Vauxhall - Meriva
Having a dour looking predecessor is always going to help a new car's looks, but the latest Meriva is quite pleasing on the eye. It doesn't look like a spacious little people carrier, with the kinks along the window line and under the headlights helping to break what could otherwise be a very square design.
For an MPV the Meriva handles nicely, even if it's never likely to set your heart alight. The gearchange feels solid and responsive, and the steering is nicely weighted - it's easy to manoeuvre around town and stable at motorway speeds.
The seats and ride are both comfortable in the Meriva - firm enough to be supportive but not so firm as to be jolting. The suspension tackles urban speed bumps admirably and there is a minimal amount of bodyroll for a relatively high vehicle.
Sadly the test car we had was rattling a lot; not good for a car that is only a matter of months old. The clever, sliding central console would be more useful if it was mounted more firmly and didn't feel like it would unclip off its mountings at times.
The turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol with its 118bhp is perfectly adequate at carrying the Meriva around, despite its small capacity. Don't expect it to be blisteringly quick though. 0-62mph times are fairly pedestrian at around 11.5 seconds for this expected bestseller, and none of the engines complete the sprint in under 10 seconds.
Plenty of cubbyholes mean this is a practical car to transport kids in along with their various junk. Sadly the boot is a little smaller than both the outgoing model and the car's rivals. Back seat space is good and the access is helped by the wide-opening and rear-hinged doors.
Mpg figures in the mid forties are decent for the petrol engines, while the diesels claim to be capable of figures in the high fifties. Vauxhalls don't enjoy the best values when it comes to reselling a few years down the line though.
Plenty of kit is on offer for the Meriva, and modern equipment such as an electronic parking brake is available as standard on all levels. Sadly not too much is included at the bottom of the range and you have to pay for desirable additions such as Bluetooth and sat nav.
The stereo offers a clear sound, and the radio reception is good, even on some stations that are normally trickier to pick up. Sat nav is not included as standard on any models though, so is only available as a pricey option.