What's the used Vauxhall Meriva like?
The first Vauxhall Meriva was a small and entirely unremarkable small MPV that sold surprisingly well. Careful not to muddy the waters, the firm’s second-generation Meriva was this similarly sized car that has possibly gone down in the annals of history for one reason: it has rearward-opening rear doors.
But that would be to dismiss it out of hand. In a class chock-full of desirable competitors, including the more fashionable and newer rash of small SUVs fighting for the family dollar, the Meriva always had its own distinctive style.
Throughout its life, it was offered with a number of engine options, ranging from 1.4-litre petrols through to 1.3-litre, 1.6-litre and 1.7-litre diesels.
There were four trim levels to choose from: Life, Club, Tech Line and SE. Entry-level models got air conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth, 16in alloy wheels and front foglights as standard, while upgrading to Club added curtain airbags, a chrome exhaust tip and sliding front cupholders. Mid-range Tech Line adorned the Meriva with 17in wheels, heated front seats and steering wheel, electric windows and parking sensors, while range-topping SE got a panoramic sunroof, Vauxhall's OnStar system and underseat storage at the front.
Out on the road, the entry-level naturally aspirated 1.4 petrol is a little lacking in puff. Better are the turbocharged 1.4 engines, in 118bhp and 138bhp forms, both of which have enough power to move the Meriva around well and are smooth and refined in use. If longer runs are going to be a common occurrence, a diesel will be more relaxed. The 1.3 is rather slow and a bit noisy. The 1.6 replaced the original 1.7 and is fairly quiet, only starting to get very gruff above 4000rpm. It is still relatively weedy, though, in terms of performance but it will at least save you money at the filling stations.
When it comes to tackling corners, the Meriva feels grown up if not terribly exciting. There’s a fair amount of body lean, but the car grips well and the handling is safe, secure and entirely predictable. Generally, it’s a comfortable car, too, but the ride often gets caught out by sharp ridges, joints and potholes, and there’s too much fidgeting at lower speeds around town.
The Meriva's raison d’être, though, is the amount of space it offers for its diminutive size and the increased practicality afforded by those novel rear doors. They might seem like a gimmick but they actually work remarkably well. When they are opened wide, they undoubtedly offer easier access to the rear seats. The doors also allow better access for installing child seats, because you’ll be naturally facing the seat as you lean in. In tighter spaces, it’s easier to slide into a car with a conventional rear door, however – and more so if both you and the driver want to get in or out at the same time.
There’s a semi-raised, comfortable driving position that’s higher than a conventional hatch’s. Spread before the driver is a dashboard that carries forward themes from both the Insignia and Astra. The rear bench can accommodate three but work far better as separate seats for two. The centre part of the bench folds and falls forward slightly, allowing the outer two seats to be moved backwards and – simultaneously on a rail – inwards to give rear passengers more leg and elbow room.
With the rear seats in place (and in their forward position), boot space is a respectable 400 litres; it rises to 1500 litres with the seats completely folded. A novel but expensive bumper-mounted bicycle carrier could be specified on newer cars, so it might be worth seeking out one of those.