The Vauxhall Meriva was introduced in 2002 as a minivan built on a stretched platform of a Corsa. It was offered mainly to cater for people who are looking for something like a Zafira, but cannot justify the high price. Although, we cannot call the Meriva cheap, it offers a good value for a small family who are in need of a bigger than usual boot space.
The Meriva is a good mix between the new bulky design features brought on by the Astra and Vectra coupled with the cute simplicity of the Corsa. It's a beautiful little MPV with a pleasant facial expression and a bubble-shaped body. The glazed area has a nice dynamic shape and the A-pillars - usually a nightmare on those small single-volume MPVs - offers enough visibility in the roundabouts. The front end with the bulky headlamps resembles the larger models of the Vauxhalls line-up, hence making the little car look bigger than it actually is.
The wheel base of the Meriva is a few inches longer than the Corsa, so comfort-wise, you cannot really compare them. The cramped character of the Corsa has gone and there's plenty of legroom and headroom. Although the Meriva, being a mini MPV, only has two rows of seats, it can handle 5 adults and 1400litres of boot space with folded rear seats. With the passenger seats occupied, however, the boot space falls to 350litres making one question the feasibility behind the whole concept of a mini MPV. Considering it's so much more expensive than a Corsa, wouldn't you be better off buying a compact sedan or hatchback. We suppose, Vauxhall has done a good job creating a market niche from a void, but it's questionable whether people actually need mini MPVs? Since they are selling so well and competitors followed suit with the Nissan Note, the mini MPV market has gone from zero to hero.
The cabin of a Meriva is not as flexible and comfortable as that of a Renault Scenic, but you cannot fault the Meriva, it's a comfortable car for its size and it offers decent quality of materials and space.
The Meriva is offered with some decent engine choices. The entry level starts with a 1.4-litre 89bhp petrol unit. It also features a 1.6-litre 104bhp, 1.8-litre 123bhp and for what it's worth, a high-tuned 1.6-litre turbo 178bhp engine. Initially the Meriva was only available with one diesel engine, a 1.7-litre 99bhp, after the 2006 upgrade, the Meriva became available with a smaller city diesel which was a 1.3-litre displacement and 74bhp.
The majority of sensible drivers will choose either the 1.4-litre or 1.6-litre non-turbo petrol engines or one of the diesels. The lesser petrol versions deliver over 42mpg (just avoid an 8-valve 1.6-litre engine that was available on older Merivas).
As for the diesels, if you don't mind other drivers sounding their horns at you, by all means go for the 1.3-litre diesel, 56mpg car that can seat 5 adults. That's an amazing achievement, and who cares that you have to be patient and wait for almost half a minute for the car to speed up to 60mph? By the way the smaller diesel is very noisy when pushed hard, so if you're anticipating a lot of highway driving, better choose the 1.7-litre diesel version which offers 50-53mpg, still not a bad result.
For people who can justify paying the extra money for a mini MPV in the first place and even have it all pimped-up, the 1.6-litre turbo Meriva or the 1.8-litre engine will add that extra zing to your daily life. The latter, to be honest, isn't that exciting for enthusiastic drivers. It should have been able to deliver under 10 second acceleration, but it can't, thus the drop to 35mpg is not really justifiable. You are better going for the turbo version as it accelerates to 60mpg in less than 8 seconds and has a very pleasant purring sound when it kicks into the power zone.
It's a very mundane car. Not really that exciting to drive, but then is any of the MPVs exciting to drive? While the new Scenic is trying to tone its performance down, the Meriva was trying to tone it up. The result is still the same, quite dull and lifeless. The suspension is doing its best to keep the bumps and vibrations out of the cabin, but it's not perfect, so mainly thanks to the high body of the Meriva, it will be susceptible to movement and shaking.
The car was quite expensive when new. As for the resale value, it falls rather steeply. So, if you buy a near-new Meriva today, you won't get a good price for it when selling it on a few years later.
The Meriva is offers decent reliability and it's largely small niggles that are preventing you from enjoying this car. The earlier engines are known to be 'eating' oil. They used to be pretty erratic. However, things were improved after 2006, so buying a newer Meriva should be a good ownership experience.
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