2014 Vauxhall Meriva 1.6 CDTi review

* Most fuel-efficient Meriva tested  * Fuel economy of 64.2mpg; 116g/km CO2 * On sale now, priced from £17,045...

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Ed Callow
18 Feb 2014 0:20 | Last updated: 14 Jun 2018 0:3

The new Vauxhall Meriva 1.6 CDTi is the second car to get the company’s new 134bhp diesel engine. We've already heaped praise on this engine in the seven-seat Zafira Tourer, but does it work as well in this smaller five-seat MPV?

The new 1.6 CDTi replaces the old 1.7 diesel in the Meriva range, and its lower CO2 emissions make it a much cheaper company car option. The engine is also available in popular Tech Line trim, which gives you more kit than you get with the entry-level S model, but for less money.

The upshot is that the new 1.6-litre diesel starts at £17,045 – around £1300 less than our current pick of the range. 

What’s the Vauxhall Meriva 1.6 CDTi like inside?

All Meriva models get FlexDoors and FlexSpace features as standard. The former is a set of rear-hinged 'coach' doors, and the latter is a rear bench with three sections that split, slide and fold independently of one another.

The Meriva is practical, then, but no more so than you’d expect in this class. For all its clever tricks – such as a bike rack in the bumper – there are notable omissions. For example, the front passenger seat doesn't fold flat.

Still, the boot is roomy and it’s a useful square shape. There’s more space than in a Ford B-Max, but no more than you'll find in a Citroen C3 Picasso.

The materials in the cabin are less impressive. Pricey SE trim gets a soft-touch dashboard, but mid-range Exclusiv models make do with cheap plastics. The multitude of buttons on the centre console can make the cabin look cluttered, too.

Equipment levels on Expression and S models are poor, while Exclusiv and SE trims are too expensive. Tech Line is the only trim that really makes sense; it comes with everything you need, plus a few extras. Parking sensors, heated seats and a heated steering wheel are standard, but you can swap them for sat-nav as a no-cost option.

What’s the Vauxhall Meriva 1.6 CDTi like to drive?

Despite being 20% more efficient than the old 1.7 diesel, the new 1.6 CDTi has more power and more torque. The on-paper advantages translate to real-world performance, too, because the engine’s power delivery is smooth, and it has terrific flexibility.

It’s also quieter than similar engines in rivals, although the Meriva’s sound deadening materials don’t subdue noise quite as well as the Zafira Tourer's.

The other notable difference over the Zafira Tourer is the Meriva’s firm ride. While it’s never uncomfortable, larger bumps tend to thump through the cabin. Things are worse in this 1.6 CDTi model, which is 110kg heavier than the 1.4 petrol.

The extra weight also robs the Meriva of some agility, which is a shame given the decent pace and surfeit of grip.

The steering also disappoints; it’s heavy when manoeuvring and vague at faster speeds. There’s also a fair amount of body roll in bends, which isn’t such an issue in the lighter petrol car.

While the engine’s refinement is a big improvement over the old 1.7 diesel, the Meriva still kicks up plenty of road noise on coarse surfaces, while wind noise intrudes on the motorway.

Should I buy one?

This new diesel is worth a look if you’re sold on the Meriva’s quirky doors and flexible seating, especially if you’re a company car user. 

It only makes sense in Tech Line trim, though. Some other versions are as expensive as the bigger Zafira Tourer, which is far more refined, more practical and seats up to seven. If your budget does stretch a bit higher, you’re best off looking at larger five-seat cars, such as the Citroen C4 Picasso.

However, most buyers in the market for a small MPV will still be best served by the Citroen C3 Picasso. It’s almost as practical, is cheaper to insure and will cost you a lot less to buy.

What Car? says…

Citroen C3 Picasso
Fiat 500L

Specification 1.6 CDTi
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from £17,045
Power 134bhp
Torque 236lb ft
0-62mph 9.9 seconds
Top speed 122mph
Fuel economy 64.2mpg (official combined)
CO2 116g/km