Coach doors that open like those on a Rolls-Royce Phantom. They are really quite spectacular.
When each of the four open is balanced of their broader angle of 84 degrees, the car forms a form which resembles an object with wings in a film of science fiction. Or a ladybird in vol.
But they are the only spectacular aspect of the new Opel Meriva,
which remains a functional single- box five-seater like the Renault
Megane Scenic and Mercedes-Benz B-class.
Not that cars in this segment need to be spectacular. They are mostly anything but.
A brand like Opel, however, needs to be novel to be noticed. And coach doors, in that respect, do a great job.
No doubt, they are harder to execute. To be sure, much harder to do
than a large grille and daytime- running lights - two elements that
helped raise another German brand from the generalist pool not too long
But they are by far more useful than daytimerunning lights or a
large grille. Of course, that unique usefulness is somewhat diminished
if you are parked in a tight vertical space.
Otherwise, those Rolls-like doors facilitate a grand entrance, even
for people of grand proportions. The compact Meriva, measuring no more
than 4,300mm tip to tip, has an inordinately long wheelbase of 2,644mm.
That means inordinately lanky people are able to sit in the second row
without their knees touching their chins.
Equipped with a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine, the new Opel is
better equipped for ferrying its occupants with verve than its
predecessor, which was launched here nine years ago with a 1.6-litre
normally aspirated power plant.
Even so, it is unremarkable at the wheel, coming across largely like
a mini-MPV, with lots of body movement and a dull driving sensation
unmitigated by an artificially stiff steering.
The car goes from zero to a hundred in
11.9 seconds (from 14.3 previously) and on to a top speed of 185kmh
(181kmh previously). And it does so with an output of 120bhp,
qualifying it for Category A COE.
Which means the Opel dealer is able to price the car quite
competitively. At $109,800, the price tag is on a par with those of
smaller tall hatches such as the Honda Jazz and Nissan Note.
The Meriva offers more space than either car, but is substantially
heavier too. At 1,396kg, it is about 30 per cent heftier than the two
Japanese cars. This translates to higher fuel consumption.
In real-life, the Meriva uses 11.6 litres of fuel per 100km - 60 per cent more than its stated economy of 7.2 litres/100km.
The Opel dealership says Opel cars tend to become more efficient over time, after the engine is run in.
That may well be the case, but there is one thing about the car that
is unlikely to improve with time: its rather austere interior.
The cabin is dominated by hard, thin plastic panels, some with
rather sharp edges. In terms of fit and finish, it falls behind most of
the other cars mentioned here.
Its equipment list is a mixed bag of premium and rudimentary features.
You get cruise control but a manual air-conditioning system,
navigation but no keyless system, electronic parking brake but manual
Nevertheless, it is still a reasonable proposition in its price
segment. Furthermore, it has Opel's reputation for versatility and
It is said to be the only production car certified by independent assessors to promote healthy backs.
Its second row of seats can be folded flat. And it has up to 32
storage bins, including its FlexRail centre console that allows you to
configure the combination of stowage and arm support you want.
Pretty clever. But not as clever as those wideangled coach doors.