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A FAMILY AFFAIR

BEFORE we get into this week's review, let's look forward to some of the other great cars that will be occupying these columns in the year ahead.

As expected, a huge volume of models will make their way to our mind's eye in the year ahead, and I have picked a small and select bunch that will whet the appetite.

My own knee-trembling moment of anticipation for the year ahead will be the release of the Land Rover Discovery Sport, a car that will replace the Freelander but look so much more stunning - go for the 2.2 litre burner.

Nissan's Infiniti badge will take on the luxury brands such as BMW and Audi in the hot premium division - a bold ambition, but one that will excite and attract in equal measure.

spectacular

The rise of the unconventional will see the return of the Honda HR-V after a 10- year absence, spawned by the success of the Nissan Juke and the Renault Captur - not everyone's cup of tea, but there are still a lot of fans out there.

The Kia Sorento has matured into one of the most pleasing SUVs on the road (or off road) in recent times, and that evolution continues with another beautiful model this year - it comes in any size you like as long as it's a 2.2-litre turbodiesel.

A spectacular highlight of 2015 is sure to be the release of the new Audi R8, a car that looks just about the best sporting luxury that money can buy. It's not known if there will be a general release in Ireland, but if there's not expect some serious importing to take place.

The Audi TT Roadster will make its mark in the year ahead, chief among the attractions being an S version - a Quattro TFSI 2.0 bazooka.

Staying in the area of the sports convertible will be the BMW M2, a car that promises so much and which you know right now will deliver so much - keep an eye out for the gut-busting 235i model.

Practicality wrapped up in a large dose of common sense, the Ford S-Max makes a welcome return this year, and this is sure to be a high point in the family carrier market.

Speaking of practicality, one of the most common sense yet interesting cars of the last year for me was the Opel Meriva - an MPV whose calling card was simply to have two doors facing the wrong way.

Yes, who could believe that something so simple could make such a difference, especially if you're in the business of carrying small but precious cargo.

Basically, the Meriva's rear doors are hinged at the back, enabling an almost full 90 degree opening allowing for access, easy reach for pesky seatbelts or just simple manoeuvrability in and out.

So that's the doors, but what about the rest of this utterly compelling medium-sized family car?

Well, it comes in a fairly meaty 1.6 CDTi version which travels well and handles perfectly on the road and which fairly packs a nice little punch on the motorway.

Another pleasing discovery with this car was the styling, and a very high roofline adds even more to the Meriva's considerable heft.

There are lots of extras for a few more euros, including ergonomic front sports seats, Light and Sight pack (collision alert and automatic brake), 18-inch alloys and Flexfix Integrated Bicycle Carrier which stows in the bumper.

All in, the perfect all-rounder.

The Opel Meriva begins at €18,995.

Looking pretty much indestructible and based on the tried and tested FIAT Panda 4X4, the new Panda Cross with all-wheel drive is on sale now priced at €22,745.


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