ROAD TEST: Opel Meriva 1.4T Cosmo
It’s easy to make a large two-door coupe look sexy but when the designer is tasked with conceiving an MPV – which needs to be designed from the inside out to maximize interior space – the end result is often something resembling a box or a blob.
For years designers got away with churning out vans that were about as visually appealing as a retired politician in a g-string but many of the modern MPVs show that the times are changing and whips are cracking.
As the new Opel Meriva illustrates, a strong cocktail of flair can be added to what is essentially a boring brew of upright stance and stubby bonnet. In this case they’ve even gone as far as breaking the monotony of its side profile by adding a wave shape to the beltline. Either that or the designer’s pen slipped.
As a result of this, and other touches, the Meriva is rather interesting to look at, by MPV standards at least, and an aesthetic quantum leap above that jelly-moulded blob it replaces.
The Meriva has grown up in other respects too. This MPV is so much bigger that it’s hard to decide where it fits in. If we go by its dimensions, it’s much bigger than a Corsa, somewhat larger than its nearest perceived rival – the Citroën C3 Picasso – but still a bit smaller than a Renault Scenic.
To cope with its increased size, the Meriva is kitted with a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine, credited with 103kW between 4900 and 6000rpm and 200Nm of twist from 1850 to 4900rpm.
Under hard acceleration it never gives the impression of being fast, but it does have more than adequate wallop for a family vehicle. Just enough to get you around town in a hurry or to facilitate reasonably comfortable overtaking.
If there is one blemish, it does feel a touch laggy of the mark but I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s bogged down by turbo lag or that it would be a problem pulling into busy streets.
The Meriva supplies an effortless drive in every other respect, although nothing about the driving experience really stands out. The ride is sufficiently supple, the driving controls operate smoothly and the steering feels accurate and well-weighted – not too light or too heavy.
TAKE A STRETCH
Yet the real make-or-break for an MPV is its interior and this Meriva has it taped in just about every way. From behind the wheel you’ll appreciate the smart appearance of the dash, which is clad in good-quality materials, while the kids will enjoy the ample stretching space in the back. Rear leg-room is on par with the best of Golf/Focus-sized hatchbacks.
Given that this is an MPV, however, it would have been nice if they’d added a recline function to the back seats, although there are plenty of other flexible tricks.
The cabin does have a few other novelties, like its weird rear-hinged back doors that open at a wider angle than conventional doors (84 degrees). The flagship Cosmo model I had on test also boasts a massive panoramic sunroof and a ‘flex rail’ sliding centre console that can serve as an armrest or slide backwards to reveal a gigantic storage compartment.
The Cosmo costs a hefty R254 000, but if you’re willing to give up those aforementioned features, the ‘Enjoy’ model can be yours for R234 000.
The Meriva has grown up considerably in its latest guise and this is reflected in the pricing. If you’re scouring that price range for a mommy-mobile with some visual flair and decent performance, the new Meriva is certainly worth a look-in.