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
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.