Ex­cel­lence in in­tel­li­gence

These days it’s rare that ba­sic in­tel­li­gent de­sign gets a look-in when car mak­ers are un­der so much pres­sure to lower emis­sions and in­crease safety. The Vaux­hall Meriva is a largely un­sung hero of com­mon sense, says

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Kentmotors -

It’s OK to be com­pro­mised. Few com­pa­nies who pro­duce and mar­ket prod­ucts of any kind will ever ad­mit it, but it’s the truth, es­pe­cially when the prod­uct is as ex­pen­sive as a new car. Com­pro­mise helps a prod­uct excel in the ar­eas it is chiefly de­signed for. Take the 2014 Vaux­hall Meriva, for ex­am­ple. With­out putting it side-by-side with the model it re­places you’d be hard-pressed to tell the dif­fer­ence. But that’s not a bad thing. It’s ac­tu­ally a bit of a looker, with the new Vaux­hall fam­ily ‘hawk eye’ head­lights and that dis­tinc­tive kink in its shoul­der line through the rear door. Form is fol­low­ing func­tion though, and the cur­va­ceous line’s real pur­pose is to give rear pas­sen­gers a bet­ter view out and an airier en­vi­ron­ment. The rear-hinged back doors are another fea­ture you no­tice when giv­ing the Meriva the vis­ual once-over. If they’re a com­pro­mise in fa­mil­iar­ity they al­low much eas­ier ac­cess to the rear seats and make mount­ing child seats – and se­cur­ing tod­dlers into them – so much eas­ier you wouldn’t be­lieve it un­less you tried it for your­self. They open to al­most 90 de­grees for prac­ti­cal­ity’s sake, and what’s more there’s a con­ve­nient grab han­dle on the back of the B-pil­lar. It’s not pretty but elderly par­ents will love it. Even the front doors open to 84 de­grees – way be­yond that of most other cars. If you can’t com­fort­ably get into the Meriva, you prob­a­bly can’t com­fort­ably get into any car, any­where. These are some of the Meriva sta­ples that sep­a­rate it from its ri­vals. What’s re­ally new about the 2014 model is the so-called ‘Whis­per Diesel’, a can­nily named 1.6-litre en­gine first seen in the Zafira Tourer. While diesels aren’t of­ten the best en­gines to choose for ur­ban mo­tor­ing be­cause they take longer to reach their op­er­at­ing tem­per­a­ture than petrols, this one’s charm is un­de­ni­able. It’s as quiet as a church mouse in a spon­sored si­lence and doesn’t get par­tic­u­larly vo­cal even when driven un­fairly hard. Vaux­hall makes other cars that are much more suited to high mo­tor­way mileages, and you’d prob­a­bly be best ad­vised to steer clear of the Meriva if your sched­ule in­cludes sig­nif­i­cant high-speed stints. It’s not that the car won’t do it; just that its ul­ti­mate re­fine­ment isn’t on a par with, say, the In­signia’s. By al­low­ing com­pro­mise in this way Vaux­hall has achieved ex­cel­lence in terms of prac­ti­cal­ity and func­tion­al­ity. You’d be hard-pressed to find a car with so many in­te­rior stor­age so­lu­tions or that was so won­der­fully easy to live with.

Price: From £22,355 on the road. En­gine: 1.6-litre tur­bocharged four-cylin­der diesel pro­duc­ing 134bhp and 236lb.ft. Trans­mis­sion: Six-speed man­ual gear­box driv­ing the front wheels. Per­for­mance: Top speed 122mph, 0-62mph in 9.9 sec­onds. Fuel econ­omy: 64.2mpg. CO2 rat­ing: 116g/km. IN A NUT­SHELL It makes sense, the Meriva. It’s not try­ing to sell it­self on any cu­ri­ous new tech­nol­ogy or try­ing overly hard to lure young buy­ers with the prom­ise of in-car Face­book at ev­ery traf­fic jam. It’s just a well thoughtout de­sign that’s per­fectly suited to its tar­get mar­ket. And that makes it pretty bril­liant.

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