- Published in Vehicle Development.
There has been a steady move to customers buying small, practical, more efficient cars, rather than larger, more expensive vehicles. But those customers still expect to be able to do everything they used to with a bigger car. Cramming the family in when the summer holiday comes around, having enough room for luggage and the children’s toys is a must.
That’s why OEMs have invested in developing versatile small cars to suit every situation. Since launching the first-generation Meriva in 2003, Opel has sold more than one million units. The mini-MPV offers room enough for a family but at a lower cost and with better efficiency than a big car.
Just because people are moving away from larger cars doesn’t mean they are willing to forgo comfort and quality. So, for the second-generation Meriva, Opel’s engineers had to work far harder to improve the vehicle’s interior quality, and its practicality.
Klaus Nuechter, the Meriva’s vehicle line executive, says: “The Meriva’s main markets are the UK and Germany, and the requirements in both countries are pretty similar. The car has to be tailored for young families and active old-timers, 50- to 60-year-olds.”
Compactness and flexibility were the features that previous customers had liked about the first-generation vehicle. Because of this, the vehicle retains the flexibility of the first generation that allows seats to be moved, so the vehicle can be a four- or five-seater.
But accessing the vehicle has changed completely. Unlike the previous generation and nearly every other car on the market, the new Meriva now has rear-hinged doors for backseat passengers.“
Regular doors only open to an angle of between 63° and 67° - we wanted to give customers more room. Our doors can open to an angle of 84°,” says Nuechter.
That solution wasn’t the first idea considered, and Nuechter and his team ran a number of customer clinics before they decided to use rear-hinged doors.Helmut Ruff, the Meriva’s chief engineer, says: “
We went through the development of all the alternatives including sliding doors, but in the end the rear-hinged door was the best solution.”