SOME dub them suicide doors but to my mind anyone of that persuasion could successfully deploy any car door to achieve the desired effect.
But whatever you choose to call them, there’s no doubt the rear hinged back doors on Vauxhall’s latest Meriva make it a real cinch to safely load the kids up in the back. Not to mention it’s now easier for grumbling OAPs to avail themselves of a ride in the back with much more ease – and dignity – than has been the case in the past.
For the record Vauxhall call them FlexDoors, and again, for the record, if the car’s moving at anything over 2mph they automatically lock, so no chance of any mishaps.
Having two rear hinged back doors is not a new concept but their adoption in Meriva is the first time they’ve been used for a few years. They’re definitely a big improvement when it comes to the family/grumbling OAPs getting in and out, swinging open to near 90 degrees to the car as they do, and the Meriva’s high roof line gives better headroom into the bargain.
For those with toddlers it’s relatively easy to lift small humans into their rear mounted child seats without having to become a trainee contortionist.
So, once you’ve got everyone loaded up and strapped in, what do you notice from the driver’s seat – apart from good all round visibility and the fact that when the door is open at near 90 degrees to the body it’s hard to reach the handle to pull it shut?
There’s a light, airy interior, as well as Vauxhall’s FlexRail set up in the centre console area, which gives you the option of a number of storage and comfort solutions that fix to the dual rail base. There’s no handbrake to get in the way – that’s a electronic switch, mounted higher up and out of the way.
It was the original Meriva, back in 2003, that laid claim to inventing the small MPV sector, an area now populated with a whole host of vehicles from a whole host of manufacturers, and it’s been significantly freshened up to keep it up with the pack. There’s a distinctive window line to the profile, narrower ‘but still a bit obstructive’ A pillars and larger front quarter lights, through which you can see not a lot flashing by.
Front seat technology has been half-inched from the Insignia and Astra, so you’ll be comfortably located behind the wheel with good legroom.
Those in the back have adequate space too, and when you need it the much-lauded FlexSpace system is even easier to use, allowing the rear seats to be quickly folded. Even these seats can be adjusted for more leg or shoulder room by simply folding the centre seat down.
We sampled one of the three versions of the 1.4 litre engine available, the 1.4 120PS turbo, an adequate performer that seems relatively quick off the mark when it comes to pulling away from lights and junctions, and which has a third gear that goes on and on and on without sounding too strained. The whole box has a user friendly feel to it, the gears slipping between ratios smoothly and efficiently.
Its UK-tuned handling deals well with the potholed highways we use each and every day. The ride is never going to upset anyone inside and the steering is as light as a feather. There’s a bit of body roll if you push into a corner but the wheels stay stuck to the tarmac and that, at the end of the day, is what matters.
It’s bigger than before, and with much smarter looks and styling. And its outright versatility will continue to win it friends among those looking for a user friendly compact MPV.
FASTFACTS: Vauxhall Meriva 1.4 Turbo Exclusiv Limited Edition; £18,960; 1364cc, 120PS, 175Nm@1750-4800rpm;120ps, five speed manual gearbox; Top speed 117mph, 0-62 11.5 secs; CO2: 143g/km; Fuel: urban 35.3, extra urban 56.5, combined 46.3; Features include 18 inch alloys, black roof, tinted rear windows.