Vauxhall Meriva whisper generation diesel first drive

Vauxhall Meriva Vauxhall’s strengths in recent years have been their innovative car designs, such as the Meriva compact MPV but the downside to the brand has been their tardiness in introducing modern generation, smaller capacity quieter and cleaner engines.


That has changed in the last year with the introduction of their Euro 6 compliant 1.4T turbo petrol engine and now the 1.6-litre CDTi ‘Whisper’ turbodiesel. One of their ranges to receive both engines is the innovative Meriva MPV compact people carrier.

The first generation Meriva was launched in 2003 and 115,000 were sold in the UK. The second generation came along in 2010 and around 60,000 have been sold so far. This generation brought to the market its innovative FlexDoors system where rear hinged, rear side doors, open outwards from the B-pillar and allow a 20% larger and uncluttered opening for passengers. Inside there is also the FlexSpace rear seating system where each passenger has the choice of a variety of seating positions or the rear seats can be folded completely flat for maximum load carrying space. Vauxhall also offer their modular, adjustable three-tier storage FlexRail system for the centre console and for those owners wanting to carry bicycles there is the optional integrated Flex-Fix carrier which slides out of the rear bumper.

For 2014 the useful Meriva received a minor styling makeover in addition to the more important new engines. The styling highlight are a smarter design of front grille and new style headlights. LED daytime running lights and LED tail lights are available as options as are 18-inch wheels.

The Meriva’s petrol engine range is now fully Euro-6 compliant with 1.4-litre 100PS and 1.4T turbocharged 120 and 140PS units. The old ‘clattery’ diesel 1.7-litre CDTi Euro-5 unit remains in the range but not for long as it is replaced by a much quieter 1.6 CDTi ‘Whisper Diesel’ producing 136PS and 320Nm of torque from 2,000rpm. Officially this engine will return 64.2mpg in the Combined Cycle with 116g/km of CO2 emissions. This is a 10% improvement in fuel economy and emissions and much more than that in noise reduction despite it giving an additional 6PS of power and 20Nm of torque. It is also a shade faster with zero to 60mph taking 9.1 seconds, almost a second faster than the older 1.7 CDTi ‘rattler’. Top speed is 122mph.

Two versions of the Euro-5, 1.3-litre CDTi turbodiesel engine with 75 and 95PS power outputs also remain in the range – for now. All engines come with new low-friction transmissions with, depending on the engine, a choice of five or six speed manual or automatic gearboxes.

Vauxhall Meriva Vauxhall Meriva Vauxhall Meriva Prices range from £12.625 up to £22,360 depending on the choice of engine and which one of the six specification levels is chosen. These are Expression, S, the best selling Exclusive, Energy, Tech Line and SE.

Selling against the Ford B-Max, Nissan Note, Fiat 500L and Citroen C3 Picasso there is no shortage of these compact MPVs on our roads currently as they move from school-run mum’s car to carry-all holiday transport for families at this time of the year. It seems every other car on our roads at the moment is an MPV or SUV styled Crossovers and we know both these sectors as increasing their sales as demand for five door C-segment family hatchbacks and D-segment saloons falls. Having said that estate sales are growing so it seems we all want more space in our cars but with lower running costs.

It is acknowledged the Meriva is a smart car both in looks and its versatile people or load carry abilities. The FlexDoors system works well enough as long as you are not parked in a car park with side-by-side spaces because there is never enough room to fully open the side doors to gain maximum access. The system is better if the car park has family parking spaces. It is not the roomiest of small MPVs for three rear seats passengers of teenage or older years. Yes the individual seats that can slide to varying positions but legroom for gangly legged children or shoulder width for adults is not that generous. The fold-flat seats r though work well and are easily deployed but with the rear seats in place there is only 397-litres of boot space, not enough for a family going on holiday. Fold down all three rear seats and the load space goes up to a more acceptable 1,496-litres. The Meriva seems to be more suited to families with young children or couples of any age without children who want more carrying space for their sporting or recreational activities.

