27.3.2014Vauxhall Meriva 1.6 CDTi ecoFLEX review
Vauxhall has face lifted the Meriva at the right time as sales were more than a quarter in January compared with same month last year. Gentle restyling makes the car look modern and the line-up now includes a top of the range. Rear hinged back doors are still unique in the sector and apparently loved by parents with younger children. The rear seats, and boot floor and shelves can be fitted in a variety of positions and there are more than 30 storage compartments for the everyday stuff of life.
The new state of the art 1.6 litre engine is billed with some justification as 'whisper quiet', through road and wind noise are still not good enough. Some of the car's interior trim also isn't quite up to the mark considering the prices asked if you climb up the range.
Review by Russell Bray
New 1.6 litre 16 valve turbo-diesel engine recently introduced in the Zafira Tourer is now available in Vauxhall's increasingly popular Meriva as well. Producing 134 bhp at 3,000 rpm and maximum torque of 234 lbs ft from just 2,000 rpm it's a strong performer and slightly more powerful than the 1.7 litre it replaces. It feels superior in every way. Vauxhall brands it as 'whisper quiet' and apart from some racket when it starts it is barely audible at cruising speeds and more refined than engines in some 'premium' makes. Top speed is a more than adequate 122 mph with acceleration from rest to 62 mph taking 9.9 seconds.
Bend swinging isn't a priority for a family car but the Meriva feels safe and stable enough despite its relatively high stance though there is still quite a lot of body roll to make the little darlings throw up if you get too enthusiastic. You can sense the weight of the diesel engine and I would prefer the lighter 118bhp 1.4 litre turbo petrol S model which would also save more than Â£2,000 based on list prices. The electro-hydraulic steering has been tuned more for UK road conditions than before with more weight and greater precision.
Vauxhall's stylists have given the Meriva only a mild facelift but in the metal it really makes the car look smarter and more expensive. The radiator grille has been changed and is wider and lower, while the headlights are more modern and feature LED daytime running lights on higher spec versions. There's more chrome too, including for the trim along the bottom of the side windows. More contour lines in the bodywork that catch the light give the car a more sculpted look. What hasn't changed are the wide opening doors. The rear ones are hinged at the back which makes fitting children in safety seats a less back wrenching task. Length 4288mm. Width 1812mm.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The Meriva's height makes climbing in easier than a low slung estate car but the dashboard and the satellite navigation display are showing their age. There is a plethora of buttons but thankfully the main dials are clear and simple. Vauxhall has improved the six-speed manual gear change but there are still slicker ones around.
A new IntelliLink infotainment system will take some learning and would be distracting initially if trying to drive at the same time. Find your way and it offers access to information and data from your smart phone as well.
As before, you can convert the three-seater rear seats to a more central two seater with limousine levels of leg room if you don't need all the boot space. The central Flexrail system is narrower and less obtrusive than before. Boot space is 397 litres and can be increased to 1,497 litres by folding down the seats.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Advances in engine technology really show here with official combined fuel economy increased by nearly 11 mpg to 64.2 mpg (real life experience suggests nearer 50 mpg) with a commensurate drop in CO2 emissions from 139 g/km to 116 g/km. That is enough to do away with the first year's road tax and reduce subsequent payments by Â£95 a year to just Â£30. The fuel consumption figure equates to a fuel cost of 10p per mile. The warranty is for 100,000 miles. Service intervals are at 20,000 miles.
New Euro 6 pollution regulation compliant engine is impressive for efficiency and refinement. Fuel is also saved by Vauxhall's ecoFLEX technology and an engine stop/start system using a reinforced starter motor and high performance battery with intelligent controls and sensor. The nitrogen oxide reduction required by Euro 6 has been achieved using a lean NOx trap. A special catalyst stores the nitrogen oxide. When full, the engine management system automatically begins regeneration. The system is entirely maintenance-free and does not require an additional tank. According to our calculations, the new MERIVA 1.6 CDTi has a Next Green Car Rating of 35.
The very well equipped SE test car had a panoramic glass sunroof with electric blinds, front fog lights, air conditioning, cruise control, leather rimmed steering wheel with audio controls on spokes, electric windows and mirrors, remote control central locking, stereo radio and CD player, front passenger seat under-seat storage tray, folding trays on backs of front seats, USB connection. It was also fitted with optional 18in diameter alloy wheels in place of the standard 17in ones. An optional LED lighting pack is Â£300 and the Navi 950 Intellilink system a whopping Â£1,200.
Model tested: Vauxhall Meriva SE 1.6 CDTi ecoFLEX 5dr
Body-style: Compact people carrier/MPV
Engine/CO2: 134bhp 1598cc, 4-cyl turbo diesel engine / 116 gCO2/km
Trim grades: Expression, S, Exclusiv, Energy, Tech Line and SE
On-road price: From £ 12,620. Price as tested £ 21,370
Warranty: 100,000 miles (Battery warranty negotiable)
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 STARS
Next Green Car Rating of 35