Vauxhall's trophy cabinet has swollen with the success of the Insignia and Astra; the former was crowned 2009 European Car of the Year, while the latter saw off the Volkswagen Golf to claim Auto Express’s prestigious Golden Steering Wheel award.
But the third model to feature the firm’s latest design language has had a difficult gestation. When it arrives here in June, the Meriva will be the first post-recession Vauxhall.
Plus, not only will it be the first car since the marque was saved from the brink of closure, it’s pitched into the segment in which Vauxhall had huge success since launching the original Zafira. We’ve seen the Meriva in the flesh at the Geneva Motor Show, and drove a pre-production prototype in Issue 1,103. But we wanted to hear what British buyers thought of the latest work of one of their best-loved brands.
So, Auto Express took the first car in the UK to the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent for an exclusive ‘vaux pop’. Although the Meriva came in unappealing dark green – called Pepperdust – it had no problem pulling in the crowds.
The innovative Flexdoors were the biggest draw. They were an instant hit, with shoppers quickly convinced of their benefit. The optional panoramic roof went down well with the car’s target market of young families, as did the Flexrail – a clever centre console to which a range of moving storage cubbies can be attached.
The positive reaction will give the Luton firm a welcome boost. But while the Meriva won new fans at Bluewater, it has yet to face its rivals. We’ll have the first group test in the UK in our 14 April issue.
“The colour is dull, but the doors are an ingenious idea – I’m surprised that nobody has thought of it before”
Sasha Coleman, 63
“The panoramic roof is good and the doors give you lots of room to get in. This is a car I’d want to take for a test drive”
Linda Bower, 53
“I drive a Chrysler Grand Voyager, so am used to sliding doors. Plus, with three children this might be a little small”
John Philip, 39