Opel/Vauxhall Meriva: Giant Jelly Bean Gets Suicide DoorsS

Opel and Vauxhall are trying to trick us into saying the just-revealed Opel Meriva is cool by giving it suicide doors. It won't work because it's still a giant jelly bean. But man does it have some cool doors.

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GM says the Europe-only Meriva's doors are different from those used on the Mazda RX-8 in that they open independently of the front doors (a rear seat passenger can get in or out without opening the front doors) and, unlike the Rolls-Royce Phantom, don't require the seat to be positioned behind the door. Speed-sensing locks remove the "suicide" from the equation once the Meriva starts to roll.


The Meriva is part of a fairly new class of tiny MPVs in Europe, it occupies the same footprint as subcompact cars like the Ford Fiesta or Opel Corsa, yet expands interior space with a tall roof that allows very upright seating. Practical, if not in the least bit exciting. Except for the doors.

FIRST MERIVA PICS OPEN DOORS TO CLASS-LEADING ACCESS & INNOVATION

* Unique-in-class FlexDoors offer unrivalled occupant access and convenience
* FlexRail and FlexSpace features bring new levels of cabin versatility to class
* Fuel consumption reduced by 15% vs current range; ecoFLEX version to be offered

Luton – These are the first official pictures of Vauxhall's new Meriva, which is set to turn the conventional concept of family-car usability on its head with a combination of clever, rear-hinged back doors which radically improve access/egress, and a raft of unique cabin features that boost interior versatility.

The new Meriva, which will be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March this year, is the first Vauxhall to feature FlexDoors, showcased in 2008's Meriva design concept.

FlexDoors are rear-hinged back doors which swing open towards the back of the car at an angle of nearly 90 degrees, vastly improving the ease with which occupants enter and leave the cabin. Rather than having to step back, or to one side, as one would using a normal front-hinged door, the FlexDoor allows unimpeded forward access/egress to and from the cabin, enhanced further by the Meriva's exceptionally high roof line.

For parents with children, there are further benefits. Due to the larger door opening and free space around the B-pillar, parents can lift small children forwards in to rear-mounted, second-stage child seats without having to contort themselves around a door. And with both the front and rear doors open (the fronts open at a similar angle to the rear FlexDoors) a ‘parent-friendly' zone is created with no door barrier between front and rear occupants.

Crucially, the FlexDoors can only be opened by occupants while the car is stationary, an automatic lock engaging as soon as the car pulls away.

While the concept of two rear-hinged back doors is not new in the motor industry, the Meriva's FlexDoor system is the first time it has been used on a family car in recent years. But unlike other rear-hinged door applications (Rolls Royce Phantom/Ghost and Mazda RX8), the Meriva benefits from front and rear doors that open independently, and does not require rear passengers to sit behind the door opening.

Class-leading in-cabin flexibility
Once inside the new Meriva, buyers benefit from two further groundbreaking innovations. The FlexRail adopts a completely fresh approach to the design of a car's centre console, and provides owners with a variety of modular storage and comfort solutions that fix on to an ingenious dual-rail base. The new Meriva's storage bin and cubby count has also increased, meaning that owners now benefit from one of the most practical cabins in class.

In addition, the current Meriva's much-praised FlexSpace system has evolved with even greater practicality. Now more intuitive to use, the new Meriva's FlexSpace allows easier fold-down of the rear seats, while moving the rear seats to create more boot, leg or shoulder room is simpler than ever.

The new Meriva's seat comfort has also advanced, with the adoption of front seat technology from the Insignia and Astra. Like these cars, the Meriva offers the biggest range of seat adjustment in class, extending to 240mm in length and 65mm in height.

New Meriva adopts design language from Insignia and new Astra
The current Meriva effectively created the compact monocab sector when it was launched in 2003, but since then Vauxhall's design language has evolved steadily, with big strides being made with the European Car of the Year-winning Insignia and more recently with the launch of the all-new Astra.

No surprise, then, that the new Meriva has adopted a more expressive and dynamic silhouette to its basic cab-forward monocab design. Like the Insignia and Astra, a ‘blade' features down the side of the body, complementing a window line with a distinct ‘wave' accentuating the FlexDoors, allowing panoramic views for rear passengers.

The design theme continues in the Meriva's cabin, with cues taken from the Insignia and Astra enhancing the perceived quality of the materials.

Advanced chassis and more efficient powertrains
With a longer wheelbase and wider front and rear tracks, buyers will see a marked improvement in the new Meriva's ride and handling qualities.

They'll also see a reduction in running costs, since the engine line-up – which features six turbocharged units and power outputs from 75 to 140PS – benefits from an average fuel consumption/CO2 reduction of 15 per cent, or -25g/km across the range. A high mpg/low CO2 ecoFLEX model will also be available.

More information will be available closer to the Meriva's debut at Geneva.