Motoring: Behind the doors of the new Vauxhall Meriva
I LIKE the Meriva, a new version of the Vauxhall/Opel five-seater midi MPV. It is made in Spain using a variation on the Zafira chassis.
Its trick act is the back-hinged rear doors. These can allow easier entry and exit. However, when getting out, the passenger needs to look backwards to make sure all is clear.
Just flinging the door open willy-nilly could whack a pedestrian or cyclist. That pertains to the normally hinged door, but with different thought processes necessary.
The rear doors will not open at speeds above 2mph, otherwise there would be mayhem as the doors flapped back like air-brakes. They are a feature which separates the Meriva from its contenders. In fact, you'll have to get a Rolls-Royce or Mazda RX-8 if you want a similar layout. The Meriva is already a practical family hatch/estate and the door system makes the most of this utility. It is hard to see why anyone would dislike the doors or the car.
I took the Meriva to the annual Pateley Bridge agricultural show. I parked on an approach road, and in doing so obviated potential traffic jams on the field and witnessed an extraordinary tiff.
A black SUV coming up the hill met a slate-coloured hatchback coming down the hill. At this stage the SUV chap could have reversed a few yards into an adjacent junction. Slate-hatch, which had arrived at the bottleneck first, would have had to reverse for a considerable distance up a hill made narrower by parked cars, of which the Meriva was the last.
Instead, Mr SUV left his car and walked up the road to drop something at a house. By the time he got back to his chariot more cars had filled the road behind it. Slate-hatch, for whatever reason (presumably the daunting task of the uphill reverse) did not budge. All-road-man couldn't. After several minutes the queue behind him sorted itself out in the available road junction and, after a final verbal parry, the SUV-er did the same thing. Slate hatch went placidly downhill, ignoring the verbals.
Did I really say the Meriva is good? Certainly, my long weekend in Wensleydale stretched its abilities. The wide-open door format makes it easier to load items on the roof because you can stand on the greater length of side sill and move from the front aperture to the rear aperture as necessary.
Vauxhall sells the Meriva with a pull-out bike carrier in the rear bumper, which is the ideal way to carry bikes. They are at low lever and do not catch on trees etc, a risk with roof carriers. This is a 375 option (and rules out a spare wheel or parking sensors) but Vauxhall did not have one available on the press demo fleet. Instead it can supply conventional roof carriers made by Thule. The accessory price is 69 each with the appropriate mountings.Ratchet straps secure the wheels to the U-shaped gutters and the bike's down tube is clamped in the hinged strut securely when the latch is rotated. This latch and the rack itself are lockable and thus reasonably theft-proof.
The Meriva cabin has a few neat touches, such as a twin rail link from front to back, allowing, say, the oddments box to be moved forward or aft. Yes, you can live without it, but may find it useful. I didn't. The rear seats are in a 2-1-2 ratio. They slide or fold flat (not quite flat). The middle seat is rather narrow and has restricted leg space because of the said twin-rail fixture. Instead, you may fold this middle perch out of the way and then move the outer seats towards each other to give extra space between your shoulder and the door.
Storage space includes two pockets in the front doors, though neither is long enough to carry, say, a large road atlas. There is a handy ledge above the glovebox - which is just about full when the handbook is inside. The integral ticket clip on the windscreen pillar is a nice touch.
Road manners are fine, though newcomers may feel a bit of sway at first. It rode undulating moorland roads comfortably. There are various engine choices, opening with the 98.6bhp, 46mpg 1.4 petrol model at 12,995. Enter the showroom, though, and you'll quickly rise through pricier models as you tick what you want.
My demo car was in Exclusiv (that's right, no "e" on the end) trim with a 138bhp 1.4 turbo motor at 18,175. It ran economically, with an official "extra-urban" figure of 52mpg, a combined figure of 42mpg and CO2 emissions of 156g/km. The 0-62mph time of 10.3 seconds is quick enough. Extras were 17in five-spoke alloys at 550, front and rear parking sensors at 375 and an integrated sat-nav/CD-MP3 unit at 835.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 19 C
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