We drive Opel's 'flexible' Meriva

By Jesse Adams Time of article published Mar 22, 2012

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Opel launched its new Meriva in South Africa this week with a unique calling card that will have kids and other passengers fighting over the back seats.

More common to far-fetched concept vehicles twirling around on motor show podiums, the rearward swinging “suicide” doors have become a reality in this new small MPV.

Opel, which understandably ignores the word suicide in its press literature, instead calls its clever new trick “FlexDoors”, and besides being a catchy gimmick, they genuinely ease access to the rear seats.

Both front and rear doors swing wide to almost 90 degrees, which, parking-spot space permitting, makes it very easy to climb in and out of the vehicle, or to mount baby seats. And, unlike similar systems in vehicles like Toyota’s FJ and various extra-cab bakkies, the Meriva’s back doors open independently of the front ones because there’s a B-pillar in its structure.

CHANGING ROOM?

Whether FlexDoors are more convenient than conventional minivan sliding doors is an argument we won’t get into here, but some other more family-oriented member of press at the media launch liked the idea of a concealed “changing room” that this system creates when both side doors are opened.

I admit, they could be very useful when nature calls on those more public stretches of road.

The rear seats themselves are also cleverly designed with Opel’s FlexSpace system that offers not only forward and back sliding adjustment, but can also be slid left and right (if the middle fifth seat’s not needed) to increase shoulder space.

Yet another Flex system, this time a FlexRail, which is suspiciously similar to that in the Mini Countryman, allows interchangeable storage binnacles, and a fore and aft adjustment of the centre console between the front seats.

“No less than 32 storage compartments”

Opel says the Meriva’s equipped with no less than 32 storage compartments, although I couldn’t count anywhere near this many during my test drive. There was plenty of space for the usual cell phones, wallets and drinks in numerous hidey holes though.

Size-wise the Meriva’s deceptively small for a family vehicle, probably most similar in size to Renault’s Scenic or Citroën’s C4 Picasso, but also comparable to Toyota’s Verso and the Mazda5 despite their extra third-row seating.

TURBO POWER

Opel’s kept the model range nice and simple with only one engine and gearbox combination and just two spec levels, Enjoy and Cosmo. Power comes from a 103kW and 200Nm 1.4-litre turbo petrol, that’s more than adequately smooth and responsive for the small MPV segment. A six-speed manual transmission is the only drive option.

Opel quotes a 0-100km/h time of 10.3 seconds, a top speed of 196km/h, and an average fuel consumption of 6.7l/100km.

Lower Enjoy specification is well equipped with standard trip computer, steering controls, cruise control, six airbags, a seven-speaker audio system with USB and aux inputs, park assist, and air conditioning for R234 000.

The flagship Cosmo spec adds a panoramic glass roof, rain-sensing wipers, leather steering wheel, automatic climate control, auto headlights, 17” wheels, and chrome trimmings for R254 000. Included in the prices is a 5-year/120 000km warranty, and a 5-year/90 000km Service Plan. -Star Motoring

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