New Meriva is your Flex-ible friend

Clever packaging and lots of flexible space and storage solutions are one thing, but as motoring journalist DAVID HOOPER, editor of realised, those rear doors aren’t as daft as they may at first seem to be.

The Vauxhall Meriva pictured on location in North Yorkshire.

THEY say all good things come in little packages – and it’s certainly true in the case of the latest Meriva from Vauxhall.
I didn’t think I was going to like this car very much. It’s got “funny” doors for a start, but having spent a bit of time with it, I have to say, I’m impressed.
This new compact MPV took over from the original and much smaller Meriva, which first went on sale in the UK in 2003 and is now vying for sales against the Ford C-Max, Citroen C4 Picasso and the Renault Scenic.
Small it may have been, but it found a lot fans because of its clever packaging, namely Vauxhall’s FlexSpace rear seating system, which not only provided plenty of space and individual seats for rear occupants, but also the ability to slide them backwards and forwards to adjust rear shoulder, legroom, or boot space, depending on the owner’s needs at any given time. An updated version of FlexSpace is included in the new Meriva, but is now easier and more intuitive to operate.
The main talking point with this car though, has to be the doors. In Vauxhall speak they are called FlexDoors and until I spent some time with this car I remained to be convinced of their usefulness. A throwback to the early days of motoring, they used to be commonplace, but were eventually discarded by mainstream manufacturers for safety reasons. They didn’t earn the name “suicide doors” for nothing. Imagine one becoming unlatched at speed and flying open!

The surprisingly spacious interior of the new Meriva.

However, they made a comeback on Mazda’s fabulous RX-8 coupe, but were only really half the length of a standard door, but did make access to the car’s back seats easier. The main difference between the RX-8 and the Meriva is that on the Mazda, the rear door could only open after the front door was ajar, but this is not the case with the Meriva. The rear doors can be opened with the front ones firmly closed, but only when the car is stationary, or moving at less than 2mph, at which point they automatically lock, and even warn the driver if one of the doors is not shut properly.
The burning question has to be “What’s the point?” and if there is a point, why hasn’t every carmaker jumped on the bandwagon?”
Before spending time with this car, I didn’t think there was a point, but I have to say I’m a convert. The rear-hinged doors without question provide easier access to the back of the car, so if you’re piling assorted children into the rear seats, complete with car seats, you will find the wider access a positive advantage. Not only is it a clever idea, it’s one that works in the real world too.
Inside, the “Flex” theme is continued with the FlexRail which runs front to rear along the middle of the cabin, and is home to some useful storage solutions for the children’s clutter, MP3 players, or even mum’s handbag. Its only drawback is that it does limit rear leg room in the middle seat.
The Meriva’s seating position is higher than that of a conventional car, and the view through the large front window is excellent, aided by acceptably thin A-pillars and decent sized quarter-lights.
There is a good choice of petrol or diesel engines to choose from, with my test car being powered by the latest 1.3-litre CDTi EcoFlex diesel which emits a low C02 figure of 119g/km.
It drives very well, and despite being a little sluggish at slow speeds, pulls strongly in the mid-range, while returning impressive fuel consumption figures of around 72mpg on the combined cycle.
The new Meriva range offers clever packaging, surprising amounts of very flexible space in an affordable and compact package which I liked – a lot!

Rating: ★★★★★

The FlexDoors do make access to the rear of the car easier.

Vauxhall Meriva 1.3 CDTi EcoFlex (95) Exclusiv.

MERIVA RANGE: From Expression 1.4 16v (100ps) 5dr (£12,995) to SE 1.7 CDTi Auto 16v 5dr (£21,730).

ENGINE: 1245cc, 95PS four-cylinder engine, driving front wheels through 5-speed manual gearbox.

CO2 EMISSIONS: 119g/km.

PERFORMANCE: Top speed 104mph.
0-62mph in 13.8 secs.

ECONOMY: City: 50.4mpg.
Country: 72.4mpg.
Combined: 62.8mpg.
Fuel tank: 54 litres.


PRICE: £19,145.


• All data correct at time of publication.