The party trick
Some people argue that purchasing an MPV or minivan signals the end of your life’s excitement. Gone are the all-nighters and crazy adventures because chances are good that you’re carting around a little family. I say there’s nothing wrong with that, quite the opposite – it can be just as adventurous.
Sure, moving between Kindergarten, school and the office won’t be quite as thrilling as that time you still had a cabrio, when four-finger Frik stole the belt off a Tequila Sheila and you singed all your facial hair at a beach bonfire. That doesn’t mean your new life or car should be dull and dreary though.
Never mind that it’s all down to your mind-set, but if those boring boxes on wheels alarm you and stretched vans give you heart palpitations, perhaps you should add Opel’s Meriva to your shortlist of family transport. Yes, I immediately christened it “Mommy Mobile” but I also grew quite fond of it.
Let me explain.
Drawn with lots of creases and curves, the compact MPV shows good proportions and just enough flair to not disappear in a sea of metal at the local mall’s car park. Big headlights share a similar kink to what you’ll find along the car’s flank, the reasons for this being open to multiple interpretations.
One reason may be to lower the rear passenger’s window-line, another could simply be the reduction of its rising waist and decreasing visibility. Most probably, Opel’s designers just wanted something different and fun (good!) which draws attention to the opposing door handles on either side of a Meriva.
Not only are they opposing, they’re also incredibly close together and thus give away the car’s chief party trick – rear suicide doors. “Suicide” means they open in the opposite direction of what one is accustomed to and given the worst set of circumstances, could somehow lead to your involuntary suicide.
Modern cars like the Meriva prevent this with auto locking and child locks, this Opel also gets around any tricky door gaps or closing procedures by providing a fat B-pillar (middle beam) with opposing locks.
This also aids safety, which is visually obvious when the Meriva’s sides open like a clamshell.
You may think that this is the car’s only redeeming feature but luckily there are a few other niceties to lift it above the MPV crowd. Its cabin layout is modern and functional with good quality materials as you would find in other contemporary Opel products. It also has ample storage and luxury features.
A central cubby box provides multiple levels and slides along a rail system which covers even more space to hide stuff; the front doors have two storage pockets each and the front passenger enjoys a shallow recess for small items above the main glove compartment.
The rear seats also adjust individually.
Our test model was a base 1.4T Enjoy but its specifications are very similar to the more posh Cosmo version. Main differences are a bit of chrome, climate control and leather trim, bigger wheels and a panoramic sunroof. The compact dimensions of 4,3m length, 1,9m width and 1,6m height are identical.
Other measurements are a 400L boot which extends to 920L by folding the rear seats and a 54L fuel tank giving an ideal range of 806km with a claimed average consumption of 6.7L/100km. Maximum output of the 1.4L turbo-petrol four cylinder are 103kW (140hp) at 4,900rpm or 200Nm from 1,850rpm.
0-100km/h is pegged at just over 10 seconds and the Meriva’s top speed lies just shy of 200km/h – not that you’ll enter many races with your Mommy Mobile. What’s far more important is the engine’s wonderful power delivery; a linear and eager pull once it hits 1,500rpm.
The motor runs out of ideas near its redline but we found that it has more than sufficient mid-range punch to dart through traffic or zip along the motorway. Our average consumption was quite a bit higher but we gladly accepted that in exchange for the engine’s willingness to pull forward at almost any speed.
MPV’s should also be easy to drive and the Meriva shines with very light steering and pedals, a good turning radius and not much torque steer to write about. Its brakes are excellent and, unless you hate these sorts of gadgets, the electric park brake and automatic hill start assist make commuting even easier.
Further items to seal the deal are fine instruments with a basic trip computer, multiple driver aids (ABS, EBD, ESP), power windows and mirrors, radio with CD/mp3/Aux/USB and seven speakers, automatic lights and wipers, Bluetooth, daytime running lights, side impact protection, six airbags and ISOFIX anchors.
Starting at N$253,800 with a 5-year/120,000km warranty and 5-year/90,000km service plan, there are cheaper MPV’s available but you’ll struggle to find any excitement or class in them. The bigger and more expensive stuff is too bulky so the Meriva doesn’t have much competition in this segment.
All testers found Opel’s Meriva 1.4T Enjoy easy and indeed enjoyable to drive while offering enough versatility and quirkiness to any potential owners. The element(s) of fun, adventure and excitement are up to you – it’s my opinion that the Meriva won’t hold you back from any of these.
0-100m: 6.7s / 80.7km/h
0-200m: 10.5s / 102.2km/h
0-300m: 13.7s / 117.7km/h
0-400m: 16.6s / 127.9km/h
1/4mile: 16.7s @ 79.6mph (128.1km/h)