I laughed at my colleague and friend Trevor on a previous episode of ZaCarShow, who said he’d happily drive the Meriva around every day. I even asked him if he’d grown a vagina. Well I can happily say that I need to eat my words (get your mind out of the gutter) for this review because it’s definitely one of the surprises of 2012 so far.
The Opel Meriva is in its second generation here in SA, with the all-new model hoping to be a whole lot more successful than the previous Meriva. It’s the definition of an MPV that has been hugely successful in the UK and the father of FlexSpace seating. Basically FlexSpace was the first seating to fold flat into the floor allowing revolutionary levels of versatility and space for a vehicle of its size.
The new Meriva changes shape from a rather boxy lifeless shell to align to the new family look all over, with some swooping lines, and interesting curves along the side. This thanks to the clamshell door set up, but more on this later. The Meriva isn’t bad looking at all, and I found the red paint did a bit of justice by spicing things up a little. The Meriva comes in one engine spec (1.4Turbo) delivering 103kW and 200NM. I would however like to see a diesel motor in the future. Two trim levels, Enjoy is the basic trim and (urg) Cosmo fulfilling more spec. Not exactly doing much for the potential male buyers here.
I had the 1.4T Cosmo on test and it stands out with 17inch rims, some chrome bits, climate control, rain sensing windshield wipers and an enormous panoramic roof. This giant glass expanse does wonders for the perceived size inside, and space is where it’s all at for the
Meriva as this car is squarely focused at those with child that require additional versatility, and safety, while delivering value for money. For R254 000 you get the top of the range Cosmo and already that’s a good deal. Direct competitors are the Citroen Picasso C3, Toyota Verso, Renault Scenic and probably the Kia Soul to some extent, where the Meriva only offers seating for 5 and some of the others for 7.
Biggest surprise, the 1.4T engine that showed such dynamism between city driving and highway stretches. Smooth delivery from low down in the revs, virtually no turbo lag and an easy to modulate 6speed manual gearbox made it a really easy car to drive in town. The smallish engine with turbo really provided the perfect balance for fuel efficiency and sprightly town driving. A commendable unit from Opel. I achieved just under 10l/100km but Opel claims 8l/100km. Suspension is superb, soaking up the bumps in the road with such finesse that you’re surprised you’re in an MPV. That’s important so that little one in the back doesn’t spill his sippy cup everywhere. Ride quality is probably one of the highlights of this little MPV. Steering is light and electrically assisted but that’s understandable considering that it’ll do a lot of parking lot and town driving.
Of course the role of an MPV means you need a versatile interior and the versatility starts outside. The Meriva stands out from the crowd with its unique Flexdoors configuration. The rear doors swing from the rear with handles next to the front doors. Trevor, who has 2 kids says that it does actually offer a huge amount more entrance space for the kids and makes keeping them from banging into the car next door a lot easier. I for one think that it’s a bit harder for adults to get in if the front door isn’t also open, but this is something that might put off potential buyers. Seating for driver is also a little too high for my liking, the huge expanse of glass for the front window makes it feel like you’re now sitting ontop and not in the car. The dash is angled in such a way so you punch down at things, and it’s definitely something you’d have to get used to, but this is coming from someone that usually drives a car that has some very low seating. Thankfully there’s controls on the steering wheel to do the basics, which is great for convenience. What was missing was one of those rear view mirrors showing what the kids at the back are getting up to. Renault and Toyota offer them and I must say they are rather handy!
There’s quite a few buttons on the dash, with everything reflecting in the central screen on top of the dash. Materials and fit and finish are of a high quality and everything from auto lights, windscreen wipers, Aux and iPod inputs give you everything you need.
A very impressive little trick is the Meriva’s modular multi-level storage unit, which sits on rails in between the two front seats and can pull out in different sections to give you up to 32 different configurations! The central armrest moves forward to give the most elbow room or backwards to allow the cup holders and other things to slide into place giving more packing room for odds and ends.
Front seats boast tray tables on their backs for the little ones and big door pockets on all 4 doors, with loads of other little areas to store things.
The rear seats are exceptionally easy to fold flat, a simple tug at the loop and rear benches fall flat. You’d be hard pressed to find an easier system and most importantly you don’t need then brute strength Hulk to make it happen. Smart little touches are covers that fall into place when the seats are down to make the floor completely flat so you don’t lose things in between the seats, and then also another cover to fold over should you be transporting something that could scratch the interior. Simple and smart!
The fact that the vehicle is targeted to those with family means safety is top priority. Opel has fitted the Meriva with 6 airbags, stability and traction control, cornering and straight line braking control. There’s also a Opel patented Pedal release system which drops then pedals away to keep driver from more serious foot and leg injury.
I came in with low expectations and this little Cosmo blew me away. I happily drove it around for the test period, thinking about what I’d said to Trevor. Don’t let that little engine fool you, it’s more than capable to get the job done, and with such innovative seating, doors and storage areas I can definitely say this is the pick of the bunch.
At R254 000 all in, you’ve got superb value for the price, the doors might be the only thing to put you off
Included in the price, is a 5-year/120 000km warranty as well as a 5-year/90 000km service plan.