Broadly based on the Corsa, the mini-MPV Vauxhall Meriva was first launched in 2003. With little competition at the time other than the more conventional Ford Fusion the Meriva gained instant popularity. There were four petrol engines and a diesel at launch and four trim levels.
A facelift in 2006 made some minor cosmetic changes and added a couple more engines. A completely new Vauxhall Meriva launched in 2010 with rear hinged back doors for easier access, 1.4 petrol and 1.3 and 1.7-litre diesels with a variety of turbo options. These cars have a classier cabin too and feel a cut above the older models.
Bang for your buck
Early used Vauxhall Meriva cars for sale come with a choice of 1.6 (in 8v and 16v forms) and 1.8-litre petrol engines and a 1.7-litre CDTi diesel. Trim levels were the oddly named Expression, Life, Enjoy and Design.
The 2006 changes introduced a new Twinport 1.6 petrol and a 1.3 diesel. In the same year a sporty VXR model was added to the range powered by a 1.6-litre turbo delivering 180bhp.
The used Vauxhall Meriva is basically a five door, five seat hatchback but thanks to its clever FlexSpace system you can fold the centre rear seat to leave the passengers either side more room. There are airline-style tray tables on the front seat backs. It's also possible to fold all the passenger seats flat to leave a whopping 1,300 litres of load space.
Twin electric sunroofs add an airy feel to the interior on more expensive models. There's a clever Twin Audio feature too that allows rear passengers to use headphones to listen independently to the radio or a CD.
Although the new Merivas from 2010 have smaller 1.4 petrol engines a range of turbo options mean they deliver better performance an economy.
What you'll pay
Early 03 and 04 second hand Vauxhall Meriva cars for sale should now be below the £2,000 mark, face lifted 06 models should be around £4,000. The newest old shape cars on 59 plates are now scraping below the £5,000 barrier. Expect to pay a premium of £300-£400 for diesels.
New shape post 2010 models start at around £7,000 for a 60 plate 1.4 petrol. There are plenty of Merivas on the market so you should be able to negotiate a decent deal
What to check
Most of the Meriva's mechanicals are based on the Corsa and there are few major problems. Early diesels suffered power steering belt failures so if you're looking at a pre 2005 car check that it's been replaced. These cars are popular with families so check for broken interior fittings, scratched plastic trim and torn or stained upholstery.
Post 2010 cars don't have a spare wheel as standard – you had to pay extra for one when new so it's worth checking for.
Once again the car's Corsa ancestry helps it out as parts are plentiful and reasonably priced. A new clutch will cost you about £110 and a full exhaust £350. An alternator should be £125 or so with a starter motor at about £100. A tail lamp assembly is about £65 and a headlamp unit around £90.
How it drives
Most cars will have the 1.6 petrol engine. It's better to go for a 16v version if you can, not only are these quicker (12.9 seconds 0-60 as opposed to low 14s for the 8v) they'll give you better MPG too (around 37.6 as opposed to 36).
The 1.8 is comfortably the quickest, it's no road burner but it will do 0-60 in 10.9 seconds and go on to a top speed of 118 (8 seconds and 138 for the sportier VXR version). The 1.7 diesel will get you to 60 in 13.4 seconds but the other side of the coin is that it's more flexible with better pulling power and it will return close to 50mpg.
Handling is tidy, thanks again to those Corsa roots and the car is pleasant and easy to drive around town with good visibility. Post 2010 models have a longer wheelbase and wider track so they feel more planted on the road and have a revised power steering setup for better feel.
Vauxhall launched the right car at the right time with the Meriva so there are plenty to choose from and you can afford to be picky about colours and specs. Go for a 1.6 16v petrol or 1.7 CDTi diesel for the best combination of performance and economy.