So this week, I have been been driving something called a Meriva - It’s Opel and Vauxhall’s contribution into a rather small and odd sub-class in the car market called “Compact MPV” into which the Ford B Class, Citroen C3 Picasso and Hyundai ix20 slip.
What you get in this class is a car the same interior width and length as something somewhere between a Corsa and an Astra, but with added head and legroom and a slightly higher driving position than that of a normal hatchback. You only get 5 seats though, although these do fold individually and slide backwards and forwards so you can adjust for rear legroom or more bootspace to suit. Fold all the seats flat and you get an almost perfectly rectangular space with a completely flat floor turning it into a small van. The Meriva also has clever options such as a pull out shelf that lives in the back bumper so you can carry bikes without compromising interior space and there are loads of cubby holes for storage. As with the Ford B Max, the Meriva has funky rear doors - Unlike the Ford, they aren’t side sliding, they’re coach doors that open in the opposite direction to the fronts - Initially this seems too unconventional to be bearable, but in actual fact it’s a very, very clever idea - Firstly, the back door being completely out of the way makes it far easier to lift children into the back seat or lean in to belt them in - It also means having to do the side-door-shuffle closing the rear door first to get to the front is a thing of the past. It’s a little detail but it really is extremely convenient - Ford side sliding doors give a similar result but with added space as they’ve also removed the central pillar. So what’s it like to drive? Well actually far more pleasant than I thought it would be - If you’ve ever driven the previous shape Meriva prepare for a surprise - Its handling gives it the feel of a larger car, thanks in part to the fact that’s it’s actually quite heavy for something this small - The lowest seat position is still quite high up and upright, but the steering can be adjusted too so you quickly settle in.
The car I had was the 120bhp 1.4 litre turbo version with a 6 speed automatic - Driven normally within UK motorway speed limits it makes the car feel quite punchy off the line and it cruises very quietly - Kick down a gear to overtake though and it all starts to go wrong with an enormous amount of noise and not much in the way of torque - The last time I drove the same engine and gearbox was in a Mokka Avis palmed me off with at Berlin Airport a few months ago - If you’ve ever booked a rental car from one branch to be dropped off at another, you’ll know they always give you the worst car in the carpark as they won’t ever see it again - The trip down the de-restrcited A2 autobahn to Magdeburg was one I won't forget - The little 1.4 turbo whistled up to 95mph, but because my foot was hard on the pedal burying a whole in the carpet beneath, it just wouldn’t drop into 6th and find its actual top speed. Release the throttle a little and 6th would arrive but you’d be back down to just on 90.. There are other engine and gearbox combinations to be had and given the 38mpg the 1.4 turbo auto returns, you’d be wise to avoid it - The Meriva is otherwise a very, very good car indeed…..and that’s the second time in two weeks I’ve said that about a Vauxhall.