While rear-hinged back doors are not new in the motor industry (Rolls Royce Phantom/Ghost and Mazda RX8), the first pictures of the GM/Opel/Vauxhall Meriva have surfaced and the FlexDoors and FlexSpace features seen in concept cars over the last few years are finally set for market launch in a family car (main pic and top right). First seen in the groundbreaking Flexstreme Concept Car from IAA Frankfurt 2007 (bottom right pic), then further refined with the Meriva Concept at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show (centre right pic), the flex theme combines improved access/egress and a suite of features offering a quickly reconfigurable interior and is likely to be welcomed by families which need to cater for several types of mobility with one vehicle.
(main pic and top right). First seen in the groundbreaking Flexstreme Concept Car from IAA Frankfurt 2007 (bottom right pic), then further refined with the Meriva Concept at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show (centre right pic), the flex theme combines improved access/egress and a suite of features offering a quickly reconfigurable interior and is likely to be welcomed by families which need to cater for several types of mobility with one vehicle.
The Flextreme Concept Car premiered in 2007 at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt. The car was a landmark study in many ways, having contributed to the new meriva, but also in having an enclosed secondary "last few miles" transport option in the form of his and hers Segways in their own compartments. We also like the twin rear hatch doors.
The new Meriva will be shown for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show in March this year, and unlike other rear-hinged door applications, the production Meriva benefits from front and rear doors that open independently, and does not require rear passengers to sit behind the door opening.
General Motors’ FlexDoors are rear-hinged back doors which swing open towards the back of the car at an angle of nearly 90 degrees, improving the ease with which occupants enter and leave the cabin. Rather than having to step back, or to one side, as one would using a normal front-hinged door, the FlexDoor allows unimpeded forward access/egress to and from the cabin, enhanced further by the Meriva’s exceptionally high roof line.
For parents with children, there are further benefits. Due to the larger door opening and free space around the B-pillar, parents can lift small children forwards in to rear-mounted, second-stage child seats without having to contort themselves around a door. And with both the front and rear doors open (the fronts open at a similar angle to the rear FlexDoors) a ‘parent-friendly’ zone is created with no door barrier between front and rear occupants. Crucially, the FlexDoors can only be opened by occupants while the car is stationary, an automatic lock engaging as soon as the car pulls away.
Internally, the new Meriva’s flexibility is based around two further innovations. The FlexRail adopts a completely fresh approach to the design of a car’s centre console, and provides owners with a variety of modular storage and comfort solutions that fix on to an ingenious dual-rail base. The new Meriva’s storage bin and cubby count has also increased, meaning that owners now benefit from one of the most practical cabins in class.
In addition, the current Meriva’s much-praised FlexSpace system has evolved with even greater practicality. Now more intuitive to use, the new Meriva’s FlexSpace allows easier fold-down of the rear seats, while moving the rear seats to create more boot, leg or shoulder room is simpler than ever.
The new Meriva’s seat comfort has also advanced, with the adoption of front seat technology from the Insignia and Astra. Like these cars, the Meriva offers the biggest range of seat adjustment in class, extending to 240mm in length and 65mm in height.
With a longer wheelbase and wider front and rear tracks, buyers will see a marked improvement in the new Meriva’s ride and handling qualities.
They’ll also see a reduction in running costs, since the engine line-up – which features six turbocharged units and power outputs from 75 to 140PS – benefits from an average fuel consumption/CO2 reduction of 15 per cent, or -25g/km across the range. A high mpg/low CO2 ecoFLEX model will also be available.
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