. The increase is a given, considering that Vauxhall aims to sell most models to the upmarket. It successfully starts out as such with the 1465kg weight making it inline with family cars and the larger, more practical models. The exterior design complements the interior, with the waistline wave assuring rear passengers of more space. Overall the Meriva boasts of a sophisticated look that’s much classier than its previous life.
The wide door area makes it easy to access rear seats, which are also designed to offer better access for child seat installation from outside. The driver also enjoys a comfortable position that’s higher than the usual hatch angle. The dashboard is conveniently spread out before the driver. Themes from the Astra and Insignia dashboard are derived in the Meriva’s. But this vehicle improves on its origins, as the Astra shows how Vauxhall has been able master a classier feel and better tolerances to its buttons. Overall the interior design is more mature, with soft plastics distributed as its main material.
The latest Meriva sports 118bhp for its 1.4-litre petrol engine, which is capable enough but can lack performance for higher mileage. The 1.3-litre diesel comes at a lower price but may not be worth the cut as it struggles with an entire family in the vehicle. You could opt for the 1.7-litre variation but the steep price will make you reconsider its practicality in the long run.
All engines offer a smooth ride, but aren’t completely silent even on motorway speeds. Road noise and wind noise are heard while going on smoother surfaces. Compared to other family car competitors, the Meriva comes out as one of the noisiest.
The ride is ultimately more comfortable, but the steering can be a problem. At low speeds it tends to get heavy. Feedback isn’t as direct and accurate once you start accelerating. Body roll is reasonable enough but grip tends to exaggerate.
There’s a slight inconvenience if a driver and rear passenger decide to exit together. The conventional door aligns to the seat that it slides into, which makes the chid seat installation a compromise. The space is too tight for exit on the same side, so they have to wait for one another due to the trap set up by the tight area.
When running through braking tests, the Meriva passed at less than 50 metres for the dry and wet areas. But it could still use some improvement on the brake pedal, which requires more modulation so the vehicle runs smoothly on lower speeds.
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