Vauxhall Meriva (2003-2010) review
Inspired by the seven-seat Zafira, Vauxhall's Meriva takes flexible rear seating for five to a different sector.
Inspired by the seven-seat Zafira, Vauxhall's Meriva takes flexible rear seating for five to a different sector. A 'mini-MPV', it offers FlexSpace; ordinarily a roomy, high-set bench for three, the middle seat can be collapsed which allows the two outer perches to squeeze inwards and rearwards - thus providing limo-levels of leg and shoulder room for two. A box can be fitted in the centre too, there's 'Twin Audio' individual controls in the rear, while fantastic visibility makes this one of the most passenger-friendly small cars on today's market. Vauxhall's specifications seem a bit mean though, taking the shine off some attractive list prices. A facelift early in 2006 did, however, improve interior quality; spot models from a mildly freshened nose and rear lights, plus a chrome strip on the bootlid.
It's fine to drive, with smooth petrol engines. Best is the 1.6-litre 'Twinport', introduced when the Meriva was facelifted, which replaced older 8v and 16v units. It questions the point of the larger 1.8-litre unit and is usefully punchy than the entry-level 1.4-litre. Also new in '06 was the 1.3-litre CDTi diesel. On-paper performance of this sweet, revvy unit is poor, but good torque figures make it feel fine in real life. A notchy gearbox remains though - along with, fortunately, composed ride and confidence-inspiring, if rather soft, handling. It's a refined cruiser, feeling bigger than it is; perhaps the fact that it's not actually as small as you think helps here - it's appreciably larger than Renault's mini-MPV offering, the Modus. Vauxhall is alone in bravely offering a 'hot version too - the Meriva VXR! With 180bhp from a 1.6-litre turbo, it's a strong performer capable of 137mph, while stiffened suspension also helps it handle with far less squidge, without ruining the ride. A crazy but effective car, albeit an expensive one. It's an interesting halo car to a practical range that seems to be selling well in the UK.