A new engine qualifies Opel for entry into Cat A with the latest Meriva
Opel sesame The quality of materials used in the cabin has improved . . . With its good space and features, the Opel Meriva should be able to give the Japanese mass market models a run for their money.

OPEL may have taken some time to get back into COE Category A but it is doing so with what looks like a winner - the Meriva. This five-door "monocab" or one-box hatchback stands out for its trademark rear-hinged back doors and has not been introduced here since it was unveiled five years ago. But now that it has received a facelift as well as a new petrol engine, the time seems right for authorised distributor Auto Germany to offer it.

Cat A was recategorised in February 2014, when cars below 1,600 cc were also required to have an engine output limit of 130 hp. With this additional criterion, Opel was shut out of the small car category because its usual 1.4-litre turbocharged engines produce 140 hp.

But this latest 1,364cc unit delivers just 120 hp, thus allowing Opel to slot neatly back into Cat A with this second-generation Meriva. The Meriva is a compact MPV with a roomy interior for five occupants. But with its high sitting position, Auto Germany considers it a crossover van which can take on small Japanese hatchbacks and SUVs. The Meriva's makeover has given it a new face with redesigned headlamps and the latest Opel front grille. The rear lamps are also new and both these and the daytime running lights are LED.

What is unchanged is the FlexDoor system with its convenient rear coach doors for easy access to the back seat. In fact, ingress and egress is good for those in front too as all four doors open wide at almost 90 degrees to the car body. And the seats are comfortable not only because they are ergonomic but also because of their high hip point.

There is good headroom in the 1.62-metre tall Meriva and with its 2,644 mm wheelbase, excellent rear legroom too. For the driver, there is a seven-inch touchscreen with GPS navigation as well as telephony function and audio streaming. But the most impressive aspect of the Opel Meriva has to be its refinement and driveability. By Opel standards, the quality of materials used in the cabin has improved, with textured surfaces that soften the look of the hard plastic and smoother edges and corners that feel nicer to touch.

The four-cylinder engine which drives the front wheels through the familiar six-speed conventional automatic transmission is surprisingly peppy despite being just a 1.4-litre unit. It powers the 1,400 kg Meriva enthusiastically, with good low-end torque of 200 Newton-metres so that the little Opel keeps up with traffic easily.

Seated relatively high with good forward visibility, the Meriva also handles competently. The suspension may be slightly soft for better ride comfort but body control is good and together with the well-weighted and accurate steering, this German minivan delivers a reassuringly stable drive. With its good space and features, the Opel Meriva should be able to give the Japanese mass market models a run for their money.

CAR INFORMATION

Opel Meriva 1.4 Turbo (A)

Price

:$114,888

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line 16-valve ECOTEC Turbocharger

Engine Cap

:

1,364 cc

Horsepower

:

118 bhp / 6,000 rpm

Torque

:

200 Nm / 4,200 rpm

Transmission

:

6-speed (A)

Acceleration

:

11.9 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

185 km/h