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First look: Holden considers baby mover

Meriva mover: The Meriva could be on sale as a Holden in 2004.

The Meriva is GM's take on the sub-compact people-mover

27 May 2002

MEET the Meriva, little brother to the Holden Zafira compact people-mover.

Based on the Corsa (Barina here) hatchback, the Meriva is a five-seat baby people-mover that will be unveiled to the public at the Paris motor show in September.

It will go on sale in Europe in autumn 2003, but has yet to be confirmed for Australia.

It is currently being evaluated by Holden's forward planning experts with a "go or whoa" decision still about six months away.

The Meriva probably is not the easiest car for Holden to make a case for, considering the compact people-mover market has not fired in Australia the way it has in Europe.

The likes of the Zafira, Mazda Premacy, Renault Scenic and Chrysler PT Cruiser are scrapping over just a few thousand sales a year here, a far cry from the hundreds of thousands recorded annually in Europe.

The small size of the potential market here means there may not be room for both Zafira and Meriva, as opposed to Europe where they would never be regarded as competitors.

"My personal view on the Meriva is that it's very good looking," said Holden small and medium car marketing manager Andrew Rau.

"The way things are going, you look at the light and small-medium (sales categories) they are certainly growing, so there could be an opportunity at some stage.

"But you would also have to wonder at this preliminary stage whether it would cannabilise the Zafira and some of the other derivatives we are working on in the passenger segment." The Meriva is a joint development of GM's European powerhouse, Opel, and GM Brazil. The Opel/Vauxhall version will be built in Spain and the South American Chevrolet version in Brazil.

At launch it will be offered with a choice of 1.6 and 1.8-litre petrol engines and a 1.7-litre turbo-diesel.

But the Meriva is all about interior space. That is gained by its ultra-long wheelbase, which at 2630mm is almost as long as the Zafira's (2694 mm). But the Meriva's overall length is still 27.5 cm shorter than the Zafira.

Its five seats are arranged in a highly adaptable 2-3 arrangement GM calls Flex5, homage to the Flex7 name given to the Zafira seating set-up.

Alternatives include folding the middle rear seat into the floor to make Meriva a more spacious four-seater, or all the rear seats can fold away to provide significantly more load space.

The Meriva first appeared as the Opel Concept M at last March's Geneva motor show, where it drew widespread praise.

There is already press speculation in Europe that a turbocharged 1.6-litre Meriva is on the way, following the unexpected success of the hot Zafira GSi.

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