The Vauxhall Meriva range has grown to about 20 models based on four trim levels but including some specifically fitted with certain technologies and run from £17,000 to approximately £23,000.
There is a very wide choice of normal or turbo-charged petrol and diesel engines and depending on model they come with five or six speed manual gearboxes or automatic transmission.
Latest to join the line up is what Vauxhall call the “whispering diesel”, which is the model tested here, and it uses some clever technology to push out 136ps in a very smooth and refined manner.
It is at its best when cruising on main or motorways and then it really is surprisingly quiet and unstressed, as well as economical.
There is no hiding its diesel heart when starting or pulling away through the gears, but once into sixth the car’s character changes.
If you aim to keep the engine spinning at optimum revs for pulling power, the economy easily passes 40mpg, although we never got near the EU tested figure of over 64mpg. It is also low polluting so you benefit from very low tax charges if used for business.
The engine pulled reasonably well and with light steering, neat gearchage, clutch and brakes it was effortless in town, turned tightly and coped well with most surfaces, although you could hear the suspension working away underneath.
Meriva’s ride is slightly stiff and it did not like big holes or tarmac ridges but it handled safely enough and was unchallenging.
Inside the room is good for four, tight for five, and the boot space rises from 400 litres to 1500 litres with the seats folded. The rear doors are rear hinged and open to give extremely good access into the back and you have a lot of oddments room, especially if you order the £55 sliding central storage console.
Visibility was good to front and sides, a little restricted to the rear when reversing, with good wipers and lights for poor conditions.
The Exclusiv specification is good with multiple connections for sound systems and phone, radio and CD player but you have to pay £225 if you want to move in with wi-fi for your phone and a navi-system is over £800 as well, so it starts to mount quite quickly.
The Meriva remains cheaper than many rivals and lacks little in practical or space terms and now it has the whispering diesel it not only sounds a better buy, it earns its keep sooner and it’s less stressful to drive.
|Fast facts: Vauxhall Meriva Exclusive 1.6 CDTi £20,645, exc options|
|Insurance group: 17E||Mechanical: 4cyl 136ps 1.6 turbo-diesel, 6sp|
|Max speed: 122mph||0-62mph: 9.9sec|
|Combined mpg: 64.2mpg (42mpg on test)||CO2 emissions: 116gkm|
|BIK rating: 19%||Warranty: 100,000 miles|