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From my brief experience and tales from others, you need to be very alert at junctions - not very responsive from a standstill (depends on the type of gearbox, torque converter, or whatever). They're good if you drive in stop/start traffic and don't mind the car arbitrarily deciding what gear you should be in.
Autos are easy. I switch between manual and auto. I'm not sure about the Merriva though. Don't know how its gearbox rates. Will ask dh if he knows as he is gearbox supremo. Have you considered a cvt qashqai?