The ingenious interior in Vauxhall's Meriva sets wide new standards of versatility.
When it goes on sale late next spring its innovation and freshness of thinking will guarantee the model will equal the huge success of its larger Zafira stablemate.
Vauxhall expects sales of 10,000 up to the end of 2003, with up to 20,000 in its first full year.
Meriva is a classic example of the new thinking by Vauxhall designers.
Cars no longer need to be saloon, hatchback or estate. They can be all things to all people, and Meriva is a pioneer in the Vauxhall vision of 40 per cent of the market being taken up by niche models within five years.
Meriva is ideally suited for young family motoring, yet is sufficiently different – and stylish – to appeal across the entire age spectrum.
It is compact because you don't need a monster 4x4 off-roader for the school run. It is compact, too, for easy parking and manoeuvring around town. It is tall to make getting in and out easier, particularly with young children.
In a similar way to Zafira, Meriva's innovative FlexSpace concept allows occupants to arrange the rear seats and load area to suit their own needs.
It can be transformed in a matter of seconds from a five-seater to a single seater with acres of loadspace - and like its larger brother, the seats stay in the car. Indeed Meriva is big enough to swallow a surfboard!
The rear seat system is its outstanding feature. There are three seats in the regular configuration, but the middle seat can be folded away.
The car is then an exceptionally spacious four-seater with legroom and shoulder width equal to that of many midsize cars.
For more storage space, the outer seats can be pushed forward either separately or together – or lowered completely into the floor. With all the seats occupied, the 490 litre load area is larger than a conventional car. Transforming it into a two-seater is simple, and results in a load area almost 1.70 metres long with a capacity of more than 1300 litres.
The key to its versatility is Meriva’s long wheelbase that almost matches that of Zafira.
Brilliant internal space dimensions are helped because of the short body overhangs, the slim, curved roof posts and the sloping curve of the roof. Extra front windows give an extra feeling of brightness and space.
Rear legroom is only a shade less than in the Zafira, and headroom is actually an inch more.
The outer seats can be slid inwards by 2.9 in and then backwards by 2.7 in where they pass inside the wheel arches. They can also move forward individually by 5.1 inches.
As well as providing ample space for holiday baggage or weekend shopping, Meriva has many practical storage spaces for smaller items. For example a compartment on the dashboard for storing cassettes, CDs or phone can replace the ashtray.
The front doors have storage bins with can holders, and there is storage between the front seats and the doors.
A rear option is a fold-away table mounted to the back of the front seats, with integral cup holders plus nets for items like newspapers.
Comfort For The Rear Row
The Travel Assistant – a multifunctional armrest that can be attached to the back of the centre seat after it has been folded – is another option. Travel Assistant consists of a tray surface, two extending cup holders and a five-litre-plus storage box.
In the load area there are seat-back bag hooks, hooks for attaching a load retaining net and two side compartments with nets for even more storage.
Rear passengers can enjoy separate audio. Together with the CDR 2005 stereo CD radio, a rear-seat audio system can be ordered with two headphones and a module in the centre rear console with controls for programming and volume adjustment, with headset sockets.
Meriva's versatility is evident throughout the entire model programme, with several packages - function or luxury-oriented - available to build on the already extensively equipped entry-level version.
Engine choices are 1.6 litre to 1.8 litre petrol and a 1.7 litre diesel.
Optional extras include xenon headlamps, manual or automatic air conditioning, leather upholstery and alloy wheels. There are electrically operated sunroofs, the front is slide/tilt, the rear one tilt only.
Prices will be announced closer to launch.
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