Opel's new Meriva tried for size

<b>WELL-BEHAVED FAMILY MEMBER:</b> Opel's all-new Meriva is finally available in South Africa, but this is not your average mini-MPV. <a href="http://www.wheels24.co.za/Multimedia/Manufacturers/Opel/2012-Opel-Meriva-20120320" target="_blank">Image ga
<b>WELL-BEHAVED FAMILY MEMBER:</b> Opel's all-new Meriva is finally available in South Africa, but this is not your average mini-MPV. <a href="http://www.wheels24.co.za/Multimedia/Manufacturers/Opel/2012-Opel-Meriva-20120320" target="_blank">Image ga
Think MPV and it’s unlikely the name of a little German mover will be the first to pop to mind. The French, after all, started this little multi-purpose vehicle segment.

Germany, Opel in particular, is having a go at this segment with the very fresh (and functional) new Meriva.

General Motors had carted a bunch of motoring writers from around the country to a sweltering Bloemfontein in the Free State before pointing us in the direction of trendy artists’ enclave Clarens and saying “now go there”.

There was no big rush towards the cars… and the GMSA representatives seemed oddly calm about this relative reluctance to get into the Merivas. (It could also have something to do with the fact that we would also be driving the sportier Astra GTC on the trip.)

The relaxed approach by the GM guys soon became apparent: they were planning to have the cars do the talking.

WALKS THE TALK


The all-new Meriva doesn’t look it but the five-seater is slightly larger than the previous version, thanks largely to its longer wheelbase (+15mm) and wider tracks (39mm and 45mm, respectively).

This translates to a mini-MPV that offers more space and more flexibility. In fact, although Opel can’t claim the MPV segment as its own, four new Meriva developments have been patented by GM.

While the Meriva’s membership to the Opel family is evidenced through its expressive front end, the stand-out design feature has to be the new (patented) rear FlexDoors that open Bentley-like from front to rear. The door swings open from the car’s highest point, so getting in or out (or possibly helping little people in and out) is made a helluva lot easier. There are handy grab handles attached to the B-pillar, too.  

The front doors also open wider than average – to a yawning 84 degrees – to make it easier to manouevre into and out of the car, when the space allows, but those with shorter arms take heed: fling the doors open too wide and you’ll be unceremoniously scrabbling for the door pull to close the door again…

TAKE A SEAT


Coupled with this are the FlexSeats that allow a number of seating configurations and have adjustable backs and seats that slide fore and aft to make getting comfortable for a passenger in the rear that much easier.

The FlexRail system is a modular centre console that, on the Meriva, can be slid to the front or back to hold (or conceal) a number of smaller items that are inevitably cast off in the family car.

There is storage space aplenty in the Meriva: in the door panels, under the front seats, and even in the main boot area. A sill protector ensures you don’t scuff that lovely, fresh metallic paintwork on the rear bumper when loading larger items into the luggage space while the boot’s back board cleverly lifts and slides into the back of the cargo area to free up your hands or save you the indignity of banging your head against another rear tonneau cover.

Other than that, the cabin is nicely laid out to wrap around the front passengers while stylish triangular windows in the C pillar let in some more light while also aiding all-round visibility. It was rather interesting to see just how many of the switches have been borrowed from other recent Chevrolet models. The new electric parking brake frees up space in the centre console, too.

STAR PERFORMER


The all-new Meriva’s stand-out is undoubtedly its pairing of a 1.4 turbo petrol engine with a six-speed manual transmission powering the front wheels. What a slick combination!
The engine delivers 103kW/200Nm of peak torque.

The punchy engine is very comfortable at low speeds but since it loves a little rev, too, overtaking is a breeze - just gear down to fourth and go. Shifts through the six-speed were fairly firm, although most cars displayed low mileages so that should loosen up.

The Meriva’s longer wheelbase and the wheels on each axle now moved further apart, the ride through this mini-MPV is comfortably firm and definitely sportier than imagined. The engine also proved to be quite laid back, never showing a hint of strain on the nearly 300km route between the Free State towns.

The new Meriva is available with a choice of two trim levels – Enjoy and Cosmo. The Enjoy has standard equipment such as daytime running lights, reactive front head restraints that give extra head support during a collision, 16” alloy rims and height adjustment for the driver’s seat.

The Cosmo model adds a glass roof, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 17” alloy rims and chromed accents. All models come standard with front fog lights, cruise control and a trip data computer.

Service intervals for the all-new Meriva are 15 000km. The cars are covered by a standard five-year or 90 000km service plan and a warranty covering five years or 120 000km.

Opel’s new Meriva is flexible, but not in your exotic dancer, boys-weekend-away kinda flexible, more like mum (or dad) with two hands, 70 000 things on their to-do lists and a set of wheels more than willing to accommodate a number of functions.

PRICES:

Meriva Enjoy - R234 000
Meriva Cosmo - R254 000
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