Saturday 22 November 2014

Opel's sensible MPV can still pack a mean punch

When stealth costs are hitting drivers in pocket, the Meriva could be the antidote

Published 01/06/2014 | 02:30

Cost-efficient: Opel has put thought into reducing the on-the-road cost for drivers
Cost-efficient: Opel has put thought into reducing the on-the-road cost for drivers
Satisfying: the Meriva’s interior is stylish yet practical

It isn't popular to say it, but I'm convinced we would buy different cars and use them less if we really thought about the forgotten costs of running them. Those costs creep up on you. Like stealth taxes, they soak up a few euro here and there.

Parking, for example, can take €5 or €6 out of your pocket in the twinkling of an eye. It's frightening how costly it is in parts of Dublin.

Meet in town for a cup of coffee? You can double the bill because while you're sipping and chatting the meter is ticking relentlessly.

We never really think about it do we? I agree, life's too short to dwell lengthily on such matters, but cash is scarce. Another area where money slinks away like a hound stealing the sausages is in deprecation. The loss of value can be frightening.

Most cars lose 50pc of their value in the first three years. On a €30,000 motor that can come to €12,000-€15,000. Over three years you're looking at €100 a week depending on condition and mileage.

Some of the better regarded models might do a bit better but they are the exceptions. The point is, some people want a big car. Not need – want. It's their money and (for now) a free country, so let them off. But do most of us really need all those big motors I see on the school run? I couldn't help notice the number of children emerging from the innards of big, big cars/SUVs as mum hugged them (and a good few euro) goodbye.

It struck me as using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. What an awful waste of space, fuel and effort.

Put it this way, the difference could be €100 a week on depreciation alone (a €60,000 motor vs a €30,000 one). That's the equivalent of a nice pay rise.

Now, I don't think the latest incarnation of the Meriva, Opel's small people-carrier, is necessarily the answer or solution, but it makes a lot more sense than some of the more ostentatious modes of transport.

From the go, they have always given the cabin a lot of consideration. Seats can be juggled in myriad combinations so you get decent room for passengers and luggage. It is an all-round handy little number with rear room for three not-so-large people.

Just a warning; stick to the lower-priced versions. That shouldn't be hard to do because they have reduced, – yes, reduced – the starting price. The one I had on test came to serious money when extras were added, but you don't need most of them.

I thought, initially, that putting a 1.6-litre diesel in this was over-egging it, but size doesn't really matter in this case; the crucial decider is fuel consumption and road tax.

This 1.6-litre diesel belongs to a new generation of fuel sippers, and uses less than a gallon to cover 62miles/100km (Opel's claim). And road tax is €200 a year.

Its biggest attribute was its quietness and punch. I liked the way it beavered away there without any fuss.

I've always liked this little MPV; I think it manages to be lively to drive and practical at the same time.

Apart from seats folding so easily, there were several practical storage slots. You can also raise or lower the boot floor. Importantly, for a car likely to be used by families in busy areas, there was excellent visibility and it was easy to park.

The back-seat doors are rear-hinged so they open out and backwards as opposed to the conventional out and forwards. You'd be surprised how easy it made access to the rear seats.

And speaking of seats, I was delighted with mine; really solid lumbar and thigh support. Opel claims it is the only car in the world that has been certified by independent doctors and back health experts. Well done there.

The IntelliLink multimedia system allows you to stream music and make calls through Bluetooth and there were voice commands for navigation, phone calls and music tracks. It can even display texts.

And you may not even have to pay those horrible parking fees after all – if you play your cards right. My Meriva had a FlexFix integrated bicycle carrier system at the back. Apparently it's dead simple to work. So you have no excuse now. You can leave the car and head into town on your bike.

You can also have that extra cup of coffee – there's no meter ticking.

Spec of the Opel Meriva

* Opel Meriva, small MPV (people-carrier); 1.6CDTi diesel, start/stop (136bhp, 4.4l/100km, 116g/km, €200 road tax).

* Equipment: Biggest-selling trim (SC) has air conditioning, electric parking brake, cruise control, CD/MP3, radio with USB connection, aux-in socket, centre console system with aluminium rails and sliding tray/cup holder, several airbags, ISOFIX child-seat restraints and audio controls on the steering wheel.

* Equipment on test car included panoramic glass roof, front fogs and more.

* Prices from €18,995 (1.4-litre petrol); diesels from €19,995. 1.6-litre diesel SE – €21,995; tested version with extras, €29,105.

EMAIL: ECUNNINGHAM@INDEPENDENT.IE TWITTER: @ECUNNINGHAMCARS

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