Vauxhall Meriva

The Essentials

  • Price from £12,500
  • What Car? says: 2 star rating
  • Fuel economy: up to 62.8mpg
  • What is it? Small MPV has rear-hinged back doors - just like a Rolls Royce, but it's no luxury car

Great

  • Rear-opening doors for that Rolls-Royce feeling
  • Lots of clever family friendly gizmos inside
  • OK to drive

Gripes

  • Engines are like a college rugby team: noisy and thirsty
  • Cheaper models don't even get air-conditioning
  • Rear central passenger will feel hard done by
  • Drive

    Plump for one of the more powerful engines for the best performance, then enjoy the comfortable ride and try to ignore the road- and wind noise

  • Inside

    Smart, sweeping dashboard as featured on the Insignia. Awesome all-round visibility

  • Safety

    Stability control and front and side airbags come as standard, but you'll need to pay extra for curtain airbags in some models

  • Reliability

    The previous version of the car wasn't a huge hit, so while this one looks and feels much better quality, reliability abilities remains to be seen

  • Space

    Four can travel in first-class comfort; a fifth gets rather a (sore) bum deal

  • Standard and extras

    Basic trims miss out on air-con and curtain airbags which we'd expect as standard

  • What's it like to drive?

    MPVs, even little ones like the Meriva, are supposed to make your life easier. Unfortunately, this car doesn't really deliver. The steering is really heavy at low speed, so parking the car feels far too much like a gym session for our liking. It doesn't provide much reassurance at higher speeds, either, and the fidgety ride, plus the annoying amounts of road noise you'll hear, means the Meriva isn't the best long-distance car, either. It handles securely enough, but it isn't exactly an enjoyable car to drive.
    The smallest engines feel a little overburdened, so for the best mix of talents, we'd steer you in the direction of the 1.4 turbo. It's not exactly fast, but it's flexible and reasonably frugal.

  • What's it like inside?

    The Meriva is supposed to be an MPV, yet it only seats four people in comfort. The fifth seat is narrow and hard, and there's limited foot space. Some versions have a rail running from the front of the cabin to the rear (designed so that front and rear passenger can share detachable cupholders and cubbies), which splits the back seats in two completely. Those rear-hinged doors give you decent access to the rear seats, but it's no better than you get with conventional doors. The boot is no better than average for capacity, either, and when you fold the rear seats down to maximise luggage space, they don't go completely flat.
    All-round visibility is pretty, good, but the messy arrangement of some controls on the dashboard means you'll have to get used to how everything works.

  • How reliable is it?

    Vauxhall scraped in at second manufacturer from bottom in the latest JD Power survey, which does not inspire confidence; however a lifetime/100,000-mile warranty should help reassure owners.
    All Merivas have stability control, plus front and side airbags, but curtain airbags are a cost option until you reach the more expensive end of the range. The Meriva scored 89% for adult protection and 77% for child protection in the latest Euro NCAP crash tests which is better than a Citroen C3 Picasso, but not as good as a Ford C-Max.

  • Should I buy one?

    Prices look competitive, but check the list of standard equipment on basic models and you'll see why: they miss out of too many important items like air-conditioning and a Bluetooth phone connection. Sure, the novelty doors set the Meriva apart, but there are bigger, better MPVs available at this price.