I have just had a spell of driving time in the 1.6 CDTi 136PS new ‘Whisper Diesel’ with Start/Stop and Exclusiv specification. The price for this version is £20,645 which I think is a bit steep for the kit you get. I know new engine technology costs more to buy and you save on running costs but the Exclusiv spec is a bit mean. This level only gets 16-inch steel wheels for instance and no model in the range has a spare wheel, the rear windows are manually operated and the important rear parking sensors are a £395 extra cost option.

Vauxhall Meriva Vauxhall Meriva What you do get includes lots of safety equipment, unfortunately an electronic parking brake, electrically operated/heated door mirrors, remote central locking, air conditioning, cruise control, reasonable sound system and the FlexRail storage system. My test car had the £855 extra costs sat-nav system, mobile phone system costing an extra £225 and 17-inch alloy wheels at an added £565. Vauxhall and their UK dealers are well known for their pricing offers so an actual lower transaction price is normally available over the published prices. It’s a buyer’s market so haggle!

The handling, ride comfort and the steering response are tuned for UK roads and generally all these areas are satisfactory rather than class-leading

But this road test is more about the new ‘Whisper Diesel’ engine. The Euro-6 compliant engine produces 136PS (134bhp) and 320Nm (236lb ft) of torque at 2,000rpm, a little high up the rpm range so you need to be in the right gear to get the best response from it. Officially this unit will return 64.2mpg in the Combined Cycle and my week long test drive covering all types of roads and traffic conditions resulted in a real-life figure of 45mpg. With 116g/km of CO2 emissions, VED road tax is £0 for the First Year rate and then £30 for Year Two onwards. Company car drivers will pay 19% Benefit-in-Kind tax.

Helping obtain good fuel economy the new aluminium engine uses Vauxhall’s ecoFLEX technology and a Start/Stop system comprising a reinforced starter motor and high performance battery with intelligent controls and sensor.

The nitrogen oxide reduction required by Euro 6 has been achieved through Lean NOx Trap (LNT). The system’s special LNT catalyst stores the nitrogen oxide. When the storage capacity is used up the engine management system automatically begins regeneration. The LNT system is maintenance-free and does not require an additional tank but longer runs are required at regular intervals for the regeneration ‘burn-off’ function to take place.

This ‘Whisper Diesel’ is smoother with fewer vibrations than the older 1.7-litre CDTi unit. In addition to the efficient combustion process, to lower the ‘clatter’ acoustic covers are fitted. There is a composite intake manifold encapsulated in an acoustic padding and an external plastic shield, the plastic cam cover and the scissor gears in the timing drive system all contribute to the improved refinement.

In reality Vauxhall has only caught up with new engine technology, the new engine doesn’t bring anything new to the market but at least it no longer lags behind the competition.
Likewise the Meriva itself has novel and possibly quirky passenger doors, it has a versatile and easy to use interior but it is not a major step forward in its market sector.

MILESTONES: Vauxhall Meriva Exclusiv 1.6 CDTi 136PS ecoFlex compact MPV. Price: £20,645. Engine/transmission: New technology 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder direct injection turbodiesel, 134bhp, 236lb ft of torque from 2,000rpm, 6-speed manual. Performance: 122mph, 0-62mph 9.9 seconds, 64.2mpg Combined Cycle ( 45mpg on test), CO2 116g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year rate then £30 Year Two rate onwards, BIK company car tax 19%. Insurance group: 17E. Warranty: 100,000 miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,300mm, W 1,812mm, H 1,615mm, boot/load space 397 to 1,496-litres. For: Improved quieter and more refined Euro-6 engine options, family friendly interior gadgetry, easy to live with. Against: Not over-generous specification for Exclusiv version, wide car park space needed to accommodate the wide opening doors, new diesel engine lacks torque response at low rpm.  Miles better news agency

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