Much, much more in this Meriva
You may think that attending car launches is a breeze - you just jump into a plane and off you go.
Many don't realise these launches often take months of planning and research, and the slightest flaw can spoil an event.
The media from all over South Africa need to get to - and away from - a venue at more or less the same time, and choosing the right roads and conditions is essential.
General Motors SA had it all covered for the launch of the Opel Meriva and Astra GTC in the Free State last week - except for the appalling service dished up by SA Express (it's anything but express).
Flights cancelled without warning, planes hours late ... were it not for the sterling work by GM's public relations department in rescuing the situation, the event could have turned out differently.
SA Express should send its team to GM to see how to keep clients happy.
And happy we were, after driving the new Opel Meriva. Call it a mom's taxi that even dad will enjoy driving.
It brought a smile to many faces and its greater flexibility is a huge step up from the previous model.
What is it?
A people carrier first and foremost, the new bigger Meriva comes to South Africa fitted with Opel's advanced technology 1.4 litre turbocharged petrol engine. It is available in two trim levels - the Cosmo and the Enjoy, both with the same engine.
The wheelbase has been extended by 15mm, while the front and rear tracks are increased by 39mm and 45mm respectively. This increased footprint results in very good stabi-lity and improved roadholding.
Both the front and rear axles are derived from the Zafira, which brings the new small MPV from Opel closer to the standards of larger vehicles.
How does it look?
Modern and stylish. The profile of the new Meriva is distinguished by the wave belt-line, a feature that provides a hint of the practicality of the rear FlexDoors.
A low rear window line provides excellent visibility, especially for rear seat occupants.
From the front, the Meriva has an unmistakably bold Opel identity. The distinctive grille, with its prominent Opel badge, is flanked by large "eagle eye" headlamps.
The rear's pretty neat too.
What's it like to drive?
Exciting for an MPV with only a small 1.4 engine.
But this small engine is turbocharged and provides for peppy performance and pulling power through the six-speed manual gearbox.
The vehicle is comfortable and handles well on the road and in urban conditions.
Any special features?
Loads of them, particularly the three "Flexis". The FlexDoors system is based on a rear hinge design.
The front doors open as wide as 84°, much wider than the average 67° angle found on most conventional door layouts.
The front and rear doors open from the centre B pillar and form a cocoon of safety between the two open doors. The system is particularly convenient for parents of young children, because access to the child seats is far less restricted than with conventional door layouts. The FlexSpace seating allows for the seats to be configured in many ways.
The revolutionary FlexRail console system consists of interchangeable storage units that slide on aluminium rails located between the front seats.
This feature also doubles as a comfortable sliding armrest. A very good, practical feature.
Should you buy one?
Oh yes. If you are looking for a moderately-priced people carrier that doubles up as the family's first vehicle, it would be a hard to find something better at the price.
Meriva Cosmo and Enjoy
Engine: 1400cc turbocharged
Power: 103kW at 4900 to 6000rpm
Torque: 200Nm at 1850-4900rpm; 0-100km/h: 10.3 seconds
Top Speed: 196km/h
Fuel consumption: 6.7/100km (claimed/ combined)
Prices: Enjoy R234000; Cosmo R254000
The looks and the space. Enough for the family.
We don't like:
That's difficult. Can't think of anything that rubs me up the wrong way.