In the continuing battle between style, practicality, economy, affordability and performance few cars seem to hold their heads high on all counts.
Many of the higher-end marques have found their way on styling, performance and economy, but the initial outlay can often mar what would otherwise be classed as a perfect marriage of all features. There are also many inexpensive models on the market nowadays which offer economy in the extreme and low initial cost, but the obvious compromise has to be in comfort, performance and style.
Is there a car out there that takes a spoonful of each, mixes them together and allows them to rise into a really good, affordable, stylish and practical family car? After spending a few days with Vauxhall's newest Meriva, I really think there might be.
Strange one this. The Vauxhall Meriva didn't really impress me in any particular way at first, except perhaps its amazing frugality fuel-wise. After a few days and almost 200 miles of driving the fuel gauge on this diesel ecoflex car had hardly moved, so I can only assume the overall range on a full tank must be phenomenal. It isn't by any stretch of the imagination a performance car, although ride and handling are more than adequate for the most demanding of 'normal family drivers'. Although in my opinion it is significantly more attractive than its predecessor, it still doesn't turn heads when driven up the high street. It's not an estate, but it does have a very big luggage area for its overall size.
All the above taken into account you must be thinking I hated this car. This isn't the case though. Despite the fact that nothing in particular puts it head and shoulders above any other family cars out there, the Meriva is a really good, well-built, solid, well-appointed work horse of a car which offers everything the family motorist could want in equal measure. The unique rear-hinged rear doors make access to the back seats so easy, especially if you have a couple of young children to get into and out of infant seats. Isofix mounts come as standard on the two side rear seats too. The cabin is high and visibility is excellent all-round, making parking and manoeuvring extremely easy. Cruising on the motorways at 70 was effortless, with the cruise control doing all the work of keeping things smooth.
I actually really got to like it after a while. It took a few days, but by that time, all the Meriva's redeeming features shone through and I handed it back confident that few would be disappointed by this family car which packs just about everything into one neat and presentable package. First impressions sometimes count, but in my experience with the Vauxhall Meriva, you really have to let it grow on you. I'm sure you won't be disappointed.