News of the week:
· Renault launches the all-new Sandero in SA.
· The all-new Renault Sandero puts a fresh and innovative spin on the South African affordable car market.
· Fresh and refined styling with the adoption of Renault’s new design identity.
· Fitted with the 66kW Turbo petrol engine shared with New Clio and boasts an impressive fuel consumption of 5.2-litres/100km (combined).
· Standard super-smart technologies include Bluetooth connectivity, multi-function fingertip radio controls, ECO mode, etc.
· Priced from R134 000 for the Expression model through to R142 00 for the Dynamique model. Includes a 2-year/ 30 000km service plan.
Opel Meriva –MUM’S TAXI WITH MIGHT
MPVs might not be the most desirable cars in the world, but the Opel Meriva is tad different – it has something in common with the Rolls Royce Phantom – its clever doors.
The front doors open to 90 degrees while the rear doors are hinged at the rear. The advantage is that it’s really easy to mount a child seat and also strap a kid into place. And, it’s even more versatile if you have an older passenger who needs to get in-and-out with ease. There’s even a grab handle for them to hold on to!
However, it’s not only the clever doors that set the Meriva apart from its competitors. It’s the overall package which you don’t necessarily get with competitor models. Rather, the Meriva illustrates that flair and functionality can coexist.
Boring can become funky
At first glance, the Meriva appears to be a standard MPV, but if you look closely, you’ll see that there’s more that meets the eye. The Meriva takes styling cues from its siblings, the Astra and Insignia (not sold locally). It looks good from all angles, especially with daytime running lights, framed side mirrors, and sporty 16” alloys.
Airy interior with loads of stowage space
The interior is beautiful with a sweeping dashboard, chrome dials, an extensive array of easy-to-use switches and sports plenty of creature comforts. It comprises of plenty quality bits-and-pieces and it’s a significant upgrade over competitor models such as the Citroen C4 Picasso.
Interior space is generous. It’s airy at the front and the seats are very comfortable. There’s some decent practicality because the steering can be adjusted for both height and reach, the driver’s seat can be adjusted in various positions, while the door pockets are large enough to stow large bottles, and a host of other items.
There are storage compartments under the front seats, which makes it easy to stow away CDs, or make-up…in the case of female drivers. It also has a ‘flex rail’ sliding centre console that can serve as an armrest or slide backwards to reveal a gigantic storage compartment.
Rear leg room is on par with most hatchbacks. When I reported on the Meriva on eBizRadio, I mentioned that the rear seats have the ability to recline, which isn’t entirely true. Rather, the rear seats have the ability to slide forward, thus creating more boot space, or sliding backwards to create more leg room.
And, if there are only two people at the back, you can fold down the middle seat, and then slide the seats on either side inwards, to give you more shoulder space. And if you want to carry a load, the rear seats fold away with ease.
It’s loaded with standard equipment. These include daytime running lights, radio/CD with MP3 compatibility, USB, Bluetooth connectivity, Rain Sensor wipers, auto headlights, and fold trays behind the front seats, among others.
An electronic parking brake means there is more room for storage as well. However, I must add, that I am no fan of the electronic parking brake. I expected the parking brake to automatically activate once I switched the vehicle off. Alas, it doesn’t, which resulted in me keeping the car in gear just to make sure that it didn’t roll
Efficient engine with a punch
Locally, the Meriva is only available with a turbocharged 1.4L ECOTEC petrol engine, the same unit fitted to the Opel Astra. It’s pretty decent with its 103kW and 200Nm and pulls along effortlessly.
Opel has always been very good with numbers on paper but in terms of true performance, they’ve played second to the Golf of late. The engine, featuring variable valve timing (VVT), is pitted against Golf’s TSI derivative found in the VW Tiguan.
The 1.4 Turbo doesn’t have the lowdown torquey grunt as the TSI engine, but it’s smooth and will quite easily get to decent driving speeds. It had a bit of lag but you quickly get use to dialing it to the appropriate revs to get it going in the quickest possible time.
The Meriva is claimed to accelerate from 0-100kph in 10.3 seconds and a top whack of 196kph. Our test unit was equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox which was positioned nice and high, so it’s always close to hand.
And it’s quite efficient – Opel claims combined fuel consumption of 6.7-litres per 100km. During my week behind the wheel of the Meriva, I achieved an average consumption of around 7.4-litres per 100km. In normal day-to-day driving, I could manage well over 700km before needing to refuel the 54-litre tank.
On the open road, however, the average consumption drops below 6.0-litres per 100km…that’s if you keep the cruise control set at 120kph.
What’s it like on the road?
The steering wheel is nicely weighted, it’s light and accurate and there’s plenty visibility through the massive windscreen and side windows. The Meriva’s suspension feels quite firm which adds a sporty touch, but the overall ride is nice, comfortable, and a tad luxurious.
Two complaints, however, do come to mind. On the highway, there is a lot of wind and tar noise. I also battled to find a good driving position and often had to pull the seat far forward to be able to reach the clutch pedal. I believe that Opel should consider adding an electric driver’s seat in future models.
Safety above all
The Opel Meriva comes with plenty of safety aids. These include ABS brakes with EBD, airbags for the driver and passenger and a roof airbag, and ESP. The Meriva also features a PRS system, which automatically releases the pedals in a major crash situation.
The Meriva can be yours for R254 000, representing really good value for money in its segment. The price includes a 5-year/90 000km Service Plan.
If you’re scouring that price range for a mommy-mobile with some visual flair and decent performance, the Meriva is certainly worth a look-in.
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