Wednesday, 28 March 2012


We don’t get to hear from Opel as often as we’d like, so when we got the news that they’d be launching both a new Meriva and the latest teasing from the awesome Astra stable, we were there with our driving gloves on. 

The new MPV Meriva enters the market somewhere between the B and C classes. No idea what the need for nog a class of cars is, but there you have it. Place it somewhere in your minds between the new A-Class Merc and the nicely spacious Chevy Orlando then.

Opel are pushing a new design language through in the Meriva, trying to sport up the MPV segment a bit by stealing some cues from the little cousin Astra GTC. Look specifically for the blade motif in the body sides, “sculptural artistry meets German precision” as they call it.

The big talking point of the Meriva is the inclusion of the “suicide doors” which Opel insist we don’t name such, but rather “Flex doors”. Whatever you call it, the front and back doors open opposite each other and either side of the B-pillar to allow for more access to the children in the back by the mom in the front. Makes some sense, especially when you factor in that both doors can open independently (unlike in the FJ Cruiser for example) and to 90 degrees.

No worries either about the kiddies opening them during the drive, all doors are electronically locked at speeds over 4km/h. They unlock when stationary or in the event of a crash.

FlexSpace is another philosophy employed in the Meriva, allowing the backseats to be quickly and easily transformed to a five, four, three, or two seat configuration. Space in the back is very generous and the “Flex doors” give the car the impression that it is longer than it actually is.

A FlexRail slidable centre console found in the front of the car between the two seats increases space and storage for the front occupants. Beware that you’re actually putting your cell phone into the actual console and not letting it sit between the actual rails while the console is pushed back. We misplaced our Blackberry for most of the drive thanks to this.

With so many options for consumers in the MPV segment, one wonders what the difference between most of them is. The Meriva is facing this issue with a pretty decent 1.4 turbocharged petrol engine that doesn’t detract from the comfort and space the car offers. Throw into the equation the viral talkability that the suicide doors is going to create amongst impressionable soccer moms who are more concerned with one-upping the Jones’ than with being on time to fetch the kids, and we think Opel is on to a winner with the Meriva.

The great news from Opel got better later in the day, the new Astra GTC with whisperings of the new OPC coming out in a few months’ time.

But for now we would have to content ourselves with the two models available in the GTC. Poor us.

It seems that the folk at Opel are obsessed with blurting out, off the bat, who their cars are going to compete with. Not a problem if you’re realistic, but when the first thing out of the presenter’s mouth at the media briefing is “Scirocco”, every journo within a 100km radius (even the fashion editors) started salivating. Could this GTC really match the excitement and performance of the VW hatch? Hopefully not the ride though.

The smaller and less powerful Astra 1.4T at 103kW and 200Nm isn’t what we would call exciting, but you do have the 1.6T Sport to opt for if you need something quicker. Neither of these derivatives is a Scirocco beater, and that became very clear, very fast.

But there’s nothing wrong with that, perhaps he just got his notes wrong. Both of these cars are still very comfortable drives and have a bit of speed in them. Standard is a 15 millimetre lowered sports chassis, exclusive HiPerStrut front suspension, and advanced rear suspension with Watt’s link. It’s sporty down below.

The standard electronic driver aid package includes ABS brakes, ESP and traction control and electronic braking. This is all supposed to assist a driver in recovering from marginal grip or lost grip situations. Problem was, we didn’t really feel much of this at the disappointing acceleration offered in both models.

We’re not griping, we’re just being realistic about these cars. There’s no way Opel could blow us away with the GTC, while knowing that in a few months we’ll be expecting much more from the OPC. Now when that happens, Scirocco can sit up and take notes.

So this car isn’t a hot hatch or quick between the lights, but for your money you get into the most popular product in the Opel range, which looks phenomenal and is far from sluggish. It’s just not anything that the Scirocco is..yet!

Opel Meriva Pricing
Meriva 1.4T Enjoy (R234 000)
Meriva 1.4T Cosmo (R254 000)

Opel Astra GTC Model Pricing
Astra GTC 1.4T Enjoy (R287 000)      
Astra GTC 1.6T Sport (R304 000)



Corlette Singh said...

I've been waiting for the new Meriva for so long and now I can't wait to drive it. I'm in the market for a small Mpv and this could be it for me. Thanks for the informative article too.

Anonymous said...

The little Meriva sounds like that old train that could. I'd sure be interested in taking a closer look at it.

Greg Thomas said...

can we see them on the road first?